WASHINGTON — The push to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial fell just short Friday.
Two Republicans joined all 47 senators on the Democratic side in support of calling former national security adviser John Bolton, while the other 51 Republicans — including all four from Nebraska and Iowa — opposed doing so.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a statement that conducting impeachment investigations 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,” she 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.”
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, with a final vote Wednesday on the two articles of impeachment. Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said Friday that “part of our democracy died today.”
She said in a statement that senators who opposed witnesses, including Fischer and fellow Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, are part of a “full-on coverup” while the president solicits foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“They turned a blind eye to the facts and chose party over country,” Kleeb said. “It’s pathetic and horrifying.”
Like Fischer, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, noted that the Senate heard the recorded testimony of witnesses who appeared as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
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“The House managers had one job: make the case for impeachment, and they’ve failed to do so,” she said.
Trump’s defense team said House Democrats brought an incomplete case to the Senate and didn’t come close to proving their case. They argued that it would set a dangerous precedent to allow the House to rush through an impeachment and then leave it up to the Senate to finish the investigation.
Democrats argued that the evidence was more than enough to prove the president’s guilt but that those unswayed should have supported seeking additional witnesses and documents.
Democrats needed four Republicans to cross the aisle to subpoena Bolton. But they only got a pair — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.
Two others seen as potential crossovers, Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, ultimately came down against witnesses.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also voted against 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.
At the same time, he criticized Democrats for what he described as a rush to impeach.
Sasse has declined interview requests related to the impeachment trial but released a written statement after the vote.
“The Senate’s constitutional duty is not to launch an open- ended, months-long, partisan investigation, just nine months before Election Day,” he said. “The Senate’s duty is to carefully consider the case presented. After reviewing the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, watching 192 video clips, and reviewing more than 28,000 pages of evidence, it’s time to start voting.”
In her statement, Kleeb said Sasse’s vote runs contrary to his previous talk about the Constitution and transparency.
She also said that Nebraskans “do not take kindly to corruption and hateful language” and that Trump’s approval ratings have dropped.
“The Democratic Party is focused on talking with rural and urban voters to make the case it is time to break up the status quo that protects a president engaged in a cover-up,” Kleeb said.