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Impeachment Trial Heads Toward Finish Line After Witness Vote Fails

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk along the South Lawn as they depart from the White House for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Friday.
Sarah Silbiger
Getty Images
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk along the South Lawn as they depart from the White House for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Friday.

The key question of President Trump's impeachment trial was answered Friday evening: There will be no new witness testimony, including from former national security adviser John Bolton.

That leaves very little for senators to discuss, as the third impeachment trial in U.S. history heads toward a close with Trump's acquittal now almost assured.

The president was impeached on two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to accusations that he held up military aid to Ukraine until the country announced investigations into potential political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Democrats had pleaded for weeks to hear testimony from Bolton, whose book manuscript has made waves this week after reports that in it, he purportedly verifies those accusations.

Bolton, and a number of other White House officials, did not testify as part of the House's investigation.

But Republicans on a whole, didn't budge.

Just two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah — voted in favor of hearing new testimony, making the final vote 51-49 against witnesses.

The end is near

On Friday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the details for the rest of the trial.

Final arguments will begin 11 a.m. on Monday and will not exceed four hours total. The House's impeachment managers and the president's defense team will receive equal time.

After final arguments, senators will have the opportunity to speak on the floor on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Senate is then expected to vote on both articles of impeachment around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Next week is a packed political week, with the Iowa caucuses on Monday night and Trump's State of the Union scheduled for Tuesday.

There are four current senators left in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, and the trial schedule should allow them to travel from the Capitol to Iowa before caucusing begins Monday evening.

Likewise, White House official Eric Ueland told reporters Friday that the impeachment trial would not interfere with Trump's "ability to deliver a strong and confident State of the Union message next week in the House of Representatives to the country and the world."

The vision for the speech will be one of "relentless optimism," according to a senior administration official, and the theme will be "the great American comeback."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.

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