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As vote on witnesses looms, Trump legal team tells impeachment trial: ‘Time for this to end’

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Amid uncertainty over the question of whether to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, his legal team wrapped up its opening arguments on Tuesday with an appeal for a quick acquittal.

Scott Riching joins others outside the office of Sen. Mitt Romney to call on him to push for a full and fair impeachment trial in the Senate with pertinent testimony and evidence during a rally, in Salt Lake City on Jan. 16, 2020. Republican Senator Romney is having another big moment as he defies Republican leaders at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Romney is one of several GOP senators insisting on hearing from witnesses.  AP

Saying “it is time for this to end,” Trump’s lawyers brushed off former national security adviser John Bolton’s explosive allegations about Trump’s conduct and accused Democrats of trying to interfere with Trump’s November re-election bid.

Afterward, Republican senators met behind closed doors to discuss calling witnesses including Bolton, but said as they emerged that there was no resolution on the matter. Four Republicans would need to vote for witnesses, along with all 47 Democrats and independents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators in the meeting he did not currently have the votes to block Democrats from calling witnesses at the trial because some Republicans remained uncommitted, several media outlets reported.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso told reporters the consensus in the meeting was “we’ve heard enough and it’s time to go to a final judgment vote.” But other Republicans said the vote count was unclear and no decision would be made until Friday.

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, a conservative defender of Trump who opposes witnesses, said Republicans were “mostly united” against witnesses, but added: “I’m pretty sure it’s not unanimous. But I don’t know what the numbers are.”

Trump’s legal team sought to minimize the importance of Bolton’s unpublished book manuscript that describes Trump’s central role in a pressure campaign aimed at getting Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in this year’s election.

“You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation,” Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow told the Senate.

The Democratic-led House on Dec. 18 impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress arising from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden, the former vice president, setting the stage for the trial to determine if he should be removed from office.

The Republican-controlled Senate is almost certain to acquit Trump, who has painted the impeachment proceedings as an effort by Democrats to poison his re-election.

“While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists, the congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades,” Trump told a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Tuesday.

Trump’s legal team echoed the president’s comments.

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