• Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:29 pm

Senate blocks Democratic bids for evidence, witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

  • Published at 10:26 am January 22nd, 2020
Trump impeachment
House Managers Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep Jerry Nadler (D-NY) walk to the Senate Floor for the start of the Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump in Washington, US, January 21, 2020. Reuters

Democrats have called on the Senate to remove Trump from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden

The Republican-controlled US Senate rejected Democratic efforts on Tuesday to obtain evidence and call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, an early sign the proceeding could advance along lines favorable to Trump.

As the third impeachment trial in US history began in earnest, senators voted along party lines, 53-47, to block three separate motions from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to subpoena records and documents from the White House, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Senators also rejected by the same tally a request for a subpoena seeking the testimony of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Democrats have called on the Senate to remove Trump from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, and then impeding the inquiry into the matter.

Trump, who was impeached last month by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on charges of abusing power and obstructing Congress, denies any wrongdoing and describes his impeachment as a partisan hoax to derail his 2020 re-election effort.

During early debate, Trump’s chief legal defender attacked the case as baseless and a top Democratic lawmaker said there was “overwhelming” evidence of wrongdoing.

With the television cameras rolling, USChief Justice John Roberts convened the proceedings and the two sides began squabbling over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for the trial.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump’s defense, attacked the foundation of the charges against the Republican president and said Democrats had not come close to meeting the USConstitution’s standard for impeachment.

“The only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said as he argued in favor of McConnell’s proposal to decide on whether to allow further witnesses or documents later in the trial.

“There is absolutely no case,” he said.

Seeking Witness Testimony

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, who helped spearhead the House impeachment inquiry, summarized the charges against Trump and said the president had committed “constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”

Schiff said that although the evidence against Trump was “already overwhelming,” further witness testimony was necessary to show the full scope of the misconduct by the president and those around him.

Republican senators have not ruled out the possibility of further testimony and evidence at some point in the trial after days of opening arguments and senators’ questions.

But Democrats said they forced Tuesday’s repeated votes on evidence and witnesses to get Republicans on the record on the issue.

“This may be our only chance, tonight, to make this a fair trial. And it’s just increasingly clear that the White House has no answers for why these documents and these witnesses shouldn’t be produced,” US Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told reporters.

McConnell unveiled a plan on Tuesday to give Democratic prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers 24 hours each over three days for opening arguments, easing off an earlier plan to keep them to two days and also allowing the House’s record of the probe to be admitted as evidence.

Under McConnell’s plan, lawyers for Trump could move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges, according to a senior Republican leadership aide, a motion that would likely fall short of the support needed to succeed.

Even if such a motion fails, Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member chamber, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.

But the impact of the trial on his re-election bid in November is far from clear.