Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap

 
The re-emergence of the idea, broached by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) during the lunch, comes after 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 has upended the impeachment trial with his forthcoming memoir. 
 
The New York Times reported on Sunday night that Bolton, in his book, claims that Trump linked $391 million in Ukraine aid to the country helping with investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 
 
 
 
"But there didn't seem to be much support for it," he added. "Not at this point." 
 
Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Senate Majority PAC launches first statewide TV ad for Democrat running against Ernst Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks MORE (R-Iowa), asked about the potential of a one-for-one deal and the discussion within the GOP lunch, argued that witnesses wouldn't "change the facts in this case."
 
 
 
Under the theory, spearheaded by Cruz, if four GOP senators side with Democrats and subpoena Bolton, Republicans should also call someone off of Trump's witness wishlist, like Hunter Biden. 
 
"Ted and I have been talking about reciprocity on witnesses. ...I don't think Pat originated it," said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), asked about the idea of a swap. "He just, I guess, would be comfortable with it."
 
Asked about McConnell's input on the idea of a witness swap, Braun noted the idea was coming from other senators, like Cruz, and not the GOP leader. 
 
"He has not talked at all about witnesses," Braun said. 
 
The GOP leader has said publicly and privately that he wants to wrap the trial without witnesses. Opening the door to witnesses, McConnell and top allies have warned, could drag out the impeachment trial for weeks, if not months. 
 
But Bolton's forthcoming book has raised new questions about if four Republicans will break with Democrats and call him to testify. A GOP aide confirmed that 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) argued during the GOP lunch that the Senate needed to hear from Bolton. 
 
Rounds added that "several different options" were thrown out during lunch about which witnesses would be included in the potential trade off. 
 
 
 
If Republicans are going to pull off the witness swap, they would have to go it alone and put up the 51 votes to call a Trump-preferred witness from their own 53-member caucus. 
 
 
 
"I would agree strongly against becoming co-conspirators with the Trump administration," Murphy told reporters. 
 
The message from McConnell to Republicans during the closed-door lunch was to keep their powder dry on the question of witnesses until they get closer to Friday's vote. 

"The message from the leader was essentially, let's take a breath we're going to vote for witnesses on Friday," 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 (R-Wyo.) told reporters. 
 
Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick MORE (R-S.D.), asked about the potential witnesses, described the discussions as "fluid," and that McConnell was urging his caucus to "stay calm." 
 
"I just think it's too early to say," he said asked about GOP support for witnesses. "I would describe it as ... fairly fluid."