Live

Watch CBSN Live

Senate rejects new witnesses in Trump impeachment trial, paving the way for acquittal

get the free app
  • link copied
Senate votes against witnesses
Senate votes against witnesses 03:36

Washington — The Senate rejected a motion to allow consideration of additional witnesses and documents in President Trump's impeachment trial, rebuffing Democrats and virtually ensuring the president's ultimate acquittal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate will hold the final vote Wednesday on the two articles of impeachment. 

The motion failed by a vote of 49 to 51. Democrats failed to convince four Republicans to join them in voting to allow new evidence, with just two GOP lawmakers — Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney — crossing the aisle.

The Senate adjourned Friday around 8 p.m. and will reconvene Monday at 11 a.m. The Senate approved Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's timeline for the rest of the trial: Closing arguments will be Monday, senators will give speeches Monday through Wednesday and the final vote will occur Wednesday. 

Earlier in the day, Republicans and the president's legal team argued the introduction of new witnesses and documents would prolong the trial for weeks or months.

They also warned the move would set a precedent of the Senate conducting its own impeachment investigation, arguing the House should have exhausted its options to compel testimony before impeaching the president. Some Republicans conceded the president acted improperly by pressuring Ukraine, but said removing him from office would lead to more frequent and more partisan impeachment proceedings.

"If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist," Senator Lamar Alexander, one of the Republicans who was on the fence, said in a statement Thursday. "It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party."

The House managers, however, warned that failing to pursue new testimony from officials like former national security adviser John Bolton would set a "very dangerous and long-lasting precedent" that would "nullify" Congress' impeachment power.

"This will set a new precedent. This will be cited in impeachment trials from this point until the end of history," Schiff said. "You can bet that in every impeachment that follows, whether it's a presidential impeachment or the impeachment of a judge, if that judge or president believes that it is to his or her advantage that there will be a trial with no witnesses, they will cite the case of Donald J. Trump."

New revelations by former national security adviser John Bolton hung over Friday's vote and served to punctuate Democrats' arguments. The Senate reconvened just after The New York Times reported new details from a manuscript of Bolton's upcoming book. 

Bolton writes, according to The Times, that the president instructed him to call the president of Ukraine and tell him to meet with Rudy Giuliani in May 2019. Bolton's reported account is the earliest indication of the president's direct involvement in the campaign to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if he was subpoenaed. 

Download the free CBS News app for complete coverage of the president's impeachment trial in the Senate. Watch the trial live in the player above.  

 

CPAC says Romney is "not invited" after witness vote

9:43 p.m.: Leaders of an annual conservative conference said Romney is "not invited" after he broke with Republicans and voted to call witnesses.

"The 'extreme conservative' and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020," tweeted Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC. 

By Caroline Linton
 

Graham says it would be "smart" of Trump not to mention impeachment during State of the Union

8:40 p.m.: Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump's most outspoken defenders, told reporters "I think it would be smart not to" talk about the impeachment trial during the State of the Union.

The annual State of the Union address by the president is considered a Washington institution. The president has appeared before a joint session of Congress every year since 1913, providing a constitutionally-mandated debrief on the country's current political and economic status. Article II of the Constitution requires the president to "give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

Graham said only Mr. Trump could decide to delay the speech. Graham said he was hoping to have the final verdict vote Friday night but "the Senate's the Senate."

By Caroline Linton
 

White House grapples with reality of a longer Senate trial

White House grapples with reality of a longer... 03:00
 

Senate approves final framework to finish trial on Wednesday

8:03 p.m.: In a 53-47 party-line vote, the Senate approved McConnell's framework to end the trial on Wednesday. The Senate scheduled the final verdict vote for Wednesday. 

The Senate then adjourned for the night and will reconvene on Monday at 11 a.m.

By Caroline Linton
 

Trump tweets Democrats are "NEVER satisfied," as top White House aide says Trump is "gratified"

7:36 p.m.: The president gave his most substantive response to the vote against witnesses and documents.

