After voting not to subpoena new witnesses and documents this week, the GOP-led Senate appeared poised to acquit President Donald Trump in his historic impeachment trial.
Republicans Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joined with all Democrats to subpoena witnesses and extend the trial. The proposal failed 51-49.
Democrats, including Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, had hoped that the seven House Democratic managers, who argued the case before the Senate over the past two weeks, had been able to persuade the four Republicans needed for the simple majority needed to open the trial to new witnesses and documents.
“Today is a sad day for our country and the rule of law in America,” Cortez Masto said in a statement after the vote. “The American people were denied a full trial with all of the relevant facts and evidence. As a former Attorney General for the State of Nevada, I know what a real trial looks like, and this wasn’t it.”
Cortez Masto called out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who led the GOP effort to acquit the president. Before the beginning of the trial, McConnell said he was “not an impartial juror” and predicted Trump would be acquitted.
“Nevadans deserved the full truth and our country is worse off because of the actions of the Majority Leader tonight,” she said.
Rosen said she will continue to listen to the arguments made by her fellow senators, but noted she was “gravely concerned” by facts of the case.
“I have participated in the trial with an open mind,” Rosen said in a statement from her office. “While I am gravely concerned by what I have heard, I will listen to the closing arguments and to my colleagues from both parties as we deliberate,” said Rosen. “I voted for witnesses and documents because we owe it to all those who have helped to make our democracy what it is today, and to the American people, to have all pertinent information available before we cast our final vote.”
Rep. Mark Amodei, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, said he hopes, with the end of the trial within sight, that lawmakers can go back to work.
“Are we exhausted with hating each other's guts now?” Amodei asked. “Can we try to do something on health care, immigration, you know, the whole nine yards?”
Amodei added that the calendar in an election year is short with July 4th, the typical cut-off for most legislating to get done.
With their hopes for witnesses dashed on Friday, Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, agreed to vote on a resolution to schedule the final vote to convict or acquit the president on Wednesday afternoon. That resolution passed on a party-line 53-47 vote. Senators will also be allowed to give speeches Monday, Tuesday, the same day Trump gives his State of the Union address, and Wednesday.
If acquitted, Trump will be the third president in history to be cleared by the Senate after being impeached by the House. In December, the House approved two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Those impeachment trial votes in the Senate came as the Democratic-run House approved legislation to prohibit the Pentagon from spending any funds for unauthorized use of military force against Iran and to repeal the 2002 authorization for use of military force in Iraq.
In exchange for voting to end the impeachment trial Wednesday, Senate Republicans leaders, including McConnell, agreed to also vote Friday on four Democratic amendments, including two to subpoena former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has written an unpublished book, according to The New York Times, that includes details supporting Democrats’ case that Trump pressured Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.
McConnell moved to table, or kill, each of the amendments, including those to subpoena acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and relevant Office of Management and Budget, Pentagon and State Department documents. All failed on a 51 to 49 vote, with Collins and Romney joining Democrats.
Schumer also had the Senate vote on an amendment that would have required Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the trial, to rule on motions, but that, too, was defeated.
The votes came after a tense day of closing arguments on Friday. House Democratic managers had an uphill battle after Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of four Republicans who had signaled that they may vote for witnesses, announced Thursday evening that he would not support the Democratic effort.
Alexander said that he believed Democrats had proven their case, but what that while Trump’s actions were improper, they did not rise to the Constitution’s “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” standard for an impeachable offense.
“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,” Alexander said. “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.”
Democrats argued that Trump acted improperly by withholding military aid to Ukraine, and a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelensky, to force the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival for the presidency. They also contend he sought to cover up his alleged wrongdoing by not cooperating with the investigation.
While Democrats were never expected to win the 67 votes need to convict the president, they were hopeful that Alexander would join Collins, Romney and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to vote with Democrats on witnesses. But on Friday, Murkowski said she would not be the fourth Republican.
“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed,” Murkowski said, “I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.”
The votes Friday came after two days when senators were permitted to ask the parties written questions through Roberts. Rosen asked four questions and Cortez Masto asked two.
The president’s lawyers argued that Trump held up the funds over concerns about corruption in Ukraine and a desire to pressure America’s European allies to shoulder more of the financial burden.
They also argued that the process was flawed, including that House Democrats did not allow for the president's attorneys to cross-examine witnesses at depositions and hearings. Lastly, the president's legal team argued that, even if true, the president acted within his authority and that abuse of power is not impeachable.
