Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-T.N., made a fateful decision late Thursday night that all-but secured President Donald Trump’s victory in the ongoing impeachment trial saga.
Alexander declared late Thursday night he will oppose calling more witnesses, dashing Democratic efforts for more testimony and pushing the Senate toward an imminent vote to acquit the president.
The announcement came just hours after Trump’s legal team warned about a potential Friday “cliffhanger” vote on witnesses.
Calling witnesses could have seen the president’s impeachment trial extend for months.
A vote on witnesses, expected Friday, could instead lead to an abrupt end and assured acquittal in only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. Trump was pressing for action in time for his State of the Union address, and that now seems likely. As the Senate adjourned late Thursday, it set the date for Tuesday night’s speech.
Despite the Democrats’ singular, sometimes-passionate focus on witnesses after revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, the numbers are now falling short. It would take four Republicans to break with the 53-seat majority and join with all Democrats to demand more testimony.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in the rare role presiding over the impeachment trial, could break a tie, but that seems unlikely.
Alexander said in a statement there was “no need for more evidence,” giving the Trump team the likelihood of a Senate vote in its direction.
Democrats built pressure on senators for testimony, but Trump’s lawyers argued it would take too long as they sped forward, even after Bolton’s potential eyewitness account to Trump’s actions detailed in a forthcoming book brought uncertainty.
Before Alexander’s statement, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said late Thursday she would vote to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial, briefly raising Democrats’ hopes for a breakthrough.
But Alexander minutes later said that “there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.”
Collins, Alexander, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were playing an outsized role in the final hours of debate with pointed questions. Another Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, has made clear he will vote for witnesses.
Murkowksi is expected to announce her decision on Friday, ahead of voting.
The weeklong witness saga centered around Bolton’s forthcoming book, where he contends he personally heard Trump say he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate the Bidens. Trump denies saying such a thing.
Thursday’s testimony included soaring pleas to the senators-as-jurors who will decide Trump’s fate, to either stop a president or to shut down impeachment proceedings that Republicans insist were never more than a partisan attack.
“Let’s give the country a trial they can be proud of,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor for House Democrats.
Trump attorney Eric Herschmann declared the Democrats are only prosecuting the president because they can’t beat him in 2020.
“We trust the American people to decide who should be our president,” Herschmann said. “Enough is Enough. Stop all of this.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was toiling to keep Friday’s vote on schedule even as the trial was unearthing so-caled “bombshells” from Bolton.
Senators dispatched more than 100 queries over the past two days. The questions came from the parties’ leaders, the senators running for the Democratic nomination against Trump, and even bipartisan coalitions from both sides of the aisle.
Trump’s lawyers focused some of their time Thursday refloating allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice president. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., one of the managers, said the Bidens have little to tell the Senate about Trump’s efforts to “shake down” Ukraine for his campaign.
The White House has blocked its officials from testifying in the proceedings and objected that there is “significant amounts of classified information” in the manuscript.
The Associated Press contributed to this article