By Ian Krietzberg
Nation & World Editor
Faced with the question of whether or not to extend the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump by allowing the official testimony of several key witnesses, the Senate voted on Friday, Jan. 31, largely along party lines against witnesses, in a 51-49 decision, according to the New York Times.
Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., condemned the vote and trial.
“America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, when the Senate turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial,” he said, according to the New York Times.
One of the important potential swing voters, Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., conceded that Trump had acted inappropriately, but maintained that an election, not a trial, should determine his guilt, according to CNN.
“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,” he said, according to CNN. “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.”
But according to the Wall Street Journal, this historic party-line vote is the result of a “behind-the-scenes” campaign conducted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ensure GOP members did not break from Trump.
The Wall Street Journal further reported that McConnell gave direct advice to both Trump and Trump’s legal team, ensuring that Trump did not interfere in a way that would cause GOP senators to break ranks, and also ensuring that Trump’s legal team presented certain arguments targeted toward specific swing voters.
He did this, according to the Wall Street Journal, by framing the results of the trial as a threat not to Trump but to the Republican majority.
Though the trial will not technically conclude until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, the results of Friday’s vote on witnesses have dramatically and severely shifted the scope of American democracy, effectively and legally undermining the ancient protections of both Separations of Powers and Checks and Balances, while granting the office of the presidency an unprecedented amount of power, according to CNN.
By refusing to allow witness testimony and essentially setting the stage for an acquittal on Wednesday, the Senate is establishing a precedent that the office of the presidency has full license to do harm to political rivals, according to CNN.
This move has also made the historically unparalleled claim that the president is, in fact, above the law, saying quite clearly that extortion and bribery are of no legal significance if they are conducted by the President, according to CNN.
“After two and half centuries of our nation’s history, it’s come to this: The President’s lawyers argue on the Senate floor that he can withhold aid, coerce an ally, and try to cheat in an election, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cal., the leading democratic prosecutor on Twitter.