WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly rejected Democratic demands to summon witnesses for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial late Friday, all but ensuring Trump’s acquittal in just the third trial to threaten a president’s removal in U.S. history. But senators pushed off final voting on his fate to next Wednesday.
The delay in timing showed the weight of a historic vote bearing down on senators, despite prodding by the president eager to have it all behind him in an election year and ahead of his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke by phone to lock in the schedule during a tense night at the Capitol as rushed negotiations proceeded on and off the Senate floor. The trial came to a standstill for about an hour. A person unauthorized to discuss the call was granted anonymity to describe it.
The president wanted to arrive for his speech at the Capitol with acquittal secured, but that will not happen. Instead, the trial will resume Monday for final arguments, with time Monday and Tuesday for senators to speak. The final voting is planned for 4 p.m. Wednesday, the day after Trump’s speech.
Trump’s acquittal is all but certain in the Senate, where his GOP allies hold the majority and there’s nowhere near the two-thirds needed for conviction and removal.
Nor will he face potentially damaging, open-Senate testimony from witnesses.
Despite the Democrats’ singular focus on hearing new testimony, the Republican majority brushed past those demands and will make this the first impeachment trial without witnesses. Even new revelations Friday from former national security adviser John Bolton did not sway GOP senators, who said they’d heard enough.
That means the eventual outcome for Trump will be an acquittal “in name only,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a House prosecutor, during final debate.
Trump was impeached by the House last month on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress as he tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid as leverage as the ally fought Russia. He is charged with then blocking the congressional probe of his actions.
Senators rejected the Democrats’ effort to allow new witnesses, 51-49, a near party-line vote. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah voted with the Democrats, but that was not enough.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called that decision “a tragedy on a very large scale.” Protesters’ chants reverberated against the walls of the Capitol.
But Republicans said Trump’s acquittal was justified and inevitable.
“The sooner the better for the country,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump confidant. “Let’s turn the page.”
The next steps come in the heart of presidential campaign season before a divided nation. Democratic caucus voting begins Monday in Iowa, and Trump gives his State of the Union address the next night. Four Democratic candidates have been chafing in the Senate chamber rather than campaigning.
The Democrats had badly wanted testimony from Bolton, whose forthcoming book links Trump directly to the charges. But Bolton won’t be summoned, and none of this appeared to affect the trial’s expected outcome. Democrats forced a series of new procedural votes late Friday to call Bolton and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, among others, but all were rejected.
In an unpublished manuscript, Bolton has written that the president asked him during an Oval Office meeting in early May to bolster his effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to a person who read the passage and told The Associated Press. The person, who was not authorized to disclose contents of the book, spoke only on condition of anonymity.
In the meeting, Bolton said the president asked him to call new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and persuade him to meet with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was planning to go to Ukraine to coax the Ukrainians to investigate the president’s political rivals. Bolton writes that he never made the call to Zelenskiy after the meeting, which included acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
The revelation adds more detail to allegations of when and how Trump first sought to influence Ukraine to aid investigations of his rivals that are central to the abuse of power charge in the first article of impeachment.
The story was first reported Friday by The New York Times.
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.
“I didn’t need any more evidence because I thought it was proved that the president did what he was charged with doing,” retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a late holdout, told reporters Friday at the Capitol. “But that didn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she, too, would oppose more testimony in the charged partisan atmosphere, having “come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate.’’ She said, “The Congress has failed.”
Eager for a conclusion, Trump’s allies nevertheless suggested the shift in timing to extend the proceedings into next week, acknowledging the significance of the moment for senators who want to give final speeches.
To bring the trial toward a conclusion, Trump’s attorneys argued the House had already heard from 17 witnesses and presented its 28,578-page report to the Senate. They warned against prolonging it even further. The House impeached Trump largely along party lines after less than three months of formal proceedings, making it the quickest, most partisan presidential impeachment in U.S. history.
Some senators pointed to the importance of the moment.
“What do you want your place in history to be?” asked one of the House managers, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a former Army Ranger.
To hear more witnesses, it would have taken four Republicans to break with the 53-seat majority and join with all Democrats in demanding more testimony. But that effort fell short.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in the rare role of presiding over the impeachment trial, could break a tie, but that seemed unlikely. Asked late Friday, he told senators it would be “inappropriate.”
Murkowski noted in announcing her decision that she did not want to drag the chief justice into the partisan fray.
As protesters chanted outside the Capitol, some visitors watched from the Senate galleries.
Bolton’s forthcoming book contends he personally heard Trump say he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate the Bidens. Trump denies saying such a thing.
The White House has blocked its officials from testifying in the proceedings and objected that there are “significant amounts of classified information” in Bolton’s manuscript. Bolton resigned last September — Trump says he was fired — and he and his attorney have insisted the book does not contain any classified information.
Alicia Latimer didn’t lack for an education in black history as a child.
“I grew up in Mobile, in the Alabama of George Wallace and little girls being burned in a church,” she said.
