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As Trump’s Senate trial begins, Grassley and Ernst vote against calling witnesses and requiring the administration to turn over documents


Sen. Chuck Grassley administers the oath of office to Chief Justice John Roberts in the opening of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Jan. 16, 2019.

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst voted in lock-step with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the first session of the trial of President Trump, following his impeachment in the House of Representatives.

The two Iowans joined their Republican Senate colleagues in voting down all 11 amendments the House impeachment managers offered to the trial rules proposed by McConnell.

The amendments would have allowed the Senate to subpoena documents the Trump administration has refused to turn over to Congress, call witnesses and give more time to both the House Democrats who were appointed as impeachment managers and the president’s legal team to argue their cases.

McConnell has publicly said he will coordinate his actions during the trial with Trump’s lawyers. McConnell’s rules for how the Senate trial will be conducted were adopted on a party-line vote.

That Grassley and Ernst voted the way the White House wanted isn’t a surprise. Although both have occasionally voiced mild criticism of the president, neither has ever cast a vote against Trump. Both have even voted to confirm all nine of Trump’s nominees for federal judgeships rated “Not Qualified” by the American Bar Association.

Speaking to reporters before the start of Senate session on Tuesday, Grassley said he was confident Republicans would be able to defeat any attempt to guarantee the calling of witnesses during the trial.

“It’s contentious today as there will be efforts of senators on the Democratic side, led by Schumer, to ask for witnesses ahead of time,” he said. “That’s going to be controversial, but with 51 votes, I’m sure those motions are going to be tabled.”

Last week, Ernst was calling for bipartisanship in decisions on how the Senate trial will proceed, according to Politico.

“We need to start working together on procedures,” she told the publication.

But speaking to Iowa reporters during a conference call last week, Ernst rejected the idea that the known evidence regarding Trump’s actions justified either calling witnesses or subpoenaing documents, and dismissed the House’s impeachment of the president as a “political exercise.”

A statement about the trial Ernst tweeted on Wednesday morning was similar to her comments on the conference call with Iowa reporters.

In addition to Grassley and Ernst, four senators who have become familiar to Iowans during the 2020 presidential campaign were also present in the Senate chamber on Tuesday.

Laurie Kellman, an Associated Press correspondent in the Senate Press Gallery, described what three of the four senators were doing during the Senate session, which lasted more than 12 hours.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of four Democratic presidential candidates forced back to the Senate ahead of the Iowa caucuses, held both a blue pen and yellow pencil in her right hand and alternated which she used to take notes.

Others appeared to struggle to maintain attention as the hours wore on. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a presidential hopeful who has openly complained about having to be in Washington, yawned and at one point tipped his head back on his chair.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential candidate, appeared to be subtly chewing something at length, possibly gum, as [impeachment manager Rep. Adam] Schiff spoke.

Kellman didn’t mention what the fourth senator, Michael Bennet of Colorado, was doing during the marathon session.


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