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The Senate Votes Against Witnesses In Trump’s Impeachment Trial

The U.S. Senate on Friday evening voted down consideration of additional witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial. The chamber is now very likely to vote to acquit Trump, although it’s not clear if that vote will happen in the next 24-48 hours or sometime next week.

The vote, 51-49 against witnesses, was mostly along party lines. Just two Republican senators, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, joined the 47 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in favor of hearing from witnesses. The other 51 Republicans opposed the motion.

It’s long been assumed that the Senate will vote to acquit Trump. But it wasn’t clear whether Republicans could hold an impeachment trial that both ended relatively quickly and didn’t do much damage to Trump electorally. Witnesses would both lengthen the trial and increase the possibility of compelling details being unearthed that might make the president and his aides look bad.

It therefore looked from the start of the trial like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans would work to avoid including witness testimony. But then The New York Times reported on Sunday night that former national security adviser John Bolton described in his upcoming book that Trump personally told him of the strategy to delay military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainians investigated the Bidens. In light of that news, it seemed for at least a couple of days this week more plausible that four or more Republicans might back witnesses. By Friday, though, Republicans had largely unified against witnesses, with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee saying that Bolton’s testimony was unneeded. Alexander argued there was already clear evidence that Trump had tied military aid to Ukraine investigating one of his political rivals. But the Tennessee senator said that he didn’t view such conduct as justifying Trump’s removal from office.

Now, the only real question is when Trump will be officially acquitted — late on Friday night, Saturday or next week. Republicans appear to have wrapped up the Senate part of the impeachment process in less than three weeks — without giving a public forum to Bolton or anyone else who might be critical of President Trump.

Perry Bacon Jr. was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.