"No matter what you give to the Democrats, in the end, they will NEVER be satisfied. In the House, they gave us NOTHING!" the president tweeted from Florida, where he is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort

Earlier in the evening, White House legislative director Eric Ueland said that having the vote on Wednesday, after the president's State of the Union address, won't take away from that moment. 

"So the president is gratified that finally at long last, after multiple delays the Senate will set a schedule for his acquittal as quickly as possible," Ueland told reporters. "We do not believe that that schedule interferes with his ability to deliver a strong and confident State of the Union message next week in the House of Representatives to the country and the world."

By Kathryn Watson
 

Schumer announces four amendments

7:29 p.m.: Democrats are introducing four amendments on Friday night, according to Schumer's office. The amendments are not expected to pass, given the previous vote against witnesses and documents.

Perhaps the most interesting amendment is one from Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, which would require the chief justice to rule on motions to subpoena witnesses and documents. 

Here are the amendments, as described by Schumer's office:

  • An amendment from Schumer to subpoena Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffy, Blair and White House, OMB, DOD and State Department documents. 
  •  An amendment from Schumer to subpoena John Bolton.
  • An amendment from Schumer to subpoena Bolton; provided further that there be one day for a deposition presided over by Chief Justice, and one day for live testimony before the Senate, both of must occur within 5 days of adoption of the underlying resolution.
  • An amendment from Van Hollen to require the Chief Justice to rule on motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to rule on any assertion of privilege.
By Kathryn Watson
 

Impeachment trial will drag into next week as Trump gives State of the Union

Impeachment trial to head into another week 01:48
 

McConnell releases organizing resolution for remainder of trial

7:17 p.m.: McConnell released an organizing resolution outlining the rules for the final days of the impeachment trial. The resolution says that the Senate will convene for final arguments Monday at 11 a.m. for no more than four hours. The Senate will then convene at 4 p.m. Wednesday for the final vote, at which point there will be no ability to make additional procedural moves.

On Friday evening, the Senate will continue to hear up to four amendments to the resolution from the Democrats. 

By Grace Segers
 

Schumer releases schedule for rest of trial

7:07 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a schedule for the rest of the trial, saying that the Democrats wanted to prevent the "GOP from rushing this through."

According to Schumer's office, this is the schedule of the rest of the trial: 

  • Four votes on Democratic amendments on Friday night.
  • Closing arguments on Monday. 
  • Speeches from senators Monday-Wednesday.
  • Final vote will be at 4pm on Wednesday.

Schumer's spokesman emphasized that the final vote will take place one day after the State of the Union. 

By Caroline Linton
 

Braun says trial likely to conclude on Wednesday

Indiana Senator Mike Braun emerged from a meeting of Republican senators and told reporters he expected impeachment proceedings to end at around 9 p.m. tonight. The trial will likely pick up again Monday, with a final vote planned for Wednesday. 

The president's State of the Union address is scheduled for Tuesday.

Braun said the Senate will debate an organizing resolution with three or four amendments tonight, and then reconvene Monday at 11 a.m. for floor speeches. — Alan He

 

Schumer declares vote against witnesses and documents a "grand tragedy"

Schumer, speaking to reporters immediately after the vote against witnesses, called the vote a "grand tragedy." 

"America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, where the Senate turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial," Schumer said.

Schumer declined to take questions, saying he is speaking with his caucus about next steps.

Senator Richard Blumenthal echoed Schumer that there will be no vindication without witnesses or documents. The "guard rails," Blumenthal said, are essentially gone.

By Kathryn Watson
 

McConnell hints trial might not conclude until next week

In a statement, McConnell indicated that a final vote on whether to acquit Mr. Trump might not take place until next week.

"Never in Senate history has this body paused an impeachment trial to pursue additional witnesses with unresolved questions of executive privilege that would require protracted litigation. We have no interest in establishing such a new precedent, particularly for individuals whom the House expressly chose not to pursue," McConnell said in a statement.

"Senators will now confer among ourselves, with the House Managers, and with the President's counsel to determine next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days," McConnell continued.

The Senate stands in recess subject to the call of the chair. 

