WASHINGTON – A razor-thin majority of Senate Republicans on Friday voted against a Democratic proposal to admit additional witnesses and documents into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
The final tally was 51 votes against the motion, and 49 in favor.
The vote dashed Democrats’ hopes of hearing testimony from former Trump national security advisor John Bolton, and it shifted the weeks-long trial into its final stages.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Utah’s Mitt Romney, broke with their party in order to join Democrats in voting to admit additional evidence, but the majority, 51 Republicans, did not.
Democrats had needed at least four GOP senators to vote with them, and they fell short of that threshold by two votes.
Following the adjournment of the Senate on Friday, McConnell called a recess in the Senate, likely in order to continue ongoing negotiations between the White House, Senate Republicans and, to a lesser extent, Senate Democrats, over the next steps in the trial.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote “a perfidy, it’s a grand tragedy, one of the worst tragedies that the Senate has ever overcome.”
There will be no final vote to convict or acquit Trump on Friday. Senators will confer with the House managers and defense to determine next steps.
A bitter defeat for Democrats
Democrats, led by impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff of California, had fought tooth and nail over the past week to persuade moderate Republicans to join them in admitting new evidence from key witnesses who did not testify in the House.
More than any other individual, Democrats had hoped to include new testimony from Bolton. A career conservative foreign policy hawk, Bolton has reportedly written in a manuscript of a memoir that Trump told him last summer he intended to withhold nearly $400 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine until Kyiv agreed to announce investigations into the president’s political opponents.
Democrats saw Bolton as a crucial missing piece of the puzzle about what happened last year with Ukraine. Bolton has also said he would be willing to testify, something other officials, like acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, have not.
“If you want to know if the Ukrainians felt pressure [from Trump], call John Bolton as a witness,” House impeachment manager Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said on Friday, shortly before the vote.
On Thursday, Schiff launched a last-minute effort to sway Republican senators by offering to limit any additional evidence presentation to one week.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his desire to conclude the Senate trial as soon as possible, and Schiff’s offer was never seriously entertained by Republicans in the Senate.
The House voted to impeach Trump in December on two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both stemming from Trump’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. The president has denied any wrongdoing.