Republicans could quickly vote to acquit President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment if they can defeat a vote to call more witnesses Friday that would potentially prolong the trial for months, according to The Hill.
Senators are in the middle of two days of questions and answers for House impeachment managers and White House defense counsel, a period that will be followed on Friday by a vote on whether to call new witnesses and obtain additional documents.
Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plan to introduce the vote to call additional witnesses, but they will need four Republicans to agree for things to move forward. Currently, only GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (UT) and Susan Collins (ME) have indicated a firm desire to hear testimony.
Their opinions on the matter seemed to solidify when The New York Times reported that former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book contains an assertion that Trump explicitly conditioned aid to Ukraine on the launch of investigations into Joe Biden.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday after a meeting with Senate Republicans that he remained uncertain as to whether he had the votes to defeat witnesses, but he and other Republicans later indicated that they were “confident” about the vote, according to The Hill.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told reporters he thought the Republican majority would hold together. “I think we’ll be OK,” he said.
Senators on both sides will have an opportunity to offer motions before a final vote on acquittal would be held, so it wasn’t entirely clear if the potentially conclusive vote would indeed occur on Friday if the vote on witness testimony goes down to defeat.
If enough senators do vote to call witnesses, further votes would need to be taken on which individuals would be called. Republicans could vote without any Democrat support to call Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, or the so-called whistleblower whose complaint formed the basis of the entire impeachment inquiry.
Questions may settle witness debate
The debate over whether to call witnesses may be settled by Friday as a result of the questions posed by Senators during the 16 hours specifically allotted for that purpose.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Wednesday whether quid pro quo arrangements such as the one of which the president stands accused are actually illegal, and Trump defense attorney and legal scholar Alan Dershowitz said that they are not illegal — even if they happen to confer a political benefit — and that they take place all the time. Dershowitz also said it was a president’s duty to investigate corruption and ask others to investigate when evidence of such presented itself.
If moderate Republicans are swayed by these arguments, they may decide that no further witness testimony is required, and the trial could therefore end sooner rather than later.
While all 47 Democrat senators are expected to vote to call more witnesses, they have to know that doing so could open the door to the potential political destruction of one of their own: presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, whose actions in forcing the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the company on whose board his son infamously sat will come under intense, perhaps withering, public scrutiny.