Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The final vote on witnesses for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Friday, January 31, 2020.

The final vote on witnesses for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Friday, January 31, 2020. (Image: CSPAN/Twitter)

'A Crisis for Democracy': Senate Votes Against Hearing From Witnesses

"Trump's defenders are saying that our Constitution does not apply to the powerful few."

Eoin Higgins, staff writer

The U.S. Senate voted 51-49 Friday night against allowing testimony from witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, making his acquittal in the chamber a virtual certainty and triggering outrage across the country. 

"We know these truths to be self evident: Trump is guilty and removal is our only option for dealing with dangerous leaders in power," said impeachment advocacy group By the People executive director Alexandra Flores-Quilty. "Yet, Trump's defenders are saying that our Constitution does not apply to the powerful few."

"This is a crisis of democracy," Flores-Quilty added.

Trump was impeached by the House in December for an ultimately unsuccessful scheme to withhold military aid to pressure Urkainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce publicly he had launched an investigation into Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's political rivals. Hunter Biden's employment by Ukrainian gas company Burisma would have been the focus of such an investigation. 

By voting down the possibility of hearing more testimony on the matter, the chamber's Republican leadership has effectively shut the door on removing the president for his involvement in the scandal. That, said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington executive director Noah Bookbinder, means the Senate has relinquished its oversight power.

"This is a dereliction of duty and an abdication of constitutional responsibilities," said Bookbinder. "51 senators voted to create a dangerous and embarrassing partisan precedent that will limit the functioning of our system of checks and balances going forward."

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) crossed party lines to vote in favor of allowing witnesses but the partisan vote shot down the proposal. Reported revelations from a forthcoming book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton about Trump's level of involvement in the Ukrainian scheme made Bolton a flashpoint the debate. 

"Senate Republicans have thrown all democratic norms and decades of precedent out of the window by preventing witnesses from testifying before the Senate," Stand Up America founder and president Sean Eldridge said in a statement. "This is an abhorrent dereliction of duty."

Protests erupted across the country as the vote drew near, including at the Capitol. 

Associated Press reporter Mary Clare Jalonick captured the scene in a photo posted to Twitter showing demonstrators holding lit-up letters reading, "FIRE TRUMP."

In a statement, oversight group Common Cause's president Karen Hobert Flynn said that the vote was indicative of a greater rot at the heart of the Senate—and the country. 

"These votes are doing lasting damage to our democracy by normalizing presidential abuses of power and giving free reign to a president who has continued to invite foreign interference in our elections and will now see no reason to stop," said Hobert Flynn. "The President's abuses of power, and the Senate's refusal to check them, tear at the very fabric of our democracy."

The Senate plans to vote on whether to remove Trump from office or acquit him on Wednesday, after the Iowa primary caucuses on Monday and the State of the Union on Tuesday. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'Sorely Disappointed' by Court Ruling, Pipeline Foes Demand Biden 'Act Immediately to Stop Line 3'

"Every day President Biden refuses to stop the Line 3 pipeline is a slap in the face to environmental justice communities and a renewed breaking of his promises on climate and Indigenous rights."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


300+ Progressive Groups Urge Corporations to Ditch ALEC for Pushing Voter Suppression Bills

"If corporations really believe in protecting our democracy and the right to vote, they must end their affiliation with ALEC," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


Reality Winner's Release From Federal Prison Met With Calls for Full Pardon for the NSA Whistleblower

Winner will serve the rest of her five-year sentence under the supervision of a halfway house.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Analysis Highlights Biden Proposal to End $84 Billion Gift to Big Oil Buried in Trump Tax Scam

"We can stop this insane corporate welfare and use it to pay for a renewable energy future."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


Intent on Appeasing Manchin, US Blocks G7 Progress on Phasing Out Coal

"Once again Joe Manchin is casting a heavy shadow."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·