Senate moves to impeachment endgame

The Senate is moving into the final phase of President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE’s impeachment trial, but senators expect a drawn-out floor fight before final votes on two articles of impeachment either late Friday or early Saturday morning.  

After 35 hours of opening arguments and 16 hours of senators asking questions, the Senate is finally getting ready to move into what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios House rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) envisions as the ending phase of the trial.

GOP leaders expect they will have the votes on Friday to defeat a motion to consider subpoenas for additional witnesses and documents, blocking Democratic demands for the testimony of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Bolton: Trump lacked enough 'advance thinking' for a coup MORE, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE and two other witnesses.

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The vote appeared settled Thursday night after Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), one of four potential Republican swing votes, announced he would oppose a motion to consider subpoenas of additional witnesses and documents. 

Alexander said there was no need for additional evidence because he said the House managers had proved that Trump had withheld security assistance to Ukraine to spur officials there to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE and his son. But he said they failed to convince him it was an impeachable offense. 

Alexander in a statement said the House managers proved that Trump withheld U.S. aid “at least in part” to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and criticized Trump’s conduct as inappropriate. He said, however, it did not justify removing the president from office.

Without Alexander, Republicans feel confident the motion to call for additional witnesses and documents will fail Friday. 

McConnell warned in private meetings this week that voting to allow witnesses would create an open-ended process that one Senate GOP aide described as “the Wild West” whereby Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-N.Y.) could prolong the trial for days or weeks and force vulnerable GOP incumbents to take a slew of tough votes.

“I think people are just now beginning to understand that ... it’s not just one witness and it could entail months of delay,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job MORE (R-Texas). 

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The organizing resolution the Senate adopted last week by a party-line vote sets up a four-hour debate before a vote on considering new evidence. McConnell plans to use that debate time for closing arguments and then to move quickly to acquit Trump. 

One remaining question is whether Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (R-Alaska), a key swing vote, will join two other moderates — Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators scramble to save infrastructure deal Schumer urges GOP to ignore Trump: He's 'rooting for failure' Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds MORE (R-Utah) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchumer urges GOP to ignore Trump: He's 'rooting for failure' Trump pressures McConnell, GOP to ditch bipartisan talks until they have majority Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (R-Maine) — to subpoena new evidence.

If she does, that could result in a 50-50 deadlock whereby the motion to consider subpoenas would fail unless Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in to break the tie. The scenario came up in a closed-door GOP lunch on Thursday. Lawmakers, however, say it’s unlikely. 

Even Democrats predicted that Roberts would not want to risk politicizing the high court. 

“I think there’s a powerful argument for him doing what’s right in the interests of justice. I don’t think he will. I understand why he wouldn’t,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

Asked about the potential for a tie as he left a closed-door GOP dinner on Thursday night, Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation Rand Paul introducing measure to repeal public transportation mask mandates Senate plants a seed for bipartisan climate solutions MORE (R-Ind.) said, “I think we’ll avoid it.”

One Democratic senator said Schumer is exploring options with colleagues to make it as difficult as possible for GOP colleagues to end the trial quickly.

“We’re thinking about those options, whether we can change the rule, what kind of motions we’re going to make. We’re not going quietly into that good night,” said the senator, who requested anonymity to discuss internal discussions. 

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (D-Conn.) characterized Democrats as “looking at all of our parliamentary options to try to force as many votes as we can to put Republicans on the record.”

Blumenthal and Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Ohio) say they will try to force the Senate into an open deliberation on the question of having additional witnesses and on the articles of impeachment, even though a Senate-wide discussion is unlikely to produce a breakthrough. 

“In every past impeachment proceeding, there has been debate and deliberations,” Blumenthal said, noting that every senator had 15 minutes to persuade colleagues during the closed-door deliberations at President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. 

What’s not clear is whether Schumer can force votes on subpoenaing witnesses as amendments to the motion to move to a final up-or-down vote, or whether additional subpoenas will be out of order once the Senate defeats a motion on considering new evidence. That could depend on a ruling by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough. 

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Republican leaders now fully expect the motion for additional witnesses and documents to fail and plan to then move quickly to have an up-or-down vote on articles of impeachment. 

GOP lawmakers concede, however, that Democrats will have an opportunity to amend the motion, which could drag out the debate until Friday evening or early Saturday morning. 

“The closing arguments are going to be two hours for each side tomorrow afternoon probably starting at 1 o’clock. [When] we’re finished with that, then the vote would occur on the issue of witnesses. If we are able to say, 'No, we want to go right now to final judgment,’ that we would move in that direction and stay there until that work is decided and completed Friday evening,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee in tie vote Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices MORE (Wyo.).

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci Writer: Fauci, Paul clash shouldn't distract from probe into COVID-19 origins S.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' MORE (R-Ky.) indicated that Friday’s session could last for 12 hours. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week MORE (R-Texas) said if Republicans block witnesses that he expects “a series of motions from the Democrats expressing frustration with that decision.” 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottScott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (R-S.C.) predicted a final vote on the articles of impeachment at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Saturday. 

McConnell plans to wrap the trial up on Friday evening, but a senior Senate Democratic aide says he would have to advance a resolution similar to the organizing resolution that set up phase one of the trial, which Democrats could try to change with various amendments. 

Barrasso said it's possible that Schumer could force the Senate to debate the structure of the trial’s ending late into the night, as he did last week when senators didn’t finally approve the organizing resolution for phase one until around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“If he starts offering motions — we defeated 11 in a row on the first day — we’re in the same situation. But we will continue to stay here through the night,” he said. “At some point the Democrats will realize their motions are being defeated.”