Jan 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Key senator commits to sinking witness vote

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) speaks with reporters as he leaves the Capitol. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Senate is on track to swiftly acquit President Trump after Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Thursday night that he will vote against calling for additional witnesses.

Why it matters: Alexander's vote is crucial to whether the impeachment trial extends beyond this weekend, and his decision to stick with his party all but guarantees that Friday's witness vote will fail.

Background: Alexander has been a true wildcard during the Senate trial. He's a Tennessee Republican who has gone against Trump in the past, and is retiring at the end of his term, freeing him to make this decision without worrying about the political ramifications of such a vote.

  • However, he's extremely close with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been working diligently behind the scenes to persuade his caucus to sink the witness vote.
  • Alexander also has his legacy to worry about, which will now be shaped in part by this decision.

What he's saying:

"I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but 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."

The big picture: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Thursday night that she will vote in favor of witnesses in the impeachment trial, making her the first GOP senator to definitively say that she will do so.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski remains undecided: “I am going to go reflect on what I have heard, re-read my notes and decide whether I need to hear more,” she told reporters.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney is expected to vote to call witnesses.

Go deeper:

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Trump headed for fast acquittal

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) walks through the Capitol. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is poised to win his long-expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial as soon as tonight, after Sen. Lamar Alexander's dramatic 11th-hour announcement that he'll vote against calling new witnesses.

The state of play: The big question is no longer whether the Senate will sink this afternoon's witness vote, but rather how long it will take to deliver a final verdict on Trump after the vote fails.

Senate votes not to call witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial

Trump at the White House on Jan. 31. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The Senate voted largely along party lines on Friday to move forward with President Trump's impeachment trial without calling for additional witnesses.

The bottom line: The 49-51 vote was largely expected, after two out of four key Republicans backed away from allowing more witnesses in the trial — Sens. Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Lisa Murkowski won't vote for witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced Friday that she will vote against having additional witnesses testify during President Trump's impeachment trial, saying she doesn't "believe the continuation of the process will change anything."

Where it stands: Murkowski's vote likely closes the door on any additional witnesses during the trial. If four Republicans don't side with the Democrats on witnesses, the proceedings could end as soon as tonight.