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Impeachment: Susan Collins to vote for witnesses, Lamar Alexander against

By
Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes & Daniel Uria
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Thursday she would vote in favor of witnesses during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Thursday she would vote in favor of witnesses during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Two Republicans who had indicated they might side with Democrats in voting to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump announced their intent on Thursday night.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced she would vote in favor of allowing witnesses in the impeachment trial, while Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would not.

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"I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities and provide additional clarity," Collins wrote in a statement. "Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed."

Alexander, in a series of tweets, said that he believes the case made against Trump did not meet the Constitution's "high bar for an impeachable offense."

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"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," Alexander wrote. "The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did."

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, declined to announce her decision on Thursday night.

Democrats are hoping to sway at least four Republican senators to join them in a vote to include witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, arguing they're essential to providing a fair trial.

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Should the Democrats not secure the necessary votes, a motion to acquit the president is likely to follow quickly with a vote Friday.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday refused to read aloud a question from Sen. Rand Paul that named the alleged whistle-blower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Roberts, who's presiding over the impeachment trial in the Senate, is responsible for reading senators' individual questions to Trump's legal team and Democratic House managers. The Senate began the two-day question phase of the trial Wednesday, concluding with 180 questions asked on Thursday.

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"The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted," Roberts said when he looked at Rand's handwritten question.

Paul has repeatedly called for the identity of the whistle-blower to be made public. The whistle-blower, a member of the U.S. intelligence community, filed a complaint last year with the office of the director of national intelligence about the July phone conversation in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.

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The complaint prompted the House to formally launch an impeachment inquiry and in December, vote to impeach Trump.

Paul left the Senate chamber after Roberts' refusal to read the question and tweeted about the justice's decision.

"My question was not about a 'whistle-blower' as I have no independent information on his identity. My question is about the actions of known Obama partisans within the [National Security Council] and house staff and how they are reported to have conspired before impeachment proceedings had even begun," he wrote.

Trump's lawyers used their time Thursday to make a pitch for the president's acquittal and again repeated their argument that a removal from office shouldn't happen in an election year.

"There are some in this room that are days away from the Iowa caucuses being made," Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow said. "So we're discussing the impeachment and possible removal of the president of the United States not only during the election season -- in the heart of the election season."

House manager Adam Schiff, D-Calif., meanwhile, drew attention to proceedings in another case, one involving the 2020 census. James Burnham, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, told a federal judge Thursday that if Congress can't get the president to respond to a subpoena, it can use its impeachment powers.

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"In the category of you can't make this stuff up," Schiff said in the Senate chamber to the laughter of a number of senators. "The judge says if the Congress can't enforce its subpoenas in court, then what remedy is there? And the Justice Department's lawyer's response is impeachment."

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