Trump Knows Fate Today as Senate Votes in Impeachment Trials

February 5, 2020
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WASHINGTON – It’s decision day for the Senate – and a pivotal day for President Donald Trump.

The Senate impeachment trial will end Wednesday when senators, who have served as jurors through weeks of arguments and debate, vote on whether to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, or to convict him and remove him from office.

The historic vote at 4 p.m. EST culminates months of investigations and debate over Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden by withholding $391 million in security aid. For senators, the vote will be one of the most-remembered of their careers and will surely play a role in 2020 congressional campaigns.

The vote comes just hours after the president gave his State of the Union address, an event that put on display the country’s divisions and between the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who led her caucus to impeach him.

The president refused to shake her hand after she introduced him. Pelosi ripped up his speech after he concluded his remarks. The two slights left many stunned and wondering whether the tensions between political parties would ever mend.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Speaker do something so disrespectful,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said after watching Pelosi rip up the address just inches behind Trump’s head.

Many Democrats said Pelosi’s actions stemmed from frustration but others noted that the American public is counting on Congress to move forward and try to come together.

“Our Congress is a representative body and we represent a very divided country,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., noting some of the topics touted by Trump were divisive. “I think it’s our job to try and bridge the divides even when they’re very sharp and very difficult.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he hadn’t seen Pelosi ripping apart Trump’s speech but caught Trump withholding a handshake with the speaker.

“The speaker extended the invitation to President Trump to deliver the speech on behalf of the House of Representatives. She was gracious enough to extend her hand,” he said. “Notwithstanding the nasty personal comments that he’s continuously directed at her. And he behaved like a petulant child.”

The speech, in the House chamber where Trump was impeached just weeks ago, did not mention impeachment or the president’s almost certain-acquittal Wednesday in the Republican-dominated Senate.

On Monday and Tuesday, senators spent hours explaining their positions in 10-minute speeches on the Senate floor. The speeches will continue Wednesday.

‘He shouldn’t have done it’: GOP senator who scolded Trump on Ukraine explains why he backs acquittal

But the result of the final vote has been anticipated for months, even before the House voted Dec. 18 to impeach Trump on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power for the alleged Ukraine pressure campaign and obstruction of Congress for directing his administration to defy subpoenas for witnesses and documents. That’s because a two-thirds majority of the Senate is required to convict and remove a president from office, which is unlikely in a chamber with 53 Republicans and 47 members of the Democratic caucus.

The Senate negotiates how to end President Trump's impeachment trial.

The Senate negotiates how to end President Trump’s impeachment trial.

The trial has hinged on whether the seven impeachment managers, all Democratic House members prosecuting the case, could make a convincing enough case against Trump to persuade enough Senate Republicans to vote with Democrats on the president’s conviction.

The managers argued that Trump tried to cheat in the 2020 election and then tried to cover it up.

“You can’t trust this president to do the right thing, not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country,” said the lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “A man without character or ethical compass will not find his way.”

Rep. Jason Crow: Democrat reads from his children’s Constitutions during the Trump impeachment trial

But Trump’s defense team argued that Democrats’ accusations were unproven and that impeachment would threaten future presidents with removal over policy disputes if he were convicted. The defense lawyers argued that neither of the two articles alleged violations of criminal statutes, as was customary in previous impeachments. And they argued that if the obstruction charge were upheld, confidential advice to future presidents would be at risk.

“We have an impeachment that is purely partisan and political. It’s opposed by bipartisan members of the House,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “It is wrong. There is only one answer to that, and the answer is to reject those articles of impeachment, to have confidence in the American people, to have confidence in the result of the upcoming election, to have confidence and respect for the last election and not throw it out.”

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on Jan. 30.

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on Jan. 30.

The vote will end only the third Senate trial of a president, after the acquittals of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Pelosi announced the inquiry Sept. 24. The House voted to authorize it Oct. 31. No House Republicans joined Democrats to impeach Trump in December.

The House provided the Senate with 28,578 pages of evidence in the trial, including 17 depositions of current and former government officials. Senators asked 180 questions of House managers and Trump’s defense team.

Nancy Pelosi: It was ‘sad’ for Mitch McConnell to ‘humiliate’ Chief Justice John Roberts with witness vote

But congressional Democrats wanted to hear from more witnesses, most notably former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton after excerpts from his forthcoming book surfaced during the trial and appeared to counter the president’s defense. The debate over whether to hear witnesses became a heated issue and was a crucial test of whether Democrats could bring Republicans to their side.

A Democratic push to subpoena additional witnesses or documents failed Friday. Only two Republicans – Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah – joined Democrats in an unsuccessful effort to call Bolton. Broader proposals to subpoena more witnesses and documents were rejected in party-line votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the impeachment was a partisan effort by Democrats and must be rejected.

‘He shouldn’t have done it’: GOP senator who scolded Trump on Ukraine explains why he backs acquittal

“We must vote to reject the House abuse of power,” McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the framers’ design to rubble. Vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic. Vote to acquit the president of these charges.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the House managers failed to meet the “high bar” set by the nation’s founders to remove a president from office.

“Removing the president from office – and from the ballots for the upcoming election – would almost certainly plunge the country into even greater political turmoil,” he said.

A handful of Republicans said Trump’s conduct was inappropriate but said it wasn’t worthy of removing him from office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs-up as he leaves the chamber after Republicans defeated Democratic amendment to subpoena key witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs-up as he leaves the chamber after Republicans defeated Democratic amendment to subpoena key witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Friday.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that it was inappropriate for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent but that “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 president’s behavior was shameful and wrong,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, but the foundation of the House case “was rotten.”

‘We’ll find the right time’: Pompeo demurs on White House visit for Ukraine’s Zelensky

Democrats argued that Trump should be removed or his misconduct would continue. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said House managers made a compelling case, and Republican opposition to gathering more evidence “fails the laugh test.”

“The Republicans refused to get the evidence because they were afraid of what it would show, and that’s all that needs to be said,” Schumer said.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said failure to convict Trump would send a terrible signal “that this president and any future president can commit crimes against the Constitution and the American people and get away with it.”

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., whose state Trump won narrowly in 2016, said the White House engaged in a “systematic and unprecedented effort to cover up the scheme” in Ukraine.

“A vote against the articles of impeachment will set a dangerous precedent, and will be used by future presidents to act with impunity,” he argued.

What happened Tuesday: Sen. Susan Collins said she’ll vote to acquit Trump

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment trial: Senate appears poised to vote for acquittal

*Written by Bart Jansen, Christal Hayes and Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY

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