Senate votes 51-49 to block witnesses from being called in President Trump’s impeachment trial
Senate votes 51-49 to block witnesses from being called in President Trump’s impeachment trial
CNN Wire
8-9 minutescapitol-dome-ipadbackground

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate on Friday voted to block any witnesses from being called in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, a move that will mark the beginning of the end of the third Senate trial for a president in US history.

WATCH: Live coverage of Impeachment Trial

The Senate voted 51-49 to defeat a motion to allow subpoenas for witnesses and documents, with two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joining Democrats to back extending the trial.

The Senate went into an extended break after the debate on the witness vote concluded but before the vote, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer huddled on the floor with their staffs to discuss a path forward. The vote happened shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Democrats had hoped to entice more other Senate Republicans to join them to hear from witnesses — especially in the wake of revelations from the draft book manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton — but one by one the Senate Republicans said they were ready to end the trial.

Their reasons differed. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said in a statement: “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, meanwhile, said the House managers had proven their case that Trump withheld US aid while pushing for an investigation into his political rivals. “The question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense. And I think in this case, I think the answer is no, let the people make that decision,” Alexander said Friday.

Following the witness vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to move forward a final acquittal vote — but the road to get there is rocky, and looks likely to extend into next week.

When the final vote does occur to acquit the President, it will mark the end of a remarkable, whirlwind four-month impeachment that began when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry on September 24, leading to the President’s impeachment on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — less than three months later.

After a month delay, the Senate trial began less than two weeks ago. The House managers, led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, presented a detailed case arguing they had overwhelming evidence that Trump withheld $400 million in US security aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while he pressured Kiev to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

“If the Senate allows President Trump’s obstruction to stand, it effectively nullifies the impeachment power,” Schiff said Friday. “It will allow future presidents to decide whether they want their misconduct to be investigated or not, whether they would like to participate in an impeachment investigation or not.”

The President’s team argued there was no wrongdoing — but also that even if there was a quid pro quo, it was within the President’s rights if it was in the national interest.

“The problem with the case, the problem with their position, is even with all of those witnesses, it doesn’t prove up an impeachable offense. The articles fail,” the President’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow said. “They got the wish of the impeachment by Christmas, and that is goal. But now they want you to do the work they failed to do.”
Trial’s end in flux

The road ahead for the Senate trial still is being debated, Republican and Democratic sources say, and the end of the trial seems likely to slip into next week, though things remain fluid.

McConnell is considering offering a resolution that would structure the final stages of the trial to include a final vote as late as Wednesday of next week. But that could change, according to one source, because the White House is pushing for a final vote Tuesday — the same day as Trump’s State of the Union address.

Asked when the final vote would be, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said: “Wednesday of next week. That’s what McConnell is proposing.”

The resolution may set up a process that would allow senators to speak about their views on the floor in an open session. Senators who have not spoken on the floor for days are eager to get a chance to speak. There’s also still a question of whether Democrats will offer amendments to McConnell’s motion to move to the final acquittal vote.

Senate Republican leaders need 51 votes to do anything, and they were gauging how quickly they can conclude the trial without drawing objections from several members of the conference, specifically on the issue of deliberations, according to two sources.

McConnell met with Murkowski, Collins, Romney and other senators during a break in Friday’s debate.

“My guess is it probably is going to carry us over to the first part of next week, but obviously we have the Iowa caucuses on February the 3rd, and we have the State of the Union the next day,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told reporters Friday morning. “So I think for all sorts of reasons it’s probably a good idea to bring this thing to a close in the near future.”
Key GOP senators split on vote

Collins and the other Republican moderates included a provision in the Senate trial rules to allow for Friday’s witness vote, but the odds looked long for Democrats to convert four Republicans to back the vote until Sunday — when The New York Times reported Bolton’s draft book manuscript alleged that Trump told him the US security aid was conditioned on investigations into Democrats, including Joe Biden.

On Friday, new allegations came from The Times from Bolton’s manuscript — that Trump directed Bolton to help his attorney Rudy Giuliani get in touch with the Ukrainian president in May — which Schiff cited during Friday’s witness debate.

McConnell, however, held his conference together enough to keep the witness vote at bay, with Alexander the linchpin of his bend-but-not break strategy. Until Thursday, Alexander did not tip his hand on which way he was leaning, declining to speak to reporters about it and staying quiet in GOP conference meetings. He finally asked two questions at the tail end of the two-day Senate question period in the trial, which hinted at his eventual position to oppose witnesses.

Shortly before Alexander’s statement, Collins became the first Republican to back witnesses. “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 said.

Romney joined her in crossing the aisle for Friday’s vote, but that left Democrats two short of what they needed to call witnesses.

Murkowski’s statement implicitly acknowledged that had she voted for witnesses, the vote could have ended 50-50, dragging Chief Justice John Roberts into the fray.

