This week: Senate barrels toward showdown on impeachment witnesses
© Getty Images

The Senate is heading for a make or break vote on calling witnesses, marking a crucial point in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE's impeachment trial. 

Whether or not 51 senators will agree to call witnesses is the only remaining wild card in the Senate's proceeding, which is all but guaranteed to end in Trump's acquittal. 

Adding a twist to the chamber's debate, The New York Times reported on Sunday that former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Bolton's lost leverage Azar downplays chance Trump will appoint coronavirus czar MORE claims in an unpublished memoir that Trump sought to tie $391 million in aid to Ukraine to his requests for the country's leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bolton is one of four witnesses Democrats want to testify, and Democrats immediately jumped on the Times report to make their case for his testimony. 

“The [Times] report suggests multiple top Trump Admin officials knew the facts and deliberately misled Congress and the American people. A massive White House cover-up. All we need is four Republican Senators to get the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report Trump administration freezes funding for study of hurricane barriers: report MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted. 

The seven House impeachment managers, in a joint statement, called the Times piece an "explosive revelation." 

"Senators should insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other relevant documents. The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide," the House managers said.

Bolton's lawyer in a statement appeared to confirm the authenticity of the Times piece, and suggested that pieces of the book had been leaked by a "corrupted" process and "other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript." 

In addition to Bolton, Democrats want acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report MORE, Mulvaney's adviser Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, an Office of Management and Budget aide to testify. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“This report further underlines why my Republican colleagues should be working across the aisle to ensure we hear relevant testimony and receive documents from Ambassador Bolton, along with Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, who should testify before the Senate,” Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.) said in a statement. 

Under the rules resolution passed last week, the Senate will have a vote on whether or not additional witnesses or documents will be allowed. Democrats need four Republicans to vote with them to successfully pave the way for witnesses. 

After that, both sides could make motions for specific witnesses and the Senate would vote on calling them. 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOrange County declaring local health emergency in response to coronavirus Why Bernie Sanders won the debate Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE (R-Utah) has said he wants to hear from Bolton. He added on Saturday that he is “very likely” to support calling witnesses. 

Both Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MORE (R-Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-Maine) have suggested they are open to witnesses, though neither has specifically said who they would support calling. Neither has weighed in on the Times report. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring but close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives To avoid November catastrophe, Democrats have to KO Sanders MORE (R-Ky.), has indicated he will make a decision on whether or not witnesses are needed after opening arguments and questions from senators. 

"After I hear both sides, and after we have a chance to answer our questions, I think it shouldn't be difficult to decide if we need additional documents or additional witnesses," he said on Saturday. 

Republican allies immediately rallied to Trump’s defense, arguing that Bolton’s forthcoming book didn’t alter that Ukraine has said it did not feel pressured to investigate Democrats. 

“I keep reading in the media about how there must have been some sort of political quid pro quo scheme... And yet, apparently the one group who didn’t know about it were the people supposedly being extorted—the Ukrainians. The facts haven’t changed,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix MORE (R-N.C.) said in a tweet. 

But there are still several steps before the Senate turns its attention to the witness fight. 

Trump’s legal team will resume its defense on Monday at 1 p.m., after a brief two-hour opening on Saturday. 

They have 24 hours total to make their case, and have to wrap the case by Tuesday. Though White House counsel Pat Cipollone has said they don’t intend to use all of their time, they’ve also been cagey about if they will use both Monday and Tuesday. 

“I think we are going to be more efficient. I doubt that there’s any scenario where we approach 24 hours of presentation. But how that will be split over Monday and Tuesday is sort of hard to predict at this point,” a source on the president’s legal team said. 

Trump’s team argued on Saturday that Trump’s decision to hold the Ukraine aid was tied to concerns about corruption, and that the funds weren’t brought up during the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

After Trump’s team wraps up, senators then have up to 16 hours to ask questions of both sides. Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican senator, noted that he did not expect the question portion to start until Wednesday. 

Iran

The House is slated to take up two measures in response to Trump’s decision to launch an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq without congressional approval. 

“Next week, the House will take additional action to reassert Congress’s constitutional authority on matters of war. This comes after the House passed a war powers resolution earlier this month to limit the President’s ability to take military action against Iran,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerVulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response Trump administration to cut funds from health programs to pay for coronavirus response MORE (D-Md.) said in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“The House will consider legislation from Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeCalifornia lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Senior black Democrats urge party chairman to take responsibility for Iowa Lawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program MORE to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of force in Iraq, which was intended to enable the removal of Saddam Hussein, but is still used today to justify the use of American military force in Iraq. We will also take up legislation from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKhanna introduces bill to add a third gender option on US passports Omar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Democrats call for Twitter, Facebook to take down Pelosi video posted by Trump MORE to prohibit the use of federal funds for military action in or against Iran absent Congressional authorization.”

The House’s votes come as a war powers debate that would limit Trump’s ability action against Iran without congressional approval is stuck in limbo in the Senate. 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Republicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (D-Va.) introduced a resolution earlier this month that would require Trump to end hostilities against Iran within 30 days. He announced that he has the 51 votes to pass the resolution, which is all but guaranteed to be vetoed by Trump. 

Democrats are able to force a vote on the Senate floor, but it was put on pause because of the impeachment trial.