Donald Trump impeachment: Senate rejects witnesses, clearing the president's path to acquittal

The US Senate has rejected the idea of summoning witnesses for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on Friday, all but ensuring his acquittal.

The vote on allowing new witnesses was defeated 51-49, with senators voting mostly along party lines.

Republicans Susan Collins and Mitt Romney voted along with Democrats to allow witnesses, but were not enough to sway the result.

The Democrat's leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, walks back to the impeachment trial. Credit: AP

It's the first Senate impeachment trial in US history to not involve calling witnesses.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the trial was a "grand tragedy."

"America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, where the Senate turned away from the truth and went along with a sham trial."

"Americans will know this trial was not a real trial."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to the chamber during impeachment proceedings. Credit: AP

Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House in December on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress when he allegedly tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, then blocked the probe into his actions.

The Democrats had badly wanted testimony from John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, whose forthcoming book links Trump directly to the charges.

But Bolton won't be summoned after the Senate's vote, and his revelations will be unlikely to affect the trial's expected outcome.

In an unpublished manuscript, Bolton said the President asked him to call new Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenski and persuade him to meet with Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was planning to coax the Ukrainians to investigate the president's political rivals.

Bolton writes that he never made the call to Zelenskiy after the meeting.

Trump issued a quick denial.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelenskiy,” Trump said. “That meeting never happened.”

Key Republican senators said even if Trump committed the offenses as charged by the House, they are not impeachable and the 'partisan proceedings' must end.