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Battle looms over witnesses as defence rests in Trump impeachment trial

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President Donald Trumps impeachment trial is shifting to questions from senators, a pivotal juncture as Republicans lack the votes to block witnesses and face a potential setback in their hope of ending the trial with a quick acquittal.

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After Trumps defence team rested Tuesday with a plea to “end now”, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately told senators he did not yet have the votes to brush back Democratic demands for witnesses now that revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, have roiled the trial.

Bolton writes in a forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden. That assertion, if true, would undercut a key defence argument and go to the heart of one of the two articles of impeachment against the president.

“I think Bolton probably has something to offer us,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican from Alaska.

Not in Trumps view. “Why didnt John Bolton complain about this nonsense a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated,” Trump tweeted shortly after midnight. “He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!”

The uncertainty about witnesses arises days before crucial votes on the issue. In a Senate split 53-47 in favor of Republicans, at least four GOP senators must join all Democrats to reach the 51 votes required to call witnesses, decide whom to call or do nearly anything else in the trial. Several Republicans apparently are ready to join Democrats in calling witnesses.

The two days set aside for questions, Wednesday and Thursday, also allow each side more time to win over any undecided senators pondering the witness issue. In the meantime, all will have the opportunity to grill both the House Democrats prosecuting the case and the presidents defence team.

No matter how many witnesses you give the Democrats, no matter how much information is given, like the quickly produced Transcripts, it will NEVER be enough for them. They will always scream UNFAIR. The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020

Held to submitting written questions to be read by Chief Justice John Roberts, senators are expected to dig into the big themes of the trial – among them whether what Trump did or may have done rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” – as well as pointed and partisan attacks on each sides case.

Trump faces charges from Democrats that he abused his power like no other president, jeopardising US-Ukraine relations by using the military aid as leverage while the vulnerable ally battled Russia. Democrats say Trump then obstructed their probe in a way that threatens the nations three-branch system of checks and balances.

The presidents legal team tried to lock up its case Tuesday and convince GOP senators that the president was right to ask Ukraine for investigations of Biden and his son Hunter and was well within his power to block the aid. They said he was not bound to abide by the congressional investigation.

Trump complained anew at a Tuesday night rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, charging that “congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades".

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow addressed the Bolton controversy head-on in closing arguments by dismissing the former national security advisers manuscript as “inadmissible”. Attorney Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard scholar, said earlier that even if Boltons story is true the actions dont rise to an impeachable offence.

In a few weeks or months, do Republican Senators want to pick up the paper and read that one of the witnesses or documents they blocked had crucial information on President Trumps misconduct?

How can any Senate Republican NOT vote for the witnesses and documents we are seeking?

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 28, 2020

Senate Republicans spent considerable time in private discussing how to deal with Boltons manuscript without extending the proceedings or jeopardizing the presidents expected acquittal. That effort lost steam as Democrats showed no interest, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying, “Were not bargaining with them.”

GOP senators were warned that if they agree to call Bolton or try to access his manuscript, the White House will block him, likely sparking a weeks-long court battle over executive privilege and national security.

Nonetheless, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine appeared to be backed by others in the move to seek more testimony.

Some Republicans including Senator Pat Toomey want reciprocity – bringing in Bolton or another Democratic witness in exchange for one from the GOP side. Some Republicans waRead More – Source