Live Updates Ahead of the Senate Vote on Impeachment – The New York Times

The Senate is expected to vote at 4 p.m. Eastern to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial. Senator Mitt Romney plans to vote to convict Mr. Trump of abuse of power, becoming the first Republican to support removing Mr. Trump from office.

Peter BakerMark Leibovich

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Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, is announcing his decision on the articles of impeachment.

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said Wednesday that he would vote to convict President Trump of abuse of power, making him the first Republican to support removing Mr. Trump for his bid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

“I think the case was made,” Mr. Romney said in an interview in his Senate office on Wednesday morning, ahead of an afternoon floor speech announcing his stance.

Mr. Romney said he would vote against the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, arguing that House Democrats had failed to exhaust their legal options for securing testimony and other evidence they had sought. But the first-term senator said that Democrats had proven their first charge, that the president had misused his office for his own personal gain.

“I believe that attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power is about as egregious an assault on the Constitution as can be made,” Mr. Romney added, appearing by turns relieved and nervous — but also determined — as he explained his decision. “And for that reason, it is a high crime and misdemeanor, and I have no choice under the oath that I took but to express that conclusion.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Romney’s position, the Senate is expected to acquit Mr. Trump of both impeachment charges in a vote later Wednesday afternoon. But the defection of Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is a dramatic capstone on the evolution of a party that has thoroughly succumbed to the vice-grip of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Romney, who has been critical of Mr. Trump at various points since 2016, said he was acutely aware that he would suffer serious political ramifications for his decision, particularly in light of the strict loyalty the president has come to expect from elected officials of his own party. No House Republican voted to impeach Mr. Trump in December. (Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican of Michigan who fled the party over his differences with Mr. Trump, voted in favor of both articles.)

“I recognize there is going to be enormous consequences for having reached this conclusion,” Mr. Romney said. “Unimaginable” is how he described what might be in store for him.

Just because it will soon be over does not mean it will actually be over. Hours before the expected Senate vote ending President Trump’s trial, a senior House Democrat indicated that he will continue the investigation on his side of the Capitol, starting with a subpoena for John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters that he would “likely” subpoena Mr. Bolton, who has confirmed in an unpublished book that Mr. Trump conditioned security aid on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate the president’s Democratic rivals, the central allegation in the trial.

“I think it’s likely, yes,” said Mr. Nadler, one of the seven House managers prosecuting the charges against Mr. Trump. “When you have a lawless president, you have to bring that to the fore, you have to spotlight that, you have to protect the Constitution despite the political consequences.”

The House asked Mr. Bolton to testify before the December impeachment vote, but he did not agree and Democrats opted not to subpoena him because it could result in a lengthy court fight. When the articles of impeachment reached the Senate, however, Mr. Bolton publicly said he would comply with a Senate subpoena and testify if called. But Senate Republicans rushed to block any new evidence from being considered, and succeeded last week in holding together enough votes to beat back a bid by Democrats to seek new testimony and documents.

It was not clear whether Mr. Bolton would be willing to comply with a subpoena without a court fight if issued by the House outside the context of an impeachment trial. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bolton had no comment on Wednesday. Even if he did, Mr. Trump could assert executive privilege to try to block his testimony, provoking the legal battle Democrats hoped to avoid.

Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, announced Wednesday that he planned to vote to convict President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, joining his Democratic colleagues in support of Mr. Trump’s removal.

Mr. Jones, a moderate who is facing re-election in a state the president won in 2016 by nearly 28 points, was regarded as one of the few Democrats who might break with his party and support an acquittal of the president. But on Wednesday, hours before the vote, he dashed that speculation.

“After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the president for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” he said in a statement.

All eyes on Wednesday afternoon will be on a few moderate senators — two other Democrats and one Republican who might cross party lines on the verdict. Mr. Trump would love nothing more than to be able to trumpet a bipartisan acquittal. He has made it clear that he will not tolerate any Republican defections, hoping for monolithic opposition from his party just as he had when the House voted late last year to impeach him.

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, has left the door open to acquittal but declined to say how he would vote. Mr. Manchin earlier in the week floated the idea of censuring the president, a largely symbolic gesture, but the idea has gained no traction in the polarized Senate. Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona, another moderate Democrat, is also seen as a wild card.

Republicans are watching how Senator Mitt Romney of Utah will vote. He has criticized Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and was one of only two Republican senators to vote with Democrats in an unsuccessful bid to consider hearing from additional witnesses and evidence in the trial. (The other was Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who said Tuesday that she would vote to acquit Mr. Trump.)

Emily Cochrane

The Senate is poised on Wednesday to acquit President Trump of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, casting a pair of historic votes to render a verdict in an impeachment trial that has further cleaved the two political parties and provided a bitter backdrop for the 2020 presidential campaign.

The afternoon votes are expected to fall almost entirely along party lines, with all eyes on the few moderate senators on both sides of the aisle who have left the door open to defecting. Even if they did, with the Senate’s 53 Republicans almost uniformly in opposition, Democrats pressing to remove Mr. Trump are all but certain to fall short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution — 67 senators, if everyone is present — to convict a president and deliver the ultimate remedy of taking him out of office.

There are two articles of impeachment. The first accuses President Trump of abuse of power, alleging that he used his office to pressuring Ukraine to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. House investigators concluded he withheld $391 million in military aid and an official visit to the White House for the country’s president as leverage to push Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals, including former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is also accused of obstruction of Congress for directing federal agencies and officials not to comply with the lawmakers’ inquiry or subpoenas.

The Senate is set to vote on the articles beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Ahead of the votes, senators will appear on the Senate floor and explain their decisions to convict or acquit Mr. Trump.

Delivering an address from the rostrum of the House of Representatives that frequently sounded like a campaign stump speech, Mr. Trump nonetheless steered clear during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night of mentioning his impeachment trial.

That was a departure from last year, when Mr. Trump upbraided the House for what he called “ridiculous partisan investigations” and declared: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

It is not clear if the restraint will hold on Wednesday, after the Senate’s expected votes to acquit him. Mr. Trump told television anchors at a lunch on Tuesday at the White House that he hoped to give a second set of remarks after the impeachment saga had ended.

Mr. Trump would like to hold a news conference or give a short statement. But most of his advisers have been urging him against it, wanting to ease pressure on senators for whom the vote was politically difficult.

Normally a staid body, the Senate for the past two weeks has been roiled day after day by the impeachment trial, leaving several senators dejected and dug into their partisan corners.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said in a speech on the Senate floor that the chamber “should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here,” adding later: “It’s my hope that we’ve finally found bottom here.” She said she planned to acquit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s likely acquittal has also left Democrats embittered about the future of the institution in which they serve. Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said that while he wasn’t surprised by Mr. Trump’s abuse of power, he was surprised by the Senate’s “capitulation” to the president.

“Unchallenged evil spreads like a virus,” Mr. Kaine said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “We have allowed a toxic President to infect the Senate and warp its behavior.”

So where does that leave the Senate? Other senators sounded a more optimistic note.

“I think we heal in part by surprising the people and coming out from our partisan corners and getting stuff done,” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said, citing addressing the opioid crisis and crumbling infrastructure as examples. “Stuff that they care about that affects the families we were sent here to represent.”

    • Where are we in the process?

      The Senate is holding a trial to determine whether to acquit President Trump or convict and remove him from office. It is the third such trial of a president in American history.
    • What is President Trump accused of doing?

      He is accused of pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals — including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 election — in exchange for military aid and access to the White House.
    • Who is on both sides of the case in the trial?

      Seven House Democrats are serving as impeachment managers, presenting the case gathered during the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump has a team of lawyers arguing in his defense.
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