“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice,” Murkowski said. “I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.”

On the Democratic side, there are still a couple of undecided senators on the vote for conviction, including Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Jones said Friday he was “pretty close” to a decision, while Manchin said he hasn’t yet made one.

“It’s a very hard decision,” he said. “It’s most serious decision that any senator will make in their career.”

Branch manager and assistant branch manager 🤗

China Virus Cases May Be Undercounted Even With 3,000% Surge



Bloomberg News

Published: Jan 31 2020, 2:50 PM
Updated: 31 2020, 11:05 PM

(Bloomberg) —

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in China has skyrocketed to more than 9,000, surpassing the official count during the SARS epidemic. But the true number of infections may be even higher, as health workers struggle to catch up with the disease.

A shortage of testing kits and overworked hospital staff are straining China’s health system, hampering efforts to accurately track how many people have the pathogen. The result is a hectic and imprecise process that’s creating bottlenecks as health experts attempt to pin down the scope of a disease that has claimed more than 200 lives.

The challenge of keeping up with the tally can be seen in Hubei, at the center of the outbreak.

The province can process about 6,000 tests a day, health commission director Liu Yingzi told a press briefing Wednesday, noting that Hubei had about 50,000 test kits in stock. But with 5,806 confirmed cases and 32,340 people under observation, it’s uncertain if that is enough.

China Virus Cases May Be Undercounted Even With 3,000% Surge

Getting a handle on the numbers is becoming more urgent as the outbreak spreads beyond China’s borders, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency. Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College London, said his “best guess” was that 100,000 people could be infected around the world, according a Jan. 26 report in the Guardian.

Complicating the situation is the elusive nature of the disease and how it is transmitted, as well as the difficulty in diagnosing it. Evidence has emerged that the disease can be passed by people before they show symptoms, or who may show no symptoms at all.

China Virus Cases May Be Undercounted Even With 3,000% Surge

Jonathan Yu, a doctor at a university hospital in Wuhan, is on the front lines, testing patients for the coronavirus. Accurately spotting the virus isn’t easy and can take several attempts, he said.

“A patient may be found as negative for the first or second test, and then found to be positive the third time,” said Yu. “It is like fishing in a pond: You did not catch a fish once, but that does not mean the pond does not have fish.”

Another doctor in the city who declined to be identified said her hospital was facing shortages of testing kits to confirm that people have the disease, as well as lacking in spare beds and respirators for patients.

Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Qiushi said in a video posted on social media Jan. 29 that some hospitals in the city of Wuhan don’t have enough kits and are telling patients that severe cases have to be prioritized. Chen, who has expressed anti-Communist Party sentiments in the past, cited interviews with people who suspected they have the virus as well as visits to local hospitals.

There were 9,692 confirmed cases in China as of Thursday, according to the National Health Commission. That’s a whopping 3,000% increase from a few hundred patients just 10 days ago.

Part of that may reflect increased efforts to test for the disease, which means it’s being found in more and more places. Still, a lack of sufficient testing kits to confirm whether people have caught the virus is likely to mean there are more people sick than the figures show.

China Virus Cases May Be Undercounted Even With 3,000% Surge

The spike in cases could continue after the Lunar New Year holidays. The incubation period for the coronavirus can be up to 14 days, so the impact of hundreds of millions of people traveling in China during the holidays may show up by mid-February. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert who led the research into a treatment for SARS, told local media this week he expects the number of confirmed cases to peak within 10 days.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at China Center for Disease Control And Prevention, downplayed the severity of the epidemic, saying the surge in the number of confirmed cases in Hubei in the past three days does not necessarily mean the situation there has deteriorated significantly.

In an interview with China’s state TV Thursday, Wu said the latest jump was a result of a lack of medical resources in the early stage of the outbreak in the city. Many of the patients diagnosed with the disease in the last few days actually fell ill days before the lockdown of the city, but many of them could not be diagnosed and reported in time.

“Don’t be scared by the numbers in the past three days,” Wu said. “The (real) statistics are far more promising.”
New Kits

China is making moves to improve the situation. Health officials approved two new kits on Tuesday, in addition to the existing four types, according to Xinhua News Agency. One of the two new kits can give results in about 30 minutes, shortening the time needed to diagnose cases, according to Technology Daily.

Roche Holding AG is also producing kits, and the government says it’s streamlining transport access to make sure relevant supplies get through. However, Roche said Thursday it was still having trouble getting its equipment to where it’s needed.

Yu, the Wuhan doctor, said the shortage of virus detection kits has lessened recently, although there is still a shortage of masks, glasses and other supplies.

Because the incubation period for the virus is so long, Yu has been sleeping and working at the hospital, afraid to go home to his family.

“I have not gone home for more than a week,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.