By Grace Segers
 

Senate votes down measure to allow witnesses in trial

As expected, the Senate narrowly voted against a measure to consider subpoenas for new witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial. The vote came after a day of impassioned arguments from the president's lawyers and House managers.

The vote failed 49 to 51. As expected, Romney and Collins were the only Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses. 

Now that the motion has failed, the Senate is one step closer to the final vote on whether to acquit Mr. Trump. It is unclear if Schumer and other Democrats will seek to delay the final vote or try to get senators to explain their votes on the record.

By Grace Segers
 

Vote on witnesses begins

After a quorum call break that lasted more than an hour, McConnell announced the Senate vote on whether to call witnesses. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Senators mingle during quorum call

img-20200131-181545.jpg
Senators talk on the Senate floor during a break in President Trump's impeachment trial on Friday, January 31, 2020. William J. Hennessy, Jr.

After Schiff concluded his argument, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a quorum call. Officially, this is a roll call of the senators. Unofficially, it's an active break, allowing senators to gather and plan next steps without taking recess.

McConnell was spotted chatting with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a few minutes, perhaps deciding whether to adjourn or continue with votes today. Other senators were just mingling. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, the presiding officer, stepped down from his dais to speak to senators.

By Grace Segers
 

Sekulow says White House lawyers would call witnesses who testified in the House

Even though it seems unlikely Democrats will have enough votes to call witnesses, Sekulow argued the president's legal team should have the opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses who testified in the House, and said they would seek to do so if new testimony is allowed.

Sekulow went through the list of individuals who testified before the House. The White House declined to participate in hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Trial resumes with arguments from White House lawyers

After taking a nearly hour-long recess, the Senate reconvened with the White House lawyers making their arguments against calling witnesses.

White House lawyer Pat Philbin argued that calling witnesses would not make any difference ahead of the ultimate vote to acquit Mr. Trump, an argument that has been repeated by Republican senators unwilling to hear from new witnesses. 

He also said new witnesses would set a new precedent for both how the House and the Senate approach impeachment proceedings.

By Grace Segers
 

Giuliani denies reported Bolton accusations

By Stefan Becket
 

Schumer says he and McConnell have no agreement on trial timing

Schumer, speaking briefly to reporters during a break, said he and McConnell have not reached any agreement on the timing of the trial. As CBS News has previously reported, the trial might not conclude until Wednesday. 

Schumer said Democrats don't want the trial to take place in the dead of night. The Senate minority leader declined to take any reporters' questions. 

Schumer, referencing the new New York Times report on Bolton, said information will continue to spill out into the public domain, no matter what happens in the Senate chamber. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Rubio announces he will vote to acquit Trump

Republican Senator Marco Rubio released a lengthy statement explaining why he would vote to acquit Mr. Trump, saying the House had produced a "partisan impeachment."

"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," Rubio said.

Rubio also said he deliberated on impeachment "in the context of the bitter divisions and deep polarization our country currently faces."

"Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d'état? It is difficult to conceive of any scheme Putin could undertake that would undermine confidence in our democracy more than removal would," Rubio argued.

By Grace Segers
 

Schiff: Voting against witnesses would set "very dangerous and long-lasting precedent"

The House impeachment managers wrapped up their first presentations in favor of the motion to allow witnesses, with Representative Adam Schiff saying senators would set a "very dangerous and long-lasting precedent" if they vote to acquit the president without pursuing all of the facts.

"This will set a new precedent. This will be cited in impeachment trials from this point until the end of history," Schiff said. "You can bet that in every impeachment that follows, whether it's a presidential impeachment or the impeachment of a judge, if that judge or president believes that it is to his or her advantage that there will be a trial with no witnesses, they will cite the case of Donald J. Trump."

By Stefan Becket
 

John Kelly says Senate trial without witnesses is "half a trial"

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly told a New Jersey publication on Friday that a trial without calling witnesses is like "half a trial."

Kelly has said he believes Bolton when the former national security adviser said, according to a New York Times report of his forthcoming book, that the president linked Ukraine aid and investigations into the Bidens.

