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Republicans seal majority to block witnesses in Trump Senate trial

New York, Feb 1 (IANS) Republicans have sealed the majority to block Democrats’ attempts to call witnesses to the Senate trial of President Donald Trump, short-circuiting their attempts prolong the impeachment process.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, the last fence-sitter from the party, announced on Friday that she will vote against the bid to call witnesses, locking the 51-vote advantage for Trump’s supporters in the 100-member Senate despite the defection of two Republicans.

Her announcement came minutes before the Senate trial resumed and Democrat prosecutor Adam Schiff made the call for calling witnesses.

The Senate is expected to vote on witnesses after about four hours of arguments at the trial by Trump’s lawyers and the prosecutors from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives that impeached him.

It was a forgone conclusion that Trump will be acquitted because a two-thirds majority is required to convict him.

But the Democrats, who pressed on with the impeachment as a vehicle for election propaganda for the November elections, could have embarrassed him further by prolonging the trial with witnesses like John Bolton, who was fired as national security adviser by Trump last year.

On Thursday night another wavering Republican, Lamar Alexander, announced he will vote against.

Two others, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Susan Collins had said they will vote with Democrats to call witnesses.

While the Republicans wanted to wind up the trial on Friday night, the indications when the trial resumed were that it may drag on into next week in order to allow senators to speak about their votes.

The Senate is not likely to sit on Monday or Tuesday.

Iowa will hold the selection process for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate — the first state to do so – on Monday.

Three front runner for the nomination – Bernie Sanders, Warren Elizabeth and Amy Klochuchar – are members of the Senate.

Trump is scheduled to give the State of the Union Address on Tuesday to a joint session of the Senate and the House.

Republicans had hoped to remove the cloud of impeachment over his head in time for the ceremonial event.

Murkowski’s statement said she did not believe there fair trial because of the extreme partisan nature of the impeachment and continuing it will change anything.

“It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” she said.

Trump is facing trial on charges that he abused power by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelentsky to investigate the dealing of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in that country.

The Democrats say that this was inviting a foreign country to intervene in US elections and was compounded by freezing military aid to Ukraine.

The Senate had voted down Democrat demands for calling witnesses at the start of the trial last week, but it received renewed momentum from disclosures that Bolton had written in a manuscript for a yet to be published book that Trump had linked the aid freeze to the probe of Bidens.

The news about the book was broken by The New York Times on Sunday in the middle of the trial.

Trump has denied that he had linked aid to the probe and Bolton was saying that sell his book.

Trump’s lawyers said that the aid was withheld only to ensure that the new president was committed to fighting corruption and getting other European countries to pitch in.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

–IANS

al/sdr/

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