As the Senate disposed of the impeachment trial, the House voted 228 to 175 to block Trump from using federal funds to engage in hostilities with Iran. All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the measure. Only four Republicans voted with Democrats.
The House also approved legislation, 236 to 166, to repeal the 2002 authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq. All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the measure. Only 11 Republicans voted with Democrats.
Amodei opposed both. One issue that Republicans, including Amodei, cited was that Democratic leaders used a shell bill that prevented the GOP minority from offering a motion to recommit (MTR). An MTR gives the minority a final attempt to amend legislation. MTRs rarely pass, but Republicans have managed to win a couple in 2019, including a resolution withdrawing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Democratic leaders used a bill that would have awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to merchant mariners who fought in World War II. The measure passed the Senate last month, but Democrats replaced the contents of the bill with the two warfighting restrictions.
“There can be no more absolute, neon-sign confession that this is B.S. than ‘we're going to put it in this because we know if we give you a chance to say something about it, it's not gonna go well,” Amodei said.
Amodei added that “these are tools that, quite frankly, the president needs.”
Rep. Steven Horsford, who is a co-sponsor of the repeal measure, said he supported it to protect the 5,000 service members and their families who live in his district.
“Leaving the 2002 AUMF in place would have increased the likelihood that future presidents will use it as a basis to start a new war, or expand a current one, without Congress’s explicit authorization,” Horsford said.
The 2002 AUMF was cited by the White House as giving it authority to target and kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last month.
Horsford said reining in the administration with regard to Iran reclaims Congress’ authority to declare war under the Constitution.
The House also voted, 221 to 189, to approve a bill revamping credit reporting, including making it easier for consumers to fix errors on their credit reports and restricting the use of credit checks and credit scores for hiring and employment purposes.
All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the measure, and no Republicans supported the bill.
Amodei said that the credit bill would not have the effect of making credit cheaper and more accessible. He argued that the bill would make credit reports unreliable for lenders.
“Go try to get a loan now that the credit agencies can't get a decent picture about your creditworthiness,” Amodei said. “You're either not going to get the credit, or it's going to cost a hell of a lot more.”
“I think they absolutely swung for the fences and missed badly,” he added.
Nevada’s House lawmakers also voted on legislation that extends the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) temporary order outlawing fentanyl-related substances. All members supported the ban except Horsford, who said that, while he backs limiting access to the addictive drug, he does not want to expand the DEA’s powers.
“I believe curbing the opioid and fentanyl epidemic begins with treatment and reducing overdose deaths, not in expanding the DEA’s authority over scheduling and mandatory minimum sentences, and this is evident in my history of supporting pieces of legislation in the past that provide support for treatment programs,” he said in a statement provided by his office.
He pointed to several opioid-related bills he voted for, including a measure that would provide $10 billion for evidence-based treatment programs, for innovation around non-opioid and non-addictive medical products for pain treatment, and would increase the availability and capacity of the behavioral health workforce.
Rep. Dina Titus, last week raised concerns with General Services Administration (GSA) administrator Emily Murphy about the proposed sale of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.
President Trump is both the GSA’s tenant and its boss,” Titus, chairman of a panel that oversees GSA, said at a hearing. “That’s an obvious problem.”
The hotel is located in the Old Post Office, which is owned by the federal government and leased to the Trump Organization. Trump’s business is looking to sell the lease for $500 million, Titus said citing news reports.
“That means that you are overseeing the potential transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of the President and his family,” Titus told Murphy.
Titus got promises from Murphy to report back on how much of the $500 million would go to taxpayers. She also raised concerns about a provision in the lease that gives GSA 45 days to approve the sale. Titus said that that is not enough time for GSA to vet the buyer, which could be a foreign entity.
The Nevada Democrat wants to rewrite the rules for the GSA’s program that permits leasing to private entities so that federally-elected office holders cannot profit from these arrangements.
Titus also praised House Democrats’ $760 billion infrastructure proposal, though the future of the package is unclear since it does not include language on how to pay for the improvements.
“The infrastructure package released by the House today would significantly improve Southern Nevada’s infrastructure, including our highways and our airport,” Titus said. “These investments would create good-paying jobs and protect the environment while making travel easier.”
For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S. 3245 – A bill to advance STEM education, provide for improved worker training, retention, and advancement, and for other purposes.
S. 3230 – TA SUPPORT Act
S. 3229 – Solar and Geothermal Tax Credit Expansion Act
SEN. JACKY ROSEN
S. 3224 – HERO Act of 2020
S. 3229 – Solar and Geothermal Tax Credit Expansion Act