In Tulsa, Latimer has made a career out of helping a city confront a chapter in black history many preferred to keep hidden.
Now the African-American Resource Center coordinator at the Tulsa City-County Library, Latimer said she had lived here for 20 years when her mother-in-law mentioned something about a “riot” in casual conversation.
“I said: What riot? I had no idea. That’s a shame!” Latimer said. “My son attended Booker T. Washington (High School), and he never learned about it.
“It’s painful, but I did the research. My husband’s uncles were in Tulsa at the time. One of them was a detainee. I am a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was burned to the ground. I really do have skin in the game — all of Tulsa has skin in the game.”
Latimer is among a host of Tulsans leading Black History Month events in February who say they’re still trying to right age-old wrongs in the teaching of American history, in general, while embracing new educational opportunities amid global interest in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
This year’s African-American Heritage Bowl, an annual quiz bowl held during Black History Month at the Rudisill Regional Library, will focus solely on the massacre. It will serve as the kick off of full year of events leading to the 100th anniversary.
Latimer and members of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission wrote a special quiz book for the event with 200 questions and answers. In it, she included an African proverb that guides her work: “Until the lion tells the tale, stories of victory of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
A quiz bowl may sound a bit trite, but Latimer’s aim is to get the community, and especially youth, to engage with their hometown’s own black history.
“For me, it’s in my soul. We’ve got to tell this story and tell it in a passionate way. It can’t be like some old faded book. It’s got to come alive,” she said. “Yes, there’s winning and it’s fun, but there’s a message and education in it.”
Another community event, which has already drawn interest from more than 1,100 Facebook users, will be a discussion of race and responsibility as depicted in the wildly popular HBO TV series called “Watchmen.”
Sean Latham, director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and an English professor at the University of Tulsa, will frame the discussion with Nehemiah Frank, founder and editor of The Black Wall Street Times.
“Black history is U.S. history, but for so long, U.S. history and U.S. literature and culture was taught through a white lens,” said Latham.
“The extraordinary thing ‘Watchmen’ did was retell the history of super heroes in 20th century America by making the Tulsa Race Massacre the pivotal moment.
“What happens if we saw that as an event that was every bit as important as World War II or the invention of the atomic bomb? It imagines reparations that were paid to those who lost lives and property and imagines a fundamentally different future.”
The latest installment of Real Talk, a series of panel discussions about topics of critical importance to marginalized communities, will focus on the common struggle for equal rights experienced by blacks and Jews in the United States.
Among the invited panelists will be Andrew Spector, a former Tulsa elementary school teacher who is now working at Leadership Tulsa on a children’s social justice program he co-founded called Tulsa Changemakers.
“I think I was asked to speak because of a combination of my Jewish background and my interest in racial, economic and immigration justice,” Spector said.
“There is a shared oppression and persecution of both black people and Jewish people, as well as the shared activism. I hope that my voice and my experiences can speak to the importance of Black History Month and Black history as American History.”
And while every day is black history day in Anthony Cherry’s history and African-American studies classroom at Booker T. Washington High School, Cherry says that still is not something to be taken for granted in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He grew up here but never learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre, Oklahoma’s historically black towns or the complicated history of black and Native American relations until college. Cherry attended predominantly white schools in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and between kindergarten and 12th grade, he had only one teacher who was not white.
“My goal became to give the kind of empowering lessons I wish I could have had as a young student,” he said. “High-quality black history lessons were practically nonexistent.”
Cherry recalled asking his eighth-grade English teacher why that was, and her response had a profound impact on him and the course of his life.
“She told me that she couldn’t think of how black history applied to her curriculum,” he said. “Her flippancy and dismissiveness of black literary contributions confused and even angered me. When I tried to press the issue, she threatened to discipline me if I did not leave her alone immediately.”
He began his own quest to learn black history, with encouragement from his parents, that set him on a path that led all the way to earning a master’s degree in American history from the University of Tulsa.
“I fell in love with American history in general. It became my passion to uncover hidden truths about myself, the often overlooked contributions of my ancestors and the potential for a more prosperous future in American society,” Cherry said.
Black History Month will be commemorated in Cherry’s classroom with a special unit on the World War I era from black perspectives, including the Harlem Hellfighters, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the birth of jazz, and the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“This is the time period I am most passionate about due to the many dynamic challenges and triumphs for black Americans,” Cherry said.
February is Black History Month, and the Tulsa World will be publishing stories and daily facts throughout the month.
However far he had to take them to find other black schools to play, Seymour Williams’ Hornets teams were always ready to compete.
As head football coach at Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School during the era of segregation, Williams led the program to 19 state titles in the Oklahoma Interscholastic Athletic Association and finished undefeated 14 times, traveling as far away as Chicago to play.
He would post a record of 290-23-11 over his career, which began in 1920 and spanned 33 years.
And that was just in football. Williams also coached the school’s basketball team, winning 13 OIAA state basketball titles and five national championships, as well as the track team, which won six national track titles.
Although he retired just before desegregation freed the Hornets to join the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the groundwork had been laid for the program’s future success.
