WASHINGTON — Midlands senators appear poised to vote against witnesses later Friday and wrap up President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial soon.
In a statement Friday morning, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said conducting an impeachment investigation is the responsibility of the House, not the Senate.
“The House managers have presented 192 video clips containing testimony from 13 witnesses and submitted more than 28,000 pages of documents,” Fischer said. “All senators have before them the evidence the House used to pass their articles of impeachment. It is time to assess that evidence and vote on the articles.”
When Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, announced her opposition on Thursday, she also noted the Senate has been presented with extensive testimony from the witnesses who already appeared as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
“Let’s be clear: we’ve heard from witnesses and seen documents: 17 witnesses and 28,000+ documents during this entire process,” Ernst said in a statement to the World-Herald. “The House managers had one job: make the case for impeachment, and they’ve failed to do so.”
Following two days of question-and-answer sessions, the Senate is expected to vote Friday on whether to call new witnesses who did not testify in the House.
Democrats have argued that the case against the president is overwhelming but that anyone unconvinced of his guilt should support seeking additional information through documents and witnesses not included in the House inquiry.
They have focused in particular on former national security adviser John Bolton, whose pending book reportedly includes information about Trump tying U.S. military aid to Ukraine to investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.
If all 47 senators on the Democratic side stick together, they will need four Republicans to cross the aisle and join them in seeking additional information.
Democrats know that it will be an uphill battle to get those votes, especially after Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced late Thursday that he would not vote for witnesses.
Ernst might have seemed like a potential crossover, as an incumbent running for reelection in a purplish state.
But the first-term senator has been at the microphones with other Republicans this week defending the administration and accusing the Democrats of hypocrisy.
Democrats have suggested that failing to call additional witnesses such as Bolton would turn the trial into a “sham” and a “cover-up” and deny the president any exoneration, but Ernst rejected that framing in her Thursday statement.
“What the House managers have done is wasted time and taxpayer money only to give a long litany of reasons they dislike President Trump — and while the coastal elites might like it, it is not a reason to remove the president from office,” Ernst said. “At this point, all Democrats want to do is paralyze the Senate and the work we need to get done on behalf of hardworking folks across the country. I believe it’s time to get back to the people’s business.”
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have not said definitively whether they will support calling witnesses.
Sasse was a fierce critic of Trump in 2016 and told The World-Herald last year that there was “terrible stuff” in the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.
But at the same time, he criticized Democrats for what he described as a rush to impeachment.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
Sasse has been declining interview requests on the matter, but his spokesman James Wegmann provided a written statement on Thursday.
“He thinks it’s incredibly cynical for the Democrats who previously claimed that their case was ‘urgent’ and ‘undeniable’ to now scramble for a long, drawn-out court fight over executive privilege, even though we’re just 10 months away from the next presidential election,” Wegmann said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the House impeachment managers, objected to the idea that calling witnesses would require a great deal of time.
During Thursday’s proceedings, Schiff suggested that the Senate could follow the model of former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and confine new witness depositions to just one week.
While the witnesses are deposed, the Senate could go back to its regular legislative business, he said.
“Can’t we take one week to hear from these witnesses?” Schiff said. “I think we can, I think we should. I think we must.”
Photos: Nebraska’s and Iowa’s members of Congress