UPDATED 3:50 PM: The Senate will vote Wednesday on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, meaning that his almost-certain acquittal will take place after two key events: the Super Bowl and the State of the Union address.
Trump is to be interviewed by Sean Hannity on Sunday as part of Fox’s pre-game coverage, and POTUS will deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
But there had been some concern among Democrats over the timeline for ending the impeachment trial and whether lawmakers would have the opportunity to explain their votes on the floor.
Under a deal reached by leaders of both parties, closing arguments will take place on Monday, and floor speeches will take place between Monday and Wednesday.
PREVIOUSLY: The Senate voted 51-49 to reject the calling of new witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, signaling the end of the proceedings and the president’s acquittal.
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After Chief Justice John Roberts announced the vote, senators sat in their chairs in silence for a few seconds before they adjourned. It is unclear when the trial will resume.
Only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined with Democrats in the vote for witnesses.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the vote to reject witnesses was “a grand tragedy, one of the worst tragedies that the Senate has ever overcome.”
Although it was clear by midday that Democrats would fall short in their effort to call witnesses, there was drama surrounding the vote. On CNN, Jake Tapper expressed amazement at the decision to not call John Bolton, who is willing to testify and who is poised to publish a book including his account of events. “Even in that context the Senate voted the way they did,” he said.
Senators are huddling with their caucuses on a strategy for how to proceed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that they have to determine “next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days.”
During a break in the proceedings that stretched for more than an hour, cable news networks stuck with a shot of the Senate floor as lawmakers milled about and chatted before the vote was called. There was some bipartisan mingling — Romney was engaged in an extended conversation with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) huddled for a bit with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
McConnell and Schumer chatted for a bit with their staffs, presumably about how the impeachment trial will proceed over the next several days. A question is whether senators will have time to make floor speeches about their votes.
PREVIOUSLY: Up to now, the impeachment trial has proceeding in public view, with the Senate feed carried across broadcast and cable networks.
But when the senators deliberate over the articles of impeachment in advance of a final vote, their debate likely will take place behind closed doors.
The resolution that sets up the structure and rules for the trial does not say whether deliberations will take in private, but that is what happened during the Clinton impeachment proceedings in 1999. Lawmakers spent three days in deliberations before voting to acquit. The Senate rules for impeachment proceedings also suggest that deliberations take place in closed sessions.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) told reporters this week that she was told by Senate leadership that the deliberations would take place out of view of the public.
PREVIOUSLY: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has told reporters that she will vote against witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, likely meaning that Democrats will fall short in their efforts to call figures like former national security adviser John Bolton.
As the impeachment proceedings began, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the House’s lead impeachment manager, cited a New York Times report that in the manuscript of his upcoming book, Bolton writes that Trump sought his help in early May in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Schiff read portions of the story, by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, on the floor of the Senate.
“A trial is supposed to be a quest for the truth. Let’s not fear what we will learn,” Schiff told the Senate.
Trump denies Bolton’s account of the meeting.
In her statement announcing her vote, Murkowski said that “given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”
She also criticized Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who submitted a question during the trial’s Q&A session that questioned whether the proceedings were tarnishing the integrity of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice, John Roberts, who is the presiding judge. Roberts read her question himself, as he has all the others.
Murkowski chided colleagues “for dragging the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort.”
PREVIOUSLY: President Donald Trump is likely to be acquitted soon by the Senate, but there still is some suspense left in the coverage of the trial.
CNN trained its camera outside the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expected to announce soon whether she will vote later in the day to call for witnesses.
Capitol Hill reporters began tweeting out that it’s still uncertain when an actual vote on articles of impeachment will take place, as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) signaled that it could spill into next week.
And less than an hour before the trial was to resume, at 1 PM ET, The New York Times broke another John Bolton bombshell. According to the manuscript of Bolton’s upcoming book, the Times reported, Trump directed his then-national security adviser in early May to help with his campaign to pressure Ukrainian officials to get information on Democrats. Trump’s instruction came in a meeting that also included Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
“Can you imagine what an absurd situation we are in right now?” said CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, given that Bolton has said that he is willing to testify in the trial.
The afternoon is expected to include up to four hours of debate on a motion on whether to call witnesses, but Democrats likely do not have the votes. That was made clear on Thursday evening, when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that he would vote against calling witnesses, characterizing Trump’s conduct as improper but not impeachable. Democrats may be able to get 50 votes on the motion for witnesses, but that would still likely fall short. A tie vote fails unless Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, and there are many doubts that he would want to insert himself in such a consequential way.
Alexander and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) indicated that they accepted the Democrats’ arguments against Trump, but did not believe that it warranted removing Trump from office. Alexander wrote that Trump’s actions were “inappropriate,” while Rubio wrote that, assuming the allegations are true, “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office.”
NBC News’ Chuck Todd said, “We are essentially saying, If you commit impeachable offenses, you can get away with it if you are popular.”
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