"If I was advising the United States Senate, I would say, 'If you don't respond to 75% of the American voters and have witnesses, it's a job only half done,'" Kelly told NJ Advance Media on Friday. "You open yourself up forever as a Senate that shirks its responsibilities."

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who left the White House in December 2018, said he found Bolton to be a trustworthy person and copious notetaker.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Senators file into chamber ahead of key vote on witnesses

Senator Lisa Murkowski's statement that she would not vote in favor of calling witnesses came at nearly the exact moment the Senate convened for the day.

Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, ever the bipartisan butterfly, could be seen having a conversation with Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who complimented Sinema's white cape dress. Sinema then chatted with Republicans Rob Portman, John Thune, Ben Sasse and Patrick Toomey. For the first five minutes after the Senate reconvened, Sinema stood in the back of the room on the Republican side, chatting with Murkowski.

There was a football-style huddle of around 10 Democrats before the proceedings began. Senate Minority Leader Schumer looked like a coach encouraging his caucus in the face of probable defeat.

When Schiff began by discussing the new report about Bolton, a note was passed around the president's lawyers table. White House lawyer Patrick Philbin looked at it last and shook his head. White House counsel Pat Cipollone glanced at Schiff when he was directly mentioned, then looked steadfastly forward. 

All Democrats were in their seats when the Senate convened, but 10 Republicans were out of the room. Some Republicans could be seen chatting in the cloakroom when the door swung open.

Collins and Murkowski are still taking notes, despite having made their respective decision about calling witnesses.

By Grace Segers
 

Murkowski a "no" on new witnesses, all but guaranteeing motion will fail

Senator Lisa Murkowski announced she's a "no" on subpoenaing new witnesses for testimony in the Senate trial, making it all but certain the Democrats' push for witnesses will fail. 

Only two Republicans, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, have said they'll vote for witnesses. Democrats need four Republicans to join them in the vote, and were hoping to convince Murkowski and Lamar Alexander to side with them. 

Here is Murkowski's statement: 

I worked for a fair, honest, and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more.

The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.

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. 

It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Senate trial resumes, with explosive Bolton claims the elephant in the chamber

The Senate trial of the president resumed on Friday afternoon, with the New York Times report that the president asked Bolton to get involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign in May of 2019 as the elephant in the chamber. 

The trial began with the usual prayer from the chaplain, who asked God to remind the senators that they alone are accountable to a higher power for their conduct. 

"Lord help them to remember that they can't ignore you and get away with it, for we always reap what we sow," the chaplain prayed.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Nadler says he'll miss remainder of trial, citing wife's health

House Judiciary Committee Chairman and impeachment manager Jerry Nadler says he won't be in Washington for the remainder of the Senate trial, after sharing earlier this week that his wife is battling pancreatic cancer. 

"I am sorry to not be able to stay in Washington for the conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial but I need to be home with my wife at this time," Nadler said in a tweet. "We have many decisions to make as a family. I have every faith in my colleagues and hope the Senate will do what is right." 

Nadler's wife, Joyce Miller, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December, and has already undergone surgery.

Nadler, a constitutional scholar, has been a key figure in building the case that the president committed impeachable offenses and should be removed from office.

By Kathryn Watson
 

New York Times report upends Senate lunches

The New York Times report about the meeting May meeting with Bolton and Mr. Trump broke just as Senate Democrats and Republicans were walking into their respective pre-trial caucus lunches. A source inside the Senate Democratic lunch told CBS News the story was just discussed during the lunch and that many senators actually read the article as they ate.

By Nancy Cordes
 

New York Times: Bolton book says Trump pushed him to help Giuliani in Ukraine pressure campaign

The New York Times is reporting that Bolton writes in a manuscript of his upcoming book that Mr. Trump urged him to call the president of Ukraine and tell him to meet with Rudy Giuliani in May 2019.
 
An hour before the Senate trial was set to resume ahead of a vote on whether to call witnesses, The Times reported that Bolton wrote that Mr. Trump issued the directive in a 10-minute conversation in the Oval Office, which included acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, now a lead attorney on the president's defense team. 

