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The Latest From The Impeachment Trial As Senators Vote On Witnesses

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right, senators are set to vote today on whether to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Democrats want to hear from a small group of top aides, like John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser. And they had hoped that a small group of Republicans would join them. But today, that seems quite unlikely. Take, for instance, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. He explained to NPR's Steve Inskeep earlier today that he has heard enough.

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LAMAR ALEXANDER: I don't need to hear any more evidence to decide that the president did what he's charged with doing. So if you've got eight witnesses saying that you left the scene of an accident, you don't need nine.

CHANG: All right, NPR's Franco Ordoñez joins us now from the White House.

Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

CHANG: All right, so just catch us up on what's going on in the trial at this moment.

ORDOÑEZ: So we heard from Democratic House managers today giving their last big push for witnesses. They got a little extra help from a news story in The New York Times about former national security adviser John Bolton and his expected book. It includes allegations that Trump asked Bolton in May 2019 to tell Ukraine's president to speak to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Bolton now alleges in the book - or writes, allegedly - that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was there, as well as White House counsel Pat Cipollone was there.

Now, Trump denied the allegation. He said the meeting never took place. So Democrats, they're saying that's just another reason to bring in Bolton to testify. Here is House manager, Representative Val Deming (ph).

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VAL DEMINGS: Is this a fair trial? Is this a fair trial? Is this a fair trial? Without the ability to call witnesses and produce documents, the answer is clearly and unequivocally no.

ORDOÑEZ: And we heard from Trump's defense team making their arguments against this idea, saying it would take too long and be hanging over the president's head. Here is Jay Sekulow.

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JAY SEKULOW: Over a seven-day period, you did hear evidence. You heard evidence from 13 different witnesses, 192 video clips, and as my colleague, the deputy White House counsel, said, over 28,000 pages of documents.

ORDOÑEZ: Sekulow is saying he would need the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, which would really drag things out.

CHANG: All right. So as we're saying, senators will be voting soon on this issue of whether witnesses should be brought into this trial. At least four Republicans would've been needed to vote with Democrats. What do we know to know that that is probably not going to be happening?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. Well, most Republican senators have made it very clear that they are not interested in keeping this trial going on any longer. But there have been a few who have kind of not shown their cards. We do know that Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah have decided to vote in favor of witnesses. And Lamar Alexander is a no, as we heard. And so is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

CHANG: So what happens after this whole business of witnesses passes? How quickly will the vote be on the actual articles of impeachment?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, there's speculation that the final votes could - wouldn't happen until Wednesday. But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there's no final timetable. Democrats don't want to rush this. And my colleagues Kelsey Snell and Susan Davis say one option could be just a lot of amendments, and that could potentially mean to Wednesday.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Franco Ordoñez at the White House.

Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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