Today, the late coach is remembered every time the Hornets take the field at S.E. Williams Stadium, which is named in his honor.
All Blake Bell wanted to do was quarterback the Oklahoma Sooners, but now Trevor Knight had just played the game of his life to fire OU past Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Knight, not Bell, would be the Sooners’ quarterback moving forward.
So Bell made an agonizing yet necessary decision. He would be a tight end from now on.
“I’ve been playing quarterback all of my life,” Bell said during OU’s spring practice season after that Sugar Bowl. “My dad said it’s not just going to be something different; it’s going to be fun. Take advantage of the opportunity and have fun with it.”
Six years later Bell is having a blast with it. He is in Miami, where he’ll suit up for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV against San Francisco on Sunday.
“I tell Blake being in the National Football League is a one-percent club. It’s amazing just to be able to do that,” Mark Bell, Blake’s dad, said from his Wichita, Kansas, home earlier this week. “The pinnacle of the NFL is the Super Bowl. Now he gets to do that, too. We’re living a dream. We’re going to live it through Sunday.”
Bell’s parents and his older brother, Brock, will be in Miami. They were in Kansas City when Bell scored his first NFL touchdown in the Chiefs’ playoff victory over Houston on Jan. 12. They were there when the Chiefs won the AFC Championship over Tennessee on Jan. 19.
“We were lucky enough to be down on the field with the confetti going off afterward,” Mark Bell said. “Emotions took over. I saw Blake and we hugged each other. The tears were flowing.”
That happens after you bounce from one team to the next your first five years of pro football. Bell was drafted by San Francisco in 2015, moved to Minnesota in ’17, moved to Jacksonville in ’18 and was signed by Kansas City last spring.
The Bells have always believed things happen for a reason. Blake’s uncle, Mike Bell, was a Chief for 12 seasons. Blake spent games on the Arrowhead Stadium sideline after Mike retired, getting his picture taken with Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.
This was more fate than luck, the family figured, Bell signing to back up Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
Just like it was fate when Knight took over as OU quarterback and Bell took on a new football role six years ago.
“He’d get up at five in the morning and be at OU’s indoor facility before the lights were on, working with Joe Jon Finley,” Mark Bell said, referencing the OU graduate assistant who had been a Sooners tight end from 2004-07. “Joe Jon took Blake under his wing and taught him about the position. They watched film and went to work.”
This wasn’t easy. Bell the OU quarterback spent practices in a blue jersey that warned defensive players to keep their hands off. Bell the OU tight end spent practices trying to block defensive menaces Charles Tapper and Eric Striker.
Bell didn’t want to stand around and watch Knight. He didn’t want to transfer somewhere else and miss his buddies. So he made his peace.
“I went out there the first day and had a tight crimson jersey on,” Bell smiled in the spring of ’14, “and it made me feel kind of big.”
Besides, hadn’t he already caused a sensation as OU’s short-yardage “Belldozer” quarterback his first two years? Hadn’t he thrown for 413 yards and four touchdowns to beat Tulsa in his first game as starting quarterback in ’13? Hadn’t he won at Notre Dame and clinched a Big 12 Conference championship with a last-minute touchdown pass in relief of Knight at Oklahoma State?
Playing tight end didn’t cancel any of that out.
“You talk to some people and they’ll say it didn’t turn out like they thought,” Mark Bell said. “At the quarterback position? No. But for the sake of the next level, (moving to tight end) was probably the best thing that could have happened to Blake. He’s in his fifth year in the National Football League and going to the Super Bowl ...
“When you look back on it, the experiences we had at Oklahoma all those years was great.”
The family’s experience since Bell signed with the Chiefs has been even better.
“You’ve gotta give it to Blake. He never wavered. It’s been that way in college and in the NFL,” Mark Bell said. “He moved around but just stayed the course and now look at him. He’s going to the Super Bowl. I can’t put into words what this year has meant. Everything has worked out.”
Gallery: Blake Bell's career so far, from OU to the Kansas City Chiefs
In the latest issue of Tulsa World Magazine, Tulsans share their stories of love — for each other, as well as for their pets.
The new issue, which will be in home-delivered newspapers today, also features heart-healthy recipes and explores the art of writing a love letter, as well as the best chocolate shops to buy treats for your sweetheart.
You will also be able to find the magazine at more than 100 locations across Tulsa, including Boomtown Tees, 114 S. Elgin Ave.; Mother Road Market, 1124 S. Lewis Ave.; Mecca Coffee, 1330 E. 41st St.; the Gathering Place, 2650 S. John Williams Way; and the Coffee House on Cherry Street, 1502 E. 15th St.
Look for Tulsa World Magazine in your home-delivered Tulsa World on Saturday, Feb. 1. To subscribe to the Tulsa World or to Tulsa World Magazine, go to tulsaworld.com/subscribe or call 918-582-0921 or toll free at 800-444-6552.
Copies of the magazine can be purchased at more than 100 locations across Tulsa. They can also be mailed to you for $4.95 by calling 918-581-8584.