Portman Will Vote Against Additional Witnesses in Trump Senate Impeachment Trial

While Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has acknowledged that Trump's actions toward Ukraine were "wrong and inappropriate," he says he does not believe they rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Jan 31, 2020 at 3:11 pm
click to enlarge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman - Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

In a statement today, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he will not vote to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. 

That vote is scheduled to happen this evening. 

As a member of the Senate, Rob Portman is one of Trump's 100 jurors — and one that Democrats hoped to convince as they seek to make impeachment charges the U.S. House passed against Trump stick. But the Ohio senator's involvement in the situation is unique compared to his colleagues. 

The impeachment proceedings relate to Trump's interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, specifically a July 25 phone call in which the president asked for an investigation into political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump is accused of withholding roughly $400 million in aid to Ukraine while seeking that investigation.

Portman says that some of Trump's actions were inappropriate, but that they didn't constitute impeachable offenses.

“I do not believe that additional witnesses are needed," Portune wrote in his statement. "I have said consistently for the past four months, since the Zelensky transcript was first released, that I believe that some of the president’s actions in this case – including asking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid to Ukraine – were wrong and inappropriate.  But I do not believe that the president’s actions rise to the level of removing a duly-elected president from office and taking him off the ballot in the middle of an election."

Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton is among the witnesses who would likely be called if the Senate voted to allow it. His testimony could be a bombshell — excerpts from a book Bolton will be releasing claim that Trump explicitly said he would withhold the Ukrainian aid until the country announced an investigation into the Bidens.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 75 percent of those surveyed said they believed witnesses should be called by the Senate. 

The president's critics — including Democrats but also former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, both Republicans — say the president broke the law with the telephone inquiry and subsequent public statements asking Ukraine and China to investigate Biden and his son, the latter of whom received hundreds of thousands of dollars for serving on the board of an energy company in Ukraine.

During his time as vice president, Biden pushed Ukraine to remove Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor there long thought to be corrupt. Trump alleges that the elder Biden did so because that prosecutor was investigating his son.

Thus far, there is no evidence that this was the case — and a number of statements from officials both in the U.S. and Ukraine, including Portman, show that the prosecutor who was removed was indeed suspected of corruption.

Portman is the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus. Trump has credited him specifically with eventually convincing the president to release the aid in question — though that release in September came after a whistleblower complaint was filed about the aid being withheld. 

In his statement today, Portman said that calling additional witnesses would take too long and keep the Senate from doing its normal legislative work. 

“Our country is already too deeply divided and we should be working to heal wounds, not create new ones," the statement concludes. "It is better to let the people decide. Early voting has already begun in some states in the presidential primaries. The American people will have the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box.”