Burr, Tillis vote no on new witnesses in Trump impeachment
North Carolina’s U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis voted with the majority of their Republican colleagues to block the Senate from calling witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Friday evening, clearing the way for a final vote on acquittal.
The vote was 51-49 with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah joining 47 Democrats and independents in wanting additional witnesses and documents beyond what was provided by the House of Representatives. The final vote will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. after closing arguments on Monday and speeches from senators on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Trump was impeached in December in the Democraticcontrolled House on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The charges stem from Trump’s withholding of approved aid to Ukraine, allegedly until the nation’s president announced investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The votes of Burr and Tillis were not a surprise.
Burr tipped his hand in an interview this week on former Gov. Pat McCrory’s radio show.
“The hearsay that John Bolton or anybody else may bring to this is irrelevant because even if the president said this, it does not raise to the level of removal from office, which is a sacred thing because the American people have duly elected him,” Burr said.
Tillis has repeatedly said in previous weeks that he would not vote for more witnesses, including former Trump administration official Bolton.
Bolton, whose political action committee has endorsed Tillis in 2014 and 2020, has a new book that alleges Trump told him the aid was tied to the investigations, The New York Times reported.
Tillis said earlier this week the Bolton revelation “hasn’t affected my decision” on witnesses. He’s repeatedly called the impeachment trial “a sham.”
“It should be dismissed based on the lack of evidence and lack of process,” Tillis said on McCrory’s show.
Republicans control 53 votes in the Senate. It would take 67 senators to vote to remove Trump — an outcome that has always been extremely unlikely. Tillis said in early December that he would vote to acquit the president.
Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, considered a potential swing vote on witnesses, said late Thursday night that he would not vote for additional witnesses. Alexander did, however, say that Democratic House managers convincingly proved that Trump withheld the aid, “at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.”
“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. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law,” Alexander said in a statement. “But 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.”
Trump faces re-election in November.
Asked Friday if he agreed with Alexander’s comments on Trump’s actions being inappropriate but not impeachable, Burr said: “I’ve said that before.”
Tillis said he would not characterize Trump’s conversations.
“We’re all arriving at the same place from different perspectives,” Tillis said Friday about Alexander. “I keep on going back to, I don’t characterize the President’s conversations any more than I do any other member of the Senate.”
Tillis, too, will be on the ballot this year. He has a primary on March 3.
State Sen. Erica Smith, one of five Democrats running to challenge Tillis, said based on the evidence she’s seen that Trump is guilty.
“Based on the documents from the House and what the House impeachment leaders and presenters have shared, it appears our president is guilty of obstruction of Congress as well as getting foreign assistance as it pertains to Joe Biden’s son,” Smith said.
Cal Cunningham, another Democrat in the race, said earlier this month that he wanted to hear Trump’s defense before giving his opinion on conviction or acquittal. He also said he wanted witnesses and documents.
“If Senator Tillis actually cared about fairness or his sworn constitutional duty, he would have voted to permit witnesses today — instead he denied North Carolinians valuable information, not only to aid Mitch McConnell’s cover up of President Trump, but to maintain his good graces with the White House as he seeks reelection,” Cunningham, a lawyer and former Army prosecutor, said in a statement.
Cunningham said earlier that the evidence was “very grave and very serious” that Trump had committed an “abuse of power.” But Cunningham has not said whether he would vote to convict or acquit the president if he were currently in the Senate.
Sens. Richard Burr, left, and Thom Tillis, both North Carolina Republicans, leave the chamber during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Friday. They voted against subpoenaing new witnesses.