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Impeachment trial questioning ahead of crucial vote on witnesses comes to a close

Posted at 6:47 AM, Jan 30, 2020

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump continued Thursday with the second of two days of questions for legal teams. All the while, the Senate prepares for a Friday vote that could approve pivotal witnesses and extend the proceedings.

On Friday evening, the attorney for former national security advisor John Bolton said that Bolton was preparing to testify before the Senate. That comes days after The New York Times reported the existence of a book manuscript in which Bolton writes that Trump told him he was withholding military aid to Ukraine until the country released politically damaging information on Democratic presidential candidates.

Bolton's testimony would offer the most direct evidence yet that Trump was involved in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Trump's legal defense team claimed that even if it was proven that Trump withheld taxpayer funds earmarked for Ukraine defense in exchange for politically advantageous information, it wouldn't be a crime.

House impeachment managers deny the assertion. According to the Constitution, the president can be impeached and removed from office for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Senators spent Wednesday's session in the impeachment trial submitting dozens of questions to Senate leaders, who then directed the questions to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. While some Senators used their questions to ask technical questions — like the burden of proof in the Senate versus the House — while other Senators posed their questions to either push for or against the further questioning of witnesses.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he did not yet have the votes to block further witness testimony in the trial. The Republican caucus currently holds a 53-47 edge in the Senate, so four Republican Senators would need to vote against the party to compel Bolton to testify.