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Impeachment Update: Senators To Vote Wednesday

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's looking like Wednesday will be the big day. Two weeks after senators began proceedings in President Trump's impeachment trial, they're set to vote to convict and remove him from office or acquit. Joining us is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Morning, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, a lot of people expected this might be over by now, but yesterday was still pretty action-packed. So walk us through what happened.

GRISALES: Yes, it was very action-packed. We saw a key swing Republican vote, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, say she would join Republicans to help block Democrats from calling witnesses, like former national security adviser John Bolton, to testify. So that moved the chamber to consider this last phase of the trial. Republicans largely wanted to rush to an acquittal, even if it meant going to 2 a.m., 3 a.m. this morning. But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wanted more time. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: We have stood for one thing. We do not want this rushed through. We do not want it in the dark of night. Members have an obligation to tell the American people and to tell the people of their states why they are voting.

MONTAGNE: So then what happens between now and Wednesday?

GRISALES: This resolution approved by the chamber last night sets out those terms. Under that plan, the legal teams can present their final arguments starting Monday morning at 11 a.m. And that could last for four hours. That would be equally divided between the House impeachment managers and the president's defense team. At the conclusion of these final arguments, the impeachment trial will resume Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., when the Senate will take this dramatic vote on whether to remove or acquit this president.

And we should note that the end of this trial will overlap two major events next week. On Monday, Democratic presidential candidates will be in Iowa. And we know at least four members of the Senate are still running for president, so that's a tricky situation for them. And then, of course, on Tuesday evening, President Trump is slated to deliver his State of the Union address.

MONTAGNE: So plenty of action ahead in the next few days. And just going back to last night's vote for a moment about witnesses, there was news even as senators were announcing which way they planned to vote, right?

GRISALES: Right. This question of witnesses loomed over this entire process. Would Democrats get at least four Republican senators on their side to hear from witnesses like John Bolton and others about President Trump's conversation with Ukraine's leader? Instead, a simple majority of Republicans successfully thwarted this effort. For example, retiring Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee didn't see a need. Let's take a listen to what he recently told NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

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.

GRISALES: As we know, Trump has denied there was anything wrong with this call he had with Ukraine's leader last summer. And we imagine he's very much looking forward to his expected acquittal come Wednesday.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thanks very much, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.