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Trump trial could end soon; Alexander says no to witnesses

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AP Washington
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will oppose calling more witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, all but dashing Democratic efforts to hear more testimony and boosting odds the Senate will vote to acquit Trump as early as Friday.
A vote on witnesses, expected Friday, could lead to an abrupt end and assured acquittal in only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.
Trump was pressing for action in time for his State of the Union address, and that now seems likely.
As the Senate adjourned late Thursday, it set the date for Tuesday night's speech.
Despite the Democrats' singular, sometimes-passionate focus on witnesses after revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, the numbers are now falling short.
It would take four Republicans to break with the 53-seat majority and join with all Democrats to demand more testimony.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in the rare role presiding over the impeachment trial, could break a tie, but that seems unlikely.
Alexander said in a statement there was no need for more evidence, giving the Trump team the likelihood of a Senate vote in its direction.
Trump was impeached by House last month on charges that he abused his power like no other president, jeopardising Ukraine and US-Ukraine relations.
Democrats say Trump asked the vulnerable ally to investigate Joe Biden and debunked theories of 2016 election interference, temporarily halting American security aid to the country as it battled Russia at its border.
The second article of impeachment says Trump then obstructed the House probe in a way that threatened the nation's three-branch system of checks and balances.
Before Alexander's statement, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said late Thursday she would vote to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial, briefly raising Democrats' hopes for a breakthrough.
But Alexander minutes later said that there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the US Constitution's high bar for an impeachable offense.
It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation," Alexander said.
But, he added, "the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate."

Collins, Alexander and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were playing an outsized role in the final hours of debate with pointed questions.
Another Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, has made clear he will vote for witnesses.
Murkowksi is expected to announce her decision on Friday, ahead of voting.
Democrats built pressure on senators for testimony, but Trump's lawyers argued it would take too long as they sped forward, even after Bolton's potential eyewitness account to Trump's actions detailed in a forthcoming book brought uncertainty.
Bolton's forthcoming book contends he personally heard Trump say he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate the Bidens. Trump denies saying such a thing.
Thursday's testimony included soaring pleas to the senators-as-jurors who will decide Trump's fate, to either stop a president who

Democrats say has tried to cheat in the upcoming election and will again, or to shut down impeachment proceedings that Republicans insist were never more than a partisan attack.
Let's give the country a trial they can be proud of, said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor for House Democrats. He offered to take just one week for depositions of new witnesses, sparking new discussions.
Trump attorney Eric Herschmann declared the Democrats are only prosecuting the president because they can't beat him in 2020.
We trust the American people to decide who should be our president, Herschmann said.
Enough is Enough. Stop all of this.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was toiling to keep Friday's vote on schedule even as the trial was unearthing fresh evidence from Bolton's new book and raising alarms among Democrats and some Republicans about a Trump attorney's controversial defense.

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First Published: Jan 31 2020 | 7:40 PM IST

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