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Montana senators split in vote on witnesses
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Montana senators split in vote on witnesses

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Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines

Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines

Montana's U.S. senators split along party lines Friday on a vote to decide if the U.S. Senate should hear new testimony from witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said he'll vote to acquit the president.

The final vote was 49-51, with two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joining all Democrats in calling for new witnesses.

Montana's senior U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, voted to call for new witnesses and testimony Friday.

“Montanans expect their elected officials to ensure their government is transparent and accountable to the Constitution. That’s why I joined a bipartisan coalition to ensure we heard from witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the President’s alleged actions," Tester said in a statement Friday night. "Unfortunately, Senator Mitch McConnell and nearly all of my Republican colleagues continue to deny every attempt to ensure transparency in this trial. If they do not reverse course, this will be the first impeachment trial in history where the Senate will not hear from witnesses.”

Tester said he specifically wanted to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the president's acting chief of staff.

In December, Trump was impeached by the House on charges he abused power and obstructed Congress as he tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and then blocked the congressional probe of his actions.

U.S. Sen. Daines has opposed impeachment from the start of the process and on Friday said he believes the Senate process has been fair.

“The Senate had a very thorough process, which included over 60 hours of trial, equal time for both sides to present their case, over 180 questions from senators, 13 witnesses, 192 witness videos and over 28,000 pages of testimony," Daines said in a statement. "This is the most partisan impeachment in our nation’s history. There are no crimes alleged and no impeachable offenses. More witnesses won’t change that."

The discrepancy between Tester saying the Senate will not hear from witnesses and Daines saying the Senate heard from witnesses comes from whom senators consider witnesses.

A spokesperson for Daines pointed to video clips played for the senators from 13 witnesses who testified in the House. The spokesperson also said that if Democrats in the House wanted to hear from additional witnesses, they could have waited before voting to impeach Trump.

"(Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats rushed the process and chose to send over incomplete articles," Daines said in the statement. "It is the role of the Senate to review the evidence gathered from the House, not do its work for them. It’s time to vote to acquit.”

Democrats like Tester had wanted to hear from Bolton, who did not participate in the House investigation. As the trial progressed, details leaked from a book written by Bolton raised additional questions about what Trump directed Bolton to do in regards to trying to get Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals.

A vote on removing the president from office or acquitting him is expected in the coming days. The Senate, which is 53-45 Republican majority with two Independents that caucus with Democrats, is expected to acquit Trump.

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