The Republican-controlled US Senate rejected Democratic efforts on Tuesday to obtain evidence and call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, an early sign the proceeding could advance along lines favorable to Trump.
As the third impeachment trial in US history began in earnest, senators voted along party lines, 53-47, to block three separate motions from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to subpoena records and documents from the White House, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Senators also rejected by the same tally a request for a subpoena seeking the testimony of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Democrats have called on the Senate to remove Trump from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, and then impeding the inquiry into the matter.
Trump, who was impeached last month by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on charges of abusing power and obstructing Congress, denies any wrongdoing and describes his impeachment as a partisan hoax to derail his 2020 re-election effort.
During early debate, Trump’s chief legal defender attacked the case as baseless and a top Democratic lawmaker said there was “overwhelming” evidence of wrongdoing.
With the television cameras rolling, US Chief Justice John Roberts convened the proceedings and the two sides began squabbling over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for the trial.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump’s defense, attacked the foundation of the charges against the Republican president and said Democrats had not come close to meeting the US Constitution’s standard for impeachment.
“The only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said as he argued in favor of McConnell’s proposal to decide on whether to allow further witnesses or documents later in the trial.
“There is absolutely no case,” he said.