Donald Trump could be acquitted in impeachment trial as new witnesses are denied

1 February 2020, 11:24

Trial moving towards vote on whether to acquit the president
Trial moving towards vote on whether to acquit the president. Picture: Getty

By Matt Drake

Donald Trump is set to be acquitted in his impeachment trial after senators voted against calling new witnesses.

Democrats hoped four swing Republicans would vote for new witnesses and extend the trial - with the likelihood of changing its outcome.

But only two of the four Republicans voted with Democrats and now the trial moves forward to a vote on whether to acquit the president, which he will almost certainly win.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said in a statement late on Thursday that while the Democrats had clearly demonstrated that Mr Trump acted inappropriately, they had not proved impeachable offences.

He added: "The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did.

"I believe that the constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday."

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said: "The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed.

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to the media as he leaves after voting in the impeachment trial
US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to the media as he leaves after voting in the impeachment trial. Picture: Getty

"I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena."

Despite the Democrats singular focus on hearing new testimony, the Republican majority brushed past those demands to make this the first Senate impeachment trial without witnesses.

Even new revelations on Friday from former national security adviser John Bolton did not sway Republican senators, who said they had heard enough.

That means the eventual outcome for President Trump would be an acquittal "in name only", said Democrat Val Demings, a House prosecutor, during final debate. Some even called it a cover-up.

President Trump was impeached by the House last month on charges the he abused power and obstructed Congress like no other president has done as he tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and then blocked the congressional probe of his actions.

The Democrats had wanted testimony from John Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser whose forthcoming book links Mr Trump directly to the charges.

President Trump was impeached by the House last month on charges the he abused power and obstructed Congress
President Trump was impeached by the House last month on charges the he abused power and obstructed Congress. Picture: Getty

But Mr Bolton will not be summoned, and none of this appeared to affect the trial's expected outcome.

In an unpublished manuscript, Mr Bolton writes that the president asked him during an Oval Office meeting in early May to bolster his effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to a person who read the passage.

In the meeting, Mr Bolton said the president asked him to call new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and persuade him to meet with Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was planning to go to Ukraine to coax the Ukrainians to investigate the president's political rivals.

Mr Bolton writes that he never made the call to Mr Zelenskiy after the meeting, which included acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

The revelation adds more detail to allegations of when and how President Trump first sought to influence Ukraine to aid investigations of his rivals that are central to the abuse of power charge in the first article of impeachment.