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Some Republicans ‘eager to explain’ vote to exclude witnesses

President Trump's likely acquittal following Friday's mostly party-line vote to exclude witnesses and new documents from the Senate impeachment trial has left questions over the limits of presidential powers. Senators will get the chance to explain their decisions next week. Alexis Simendinger, national correspondent for The Hill, joins Hari Sreenivasan with more on the trial and what comes next.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the impeachment trial and what's next, Alexis Simendinger, national political correspondent for The Hill, joins us now from Washington, D.C. So here we are, an official weekend off because things are almost done, right?

  • Alexis Simendinger:

    They're almost done. We're just a few days away from the end of a drama that started in August and September.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    If the votes last night indicated a couple of different things, one is that the White House and Mitch McConnell were able to get senators in line and make sure that not enough voted for witnesses. But also a couple of kind of interesting comments from, say, Lamar Alexander and Marco Rubio. On the one hand, they seem to agree with the House managers that the president did do these things and they were wrong. But on the other hand, they're not voting to want to hear more about it.

  • Alexis Simendinger:

    It was very interesting to see the logic behind some of the senators who were considered to be potential supporters of the idea of hearing from witnesses and to subpoena documents. You mentioned Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. He's retiring from the Senate. So there was some thought that perhaps on his way out, he might think that witnesses was a good idea. But in the end, what he said was interesting. He said that he believed that the house managers had actually established the facts, that the president had done something that he considered inappropriate in his effort to try to persuade Ukraine to start an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. But he said, in his view, it was not impeachable. And therefore, if he had decided it was not an impeachable offense, there was no point in hearing from additional witnesses.

    Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who we remember had actually challenged Donald Trump in the primary in 2016, also suggested that in his view, there might have been merit to the suggestion that the president had acted inappropriately, but it was not impeachable. So what we're gonna be going into in these speeches early this week and leading up to the votes on the two articles of impeachment are additional statements from lawmakers about why they're voting in particular ways. And we know what Democrats think, but there there's still some Democrats we want to hear from.

    And then, of course, these Republicans are very much eager to explain to their electorate and their states. Susan Collins from Maine is a Republican who definitely wants to talk to her constituents in Maine. She's up for reelection and she voted in favor of the idea of witnesses.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Were these senators concerned over time that this increases the power of the presidency, that this creates a situation where Congress is less of a check on the president's power?

  • Alexis Simendinger:

    It was the case in Lisa Murkowski's a situation. She is the Republican from Alaska. When she put out a statement about why she was voting against witnesses — she was considered a swing vote on that that question — she talked about how the Congress had failed. The Senate has failed. So the question you're asking is an important one, that lawmakers in both parties, candidates in both parties are asking, because the concern that's being raised is on basic oversight. Is this now a president who feels so unfettered and so unbound by the legislative branch, and so supported by the arguments that the constitution gives him vast powers, that he will continue to flout or seek ways to exert his executive authority in ways that the Congress is incapable of challenging. And that's coming up from national security advisers and national security experts, too, because the terrain of this impeachment was unique. It dealt with international and foreign affairs as opposed to domestic issues. And so the concerns in both parties actually are real going forward.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. And we will have an opportunity to hear from the president over the next couple of days. Well, multiple occasions, really. The first starting in is the pre-Super Bowl conversation that he has scheduled with Sean Hannity.

  • Alexis Simendinger:

    We're going to hear a lot from President Trump, as you mentioned. He's going to be doing a pregame interview that will be pretaped. Sean Hannity is an enormous supporter of the president's. The president and his campaign have paid at least five million dollars for an ad during the Super Bowl. So we're going to hear his pitch for reelection. The president is also going to be giving us the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. And that speech often with President Trump is very much a teleprompter prepared speech. But it's an interesting dynamic of standing in the, and before members of Congress and talking while the trial is actually still technically going on.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Alexis Simendinger from The Hill, joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

  • Alexis Simendinger:

    Thank you so much.

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