OAKLAND, Calif. - A dramatic day in the historic impeachment trial of President Trump saw Democrats falling short by two votes in their effort to call witnesses to testify.
The vote was 51-49 with two Republicans, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Utah Senator Mitt Romney voting with Democrats. Two other potential Republican crossovers Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski voted no with the Rpeublican majority.
During the debate over the articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the House impeachment managers argued the trial would be incomplete without witness testimony. President Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton has said publicly he is willing to testify.
Bolton is awaitng approval of his book manuscript that has a March publication date. A report Friday in the New York Times says Bolton's book describes a May Oval Office meeting, where President Trump asked Bolton to help with the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate Trump's political rival Joe Biden and withhold military aid until Ukraine agreed to help. According to the report, Bolton's book says others were in the room when the President made his request, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now leading President Trump's impeachment defense team.
"Here you have the President saying John Bolton is not telling the truth. 10;23:47 Let's find out. Let's put John Bolton under oath. Let's find out who's telling the truth." said Adam Schiff, (D-CA) who the lead House impeachment manager.
President Trump's defense team countered by saying the House managers' points on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress fell short.
"Even if there are witnesses it doesn't prove an impeachable offense...the articles fail," said Jay Sekulow, President Trump's personal attorney.
Retiring Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said he believes the House managers had proven their points.
"There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’” Alexander’s statement read.
Sen. Alexander added, however, that President Trump's inappropriate actions did not rise to the level of impeachment.
“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But 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," said Alexander.
Alaska's Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski stated "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."
Eric Schickler, Co-Director of U.C. Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, says moderate Republicans knew there weren't enough votes to remove President Trump from office.
"Given that they knew they were going to vote to acquit, amassing more evidence of potential wrongdoing, more headlines that were embarrassing was going to make it a harder vote for some of their members so that was their motivation," said Schickler.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning a vote to acquit the president next Wednesday, after the Iowa caucus and the President's State of the Union address.
"The timing of the vote does deprive president Trump of the ability to use the State of the Union address to declare victory," said Schickler.
"What we may have now is any effort to impeach a president is viewed from a purely partisan lens and the President's party sticks with the president and the opposite party prosecutes. That is a real concern as to whether impeachment remains viable as a tool," said Schickler.
The Senators are expected to get ten minutes each to speak on Monday and Tuesday to state their positions on the votes.
The trial is expected to resume Monday February 3rd at 11 a.m. EST.