As acquittal nears, Trump claims poll numbers up

US President currently has a 44.6 per cent approval rating in collated polls


Afp February 02, 2020
US President Donald Trump arrives in West Palm Beach, Florida with an acquittal expected in his impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed his polling numbers were up after the Senate paved the way for his acquittal next week on impeachment charges of abuse of power.

However, according to the RealClearPolitics website, Trump currently has a 44.6 per cent approval rating in collated polls, almost exactly the same as when he came to office in January 2017.

His assertion, made via tweet, came at a busy moment for Washington which is not only grappling with Trump's impeachment proceedings but also awaiting the results of Monday's all-important Iowa caucuses.

Trump set for midweek acquittal after witnesses blocked

The first vote in the US primary process will be closely watched as a sign as to which of 11 Democratic candidates are gaining early momentum to challenge Trump in November's election.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gives a thumb's up after the Senate voted not to allow new witnesses at the impeachment trial. PHOTO: AFP Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gives a thumb's up after the Senate voted not to allow new witnesses at the impeachment trial. PHOTO: AFP

As Democratic contenders raced across the Midwest state, the US Senate on Friday rebuffed Democratic calls for witnesses at only the third impeachment trial of a US president.

A vote on whether to acquit Trump is due on Wednesday -- the day after he gives his annual "State of the Union" speech.

Trump is all but assured of being acquitted by the Senate, where Republicans hold 53 seats to 47 for the Democrats. A two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove a president from office.

"Trump poll numbers are the highest since election, despite constant phony Witch Hunts!" the president tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

He was impeached for abuse of power over pressure against Ukraine to open investigations including into a leading Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and for obstruction of Congress.

On Friday, just two Republican senators -- Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine -- joined Democrats in voting to introduce witnesses into the impeachment trial.

Democrats argued that every other impeachment trial of US officials has called witnesses.

But they failed to muster the four Republican votes needed to allow testimony from Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called it a "grand tragedy."

"America will remember this day -- a day when the United States Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, turned away from truth and instead went along with a sham trial," Schumer said.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, which impeached Trump on December 18, accused Republicans of being "accomplices to the president's cover-up."

"He is impeached forever," Pelosi said. "There can be no acquittal without a trial. And there is no trial without witnesses, documents and evidence."

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the failure to call witnesses at the impeachment trial a Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the failure to call witnesses at the impeachment trial a "grand tragedy". PHOTO: AFP

Democrats had been eager to hear from Bolton following reports that he says in a forthcoming book to have been told by Trump that military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev's investigating former vice president Biden.

That is the crux of the case against him.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump ally, said House prosecutors -- known as "managers" -- had already presented enough evidence to make their case and there was no need for further witnesses.

"A majority of the US Senate has determined that the numerous witnesses and 28,000-plus pages of documents already in evidence are sufficient to judge the House managers' accusations and end this impeachment trial," he said, referring to evidence gathered during the House impeachment inquiry.

McConnell said the Senate would resume as a court of impeachment on Monday to hear final arguments, before voting on Wednesday on the two articles of impeachment passed last month in the House.

Democrats had hoped to sway enough Republicans to support the call for further witnesses but efforts collapsed when Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she would vote "no" to new testimony, saying the impeachment was of a "partisan nature."

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who had also been considered a possible swing vote, also said there was no need for more evidence.

A protester stands alone in front of the US Capitol in Washington on February 1, 2020 after the Senate voted not to call witnesses at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial for abuse of power. PHOTO: AFP A protester stands alone in front of the US Capitol in Washington on February 1, 2020 after the Senate voted not to call witnesses at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial for abuse of power. PHOTO: AFP

"If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine? I mean, the question for me was: Do I need more evidence to conclude that the president did what he did? And I concluded no," he told NBC on Saturday.

Trump dashes to Iowa aiming to upend Democratic challengers

But, he added, "I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I'd say -- improper, crossing the line."

Four contenders for the Democratic nomination -- Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet -- were stuck in Washington before the Iowa caucuses because they sit in the Senate and were required to be present at the impeachment trial.

Monday's vote is headed to a photo finish, with leftist Sanders holding a narrow polling lead over Biden.

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