At the time, Giuliani was preparing to travel to Ukraine as part of a broad campaign to pressure incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into the Bidens and conspiracy theories about the 2016 presidential campaign. Giuliani canceled the trip after it was reported publicly.
 
Bolton wrote that he never placed the call to Zelensky, according to The Times. CBS News has not confirmed the contents of the manuscript.
 
Bolton's reported account is the earliest indication of the president's direct involvement in the pressure campaign, and comes just before the Senate considering whether to allow new witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial. Bolton has said he would appear for under subpoena.

The president is denying Bolton's reported claims, insisting "that meeting never happened." 

"I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelensky. That meeting never happened," the president said in a statement provided to CBS News. 

Bolton's book isn't expected to be published until March, and the National Security Council has warned Bolton's attorney not to publish the manuscript, which it says includes unspecified classified information. 

The book will be published by Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS. — Stefan Becket and Kathryn Watson

 

Trial could stretch into Wednesday, sources suggest

The White House remains uncertain about just how long the Senate impeachment trial could continue, a clash of its desire with the Senate's procedural realities. The White House legal team believes the trial could and should end late Friday night or Saturday at the latest, which is what many Republicans would like, too.

However, a senior administration official working directly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office suggested that timeline could possibly slide into Wednesday.

And top Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters the trial "probably is going to carry us over to the first part of next week."

Senate Democrats have a number of procedural tools at their disposal, and Schumer alluded to this in a news conference Friday morning, suggesting that he could employ these tools to push senators to speak to explain their votes.

Procedural motions leading up to the question of depositions and documents could easily be a drawn-out procedural battle, with the complications arising from the Democratic side to pressure Republicans. This could dramatically slow down the process to get to the vote on witnesses and documents.

After the vote or votes on depositions and documents, the Senate cannot, as the White House's legal team hopes, move immediately to an acquittal vote unless all Senate Democrats agree unanimously to do so. The White House team studying the legislative realities of the trial does not expect Senate Democrats to capitulate. 

The White House team believes that procedural motions preceding a vote on each of the two articles of impeachment could easily take up Saturday and Monday. If the trial continues Tuesday, security preparations for the State of the Union address would probably require the Senate to adjourn around 5 p.m. Tuesday, forcing the trial to resume Wednesday.

The president wasn't pleased when he was briefed on this by the senior administration official, but he didn't lose his temper over the possibility that the trial could stretch into the middle of next week. The source said delaying the State of the Union address is not under consideration. 

A Democratic leadership aide said the "lunches will be what decides" the timing of the trial, meaning that McConnell and Schumer will be gauging how the caucuses feel about the possibility of extending the trial. — Major Garrett, Ed O'Keefe, Nancy Cordes

 

Schumer: failure to call witnesses would mean "greatest cover up since Watergate"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed Republicans Friday, ahead of a vote on whether to hear witnesses in the impeachment trial.

"The vote today is about whether the Senate will have a fair trial of the president," Schumer said, calling it "deeply disturbing" that the vast majority Republicans will choose not to hear from witnesses. And he's disappointed that GOP Senator Lamar Alexander decided against hearing from witnesses. Democrats had hoped Alexander would join them in calling for witness testimony.

Schumer noted that Alexander said in his statement justifying his "no" vote that Mr. Trump's behavior was inappropriate.

"He acknowledged that the president something that the founders feared most," Schumer said of Alexander.

The minority leader also warned that if Republicans vote against hearing from witnesses, they would be participating in "the greatest cover-up since Watergate."

Another Democrat, Senator Sherrod Brown, called the proceedings a "sham trial," and noted that it would be the first time in U.S. history that a Senate impeachment trial would not include hearing from witnesses.

Schumer also called Mr. Trump a "vindictive, nasty president who goes after anyone who opposes him."

Schumer demurred when asked if he would amend procedural motions tonight. Doing so would mean extending the Senate trial.

"I believe the American people should hear what every senator thinks and why they're voting the way they're voting," Schumer said.

By Grace Segers
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue