US Politics: Senate blocks early Democratic motions in Trump impeachment trial

The impeachment trial continues in the Senate
Opening arguments in the Senate continued long into the night
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Republicans in the US Senate have blocked efforts by Democrats to call evidence and witnesses in Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

The American people overwhelmingly want to hear from these witnesses."

- Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee

The third presidential impeachment trial in US history enters its third day today (Thursday January 23), with senators continuing to hear arguments from Democratic and Republican legal teams on whether Donald Trump should be removed from office.

Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, faces charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, linked to allegations he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden. He is expected to be acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Votes in the opening days of the impeachment trial went along party lines, with Republicans blocking Democratic motions to subpoena evidence from government departments and call witnesses who are close to the president.

Opening skirmishes

The trial began on Tuesday with more than 12 hours of arguments between the two sides, which continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Early debate centred around Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's proposed rules for the trial, which give House Democrats up to three days to make their case for removing Trump from office, before the president's legal team have the same amount of time to present their defence.

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leader in the Senate, put forward four separate motions to subpoena records and documents from the White House, as well as government bodies including the State Department, relating to Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

There were also requests for individuals including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the trial.

All of these motions were blocked by a vote of 53-47, with all Senators voting along party lines.

Democratic representative Adam Schiff, one of the key figures in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry that preceded the Senate trial, said the evidence against Trump is "already overwhelming", but further witness testimony is required to shed more light on the president's alleged misconduct.

Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, said the White House "has no answers" for why these documents and witnesses shouldn't be produced.

Republicans haven't ruled out additional testimony and evidence being provided in the trial, but have proposed waiting until later in the process before a decision is made.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone questioned the foundation of the charges against Trump and claimed Democrats had not met the US Constitution's standard for impeachment.

He repeated the president's claim that he has "done absolutely nothing wrong".

'The American people want to know'

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Schiff reiterated the Democrats' case for calling witnesses such as Bolton and Mulvaney, because the American people "want to know" what these individuals have to say.

"The American people overwhelmingly want to hear from these witnesses, and for a very good reason: because they can shed light on the president's misconduct," he said.

A survey by Pew Research Center published this week showed that a slight majority of Americans (51%) believe the outcome of the Senate trial should be Trump's removal from office. Less than half (46%) of the US adults surveyed said the trial should end with the president remaining in office.

More than six out of ten respondents (63%) felt Trump had definitely (38%) or probably (25%) done things that are illegal, either during his time in office or while he was running for the presidency.

No witness swap

Despite their eagerness to subpoena figures such as Bolton - who has said he won't appear unless served with a legal summons - the Democratic legal team have ruled out the possibility of a "witness swap" with Republicans.

The president's Republican allies have argued that Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, should be called to appear before the impeachment trial.

Hunter Biden held a position on the board of a Ukrainian gas firm while his father was US vice-president and in charge of American-Ukrainian relations. Trump has referred to this fact when making allegations of corruption against Biden.

Discussing the possibility of a witness swap involving Bolton and Hunter Biden, Schumer told reporters: "That trade is not on the table."

'Corrupt'

While the opening chapter of the impeachment trial unfolded in Washington, Trump was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Speaking to the media at the event, he said he would "love to go" to the Senate trial so he could "sit right in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces", referring to the Democrats arguing for his removal from office.

The president also tweeted that he was making "great progress" in Davos and that the US had the "hottest economy".

Wall Street has certainly enjoyed strong trends of late, with the Nasdaq Composite Index, S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average all hitting record highs in recent weeks.

Asian markets have not been quite so positive, particularly this week, with stocks in China experiencing their worst day in more than eight months.

Shanghai's SSE Composite Index plummeted by 2.75% on Thursday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down by 1.5%, partly in response to the spread of the coronavirus, which caused the lockdown of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.

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