With key GOP senator voting no on witnesses, Trump acquittal likely on Friday

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jan 30, 2020

On a night the Democratic house managers were looking to sway Republican senators to call for witnesses, a key member in the Senate said on Thursday he will not vote to call on witnesses at the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was considered a swing vote on whether to allow witnesses to testify during the trial, announced he will vote no.

This is despite Alexander conceding that House managers had proven that Trump had used his office to influence Ukraine to call for an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden, but he said that the allegations are not enough for a conviction.

"It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation," Alexander said. "When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate."

The Democrats need four Republicans to vote against the wishes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump in calling for witnesses.

As of late Thursday, it appears at most, Democrats will only be able to sway three senators.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, officially announced on Thursday that she will vote to call on witnesses on Friday, marking the first GOP senator to official say she will vote on witnesses.

This news comes as two other Republican senators, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, are mulling calling for witnesses. Romney previously said he supports calling on witnesses. Murkowski said on Thursday she needs more time to think about her vote.

"If this motion passes, I believe that the most sensible way to proceed would be for the House Managers and the President’s attorneys to attempt to agree on a limited and equal number of witnesses for each side," Collins said. "If they can’t agree, then the Senate could choose the number of witnesses.”

If Murkowski and Romney join Collins in voting for witnesses, it would likely create a 50/50 tie in the Senate. At that point, it is considered unlikely Chief Justice John Roberts would break the tie while presiding over the Senate.

If Roberts opts to not break the tie, the impeachment trial will likely come to an end on Friday night with an acquittal. It takes 67 senators to remove Trump, whereas it takes a simple majority to call on witnesses.

One witness Democrats want to call upon is former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who reportedly wrote in a manuscript that Trump instructed staff to hold military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Joe Biden is one of the leading presidential candidates in this year's presidential election.

While going into the week the odds of Democrats convincing enough senators to call on witnesses appeared slim, a New York Times report added intrigue to the proceedings.

Reports on Bolton's manuscript surfaced on Sunday. The fact that Bolton allegedly had heard directly from the president a request for a quid pro quo took a key argument away from Republicans that no one had directly heard Trump call for a quid pro quo.

But as the week went on, few Republicans were swayed by the report, with Trump's legal team suggesting it is wholly appropriate for a president to call for an investigation of a political rival if it's in the "public interest."