The U.S Senate has voted against calling witnesses and collecting new evidence in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
This paves the way for his almost certain acquittal next week.
By a vote of 51-49, the Republican-controlled Senate stopped Democrats’ drive to hear testimony from witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, who is thought to have first-hand knowledge of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Those actions prompted the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to formally charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December, making Trump only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
He denies wrongdoing and has accused Democrats of an “attempted coup.”
The Senate approved on a party-line vote a timeline for the rest of the trial that calls for a final vote on the impeachment charges.
Closing arguments will begin on Monday, with four hours split between the prosecution and defense.
That will give the four Democratic senators who are running to be their party’s presidential nominee time to get to Iowa for that night’s first nominating contest.
In between the closing arguments and final vote, senators will have an opportunity to give speeches on the Senate floor, but the trial will not formally be in session. Trump will deliver his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.
The Senate is almost certain to acquit Trump of the charges, as a two-thirds Senate majority is required to remove Trump and none of the chamber’s 53 Republicans have indicated they will vote to convict.
Trump is seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 vote. Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face him.
In Friday’s vote on witnesses, only two Republicans – Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, and Susan Collins, who faces a tough re-election in November in her home state of Maine – broke with their party and voted with Democrats.
Friday’s vote on witnesses came hours after the New York Times reported new details from an unpublished book manuscript written by Bolton in which the former aide said Trump directed him in May to help in a pressure campaign to get Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit Trump politically.
Bolton wrote that Trump told him to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to ensure Zelenskiy would meet with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a key player in the campaign, the Times reported.