In a near tie, the Senate has voted 51-49 to block witnesses from the president’s impeachment trial, which will be finalized this week.
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is set to conclude this week. This will take place following hours of arguments, questioning from senators and a series of votes cementing the lack of witnesses in the trial.
Beginning on Jan. 29 and moderated by Chief Justice John Roberts, senators were allowed 16 hours of questioning as they attempted to solicit answers from either side. There were a number of contentious questions, however the most notable incidents were questions from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Paul’s question was rejected by Chief Justice Roberts as it pertained to the identity of the whistleblower. This prompted Paul to immediately leave the chamber, followed by droves of reporters.
Directly outside the proceedings, he read out his question to throngs of cameras: “Manager Schiff and counselors for the president, are you aware that House Intelligence Committee staffer Sean Misko had a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella when at the National Security Council together? Are you aware and how do you respond to reports that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings?”
Paul claimed that the identity of the whistleblower was not an integral part of his question, as he lambasted Roberts for denying the question. This was the latest in a series of concerns raised against Roberts. A question submitted by Senator Warren followed a similar theme.
Roberts read out Warren’s question: “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”
Although Roberts read the question without comment, Republican Senators seemed to take some offense, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) citing it as a tipping point for her decision to vote no on allowing witnesses.
The potential for acquittal along party lines remains, as the last-ditch effort by Democrats to seek witness testimony culminated in a failure; Senate Republicans successfully staved off all attempts to subpoena specific witnesses on Jan. 31. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forced votes on individual witnesses, seeking to ensure each vulnerable Senate Republican was on the record denying each attempt.
Specific Senate Republicans were under scrutiny: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) had particularly situated themselves as moderate swing voters. However, the votes ultimately fell short 51-49 on all amendments. These totals reflect the decisions of Romney and Collins to vote in favor of witnesses, with Alexander and Murkowski ultimately voting against.