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Sen. Gardner votes against new witnesses, Sen. Bennet votes for them in impeachment trial

Vote for new witnesses in trial failed 49-51
Posted: 5:17 PM, Jan 31, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-31 20:46:21-05
Donald Trump

DENVER – The U.S. Senate voted Friday afternoon not to subpoena new witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump, with Colorado’s senators voting as they were expected to.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., voted against calling new witnesses while Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted to call new witnesses. Both senators had said they would vote in this manner this week after new revelations came to light in a report in the New York Times about former national security adviser John Bolton’s new book.

The vote failed 49-51, as had been expected after Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander said Thursday and Friday they would not vote to call new witnesses in the president’s trial.

“Senate Republicans just voted to eviscerate the rule of law. For what… Donald Trump? Pathetic,” Bennet tweeted after the vote.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Bolton wrote in his book that Trump told him he wanted to keep $391 million in congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine frozen until the new Ukrainian administration agreed to publicly say they would investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.

And on Friday, the Times reported that Bolton’s book, which is set to be released in March, said that Trump told him in May 2019 about his plan to use Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals.

President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December on two articles.

The first was for abuse of office for withholding congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine on the condition the nation’s new administration announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Bolton declined to testify in the House impeachment inquiry at the White House’s direction, and House Democrats withdrew their subpoena of Bolton out of fear the court case that would follow over whether he could testify would drag out the length of the inquiry.

Republicans have shifted in recent days, as Trump’s impeachment defense counsel started to deliver the message during the trial, that a president should not be impeached even if he conducted impeachable conduct, and that the voters should decide in November.

Impeachment was written into the constitution as a remedy for a president who abuses his or her power and commits “high crimes and misdemeanors,” however. Senate Democrats and two Senate Republicans – Mitt Romney and Susan Collins – called for new witnesses in the vote Friday.

Bennet has been calling for new witnesses and documents from the White House to be subpoenaed in the Senate trial since its onset. And Gardner had not been saying how he might vote on such a proposal despite voting during the rulemaking portion of the trial not to call new witnesses at that time.

But he said Wednesday that he felt he had heard enough.

“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” Gardner, a Colorado Republican up for re-election this year, said in a statement. "I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”

Testimony from many of the 17 witnesses – from both parties’ requests – who spoke during the House impeachment inquiry was played during the Senate trial, but no witnesses have testified in-person in the Senate.

Among those whom Democrats had hoped to call are Bolton and OMB Director and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Six polls released during the impeachment trial show a majority of Americans – and often more than two-thirds of people polled – support having more witnesses called and more documents subpoenaed in the Senate trial.

Rep. Jason Crow, the Colorado Democrat who is one of the impeachment managers, said during closing arguments for more witnesses Friday that he believed the truth “will come out and it is continuing to.”

Both he and Bennet have argued that senators who vote not to hear witnesses – as they did Friday – will be on the wrong side of history once the full story of what happened with the president, the administration and Ukraine comes out by whatever means.

Colorado’s House Democrats, who all voted to impeach the president in December, said after the Senate vote Friday they were disappointed.

“The facts & the evidence are clear: the President abused his power & obstructed congress. I’m disappointed in Senate Republicans’ decision to refuse to call on witnesses w/firsthand knowledge of the President’s wrongdoings. Americans deserve better, they deserve a fair trial,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter tweeted.

Rep. Diana DeGette, who presided over the impeachment vote, reiterated her belief that Trump abused his power of office and “should be held accountable.”

“The Republican-led Senate’s refusal to even hear from the witnesses who were directed – by the president – to orchestrate his scheme shows they had no interest in hearing the truth and, instead, were simply determined to sweep his misconduct under the rug as quickly as possible,” DeGette said in a statement. “Such an abrogation of their Constitutional duties is shameful and the American people should be outraged.”

Colorado’s congressional Republicans have maintained throughout the trial that Trump should be acquitted because he “did nothing wrong” and that no new witnesses should be called.

“The vote is in. The Senate does not want to extend the farce against @realDonaldTrump any longer. It is past time to move on,” Rep. Doug Lamborn said just after the vote.

“House Dems rushed through impeachment because they insisted their case was overwhelming & compelling,” Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., tweeted just before the vote. “If that was true, the Senate doesn’t need to hear from witnesses. Schiff will stop at nothing to advance his weak articles of impeachment, it’s time to acquit & put this to rest.”

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is leading polling in the Democratic primary in Colorado's Senate race. The winner will face Gardner in November. Hickenlooper led Gardner in an October poll in a theoretical matchup by 11%.

"We already knew that Washington is broken—McConnell & Trump's cover-up shows just how far it's fallen," Hickenlooper tweeted after the vote.

“Voters will remember in November how Gardner sold out our country and our Constitution, and put his loyalty to Trump and McConnell ahead of Coloradans,” Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said.

Though the vote not to call new witnesses was largely seen in recent days as among the final steps of the trial, as 67 senators would need to vote to convict the president in order to remove him from office and not the simple majority needed to adopt or kill the motion for new witnesses, the senators are expected to outline the next steps in the trial on Friday evening before getting back to the trial on Monday. One amendment offered by Schumer to subpoena Bolton failed, also on a 49-51 vote.

More debate is expected Monday morning and Tuesday, setting up what would be a final vote on whether to convict or acquit President Trump on Wednesday.