Republican senators discussed the idea of an impeachment witness swap, where they could call a witness for House managers in return for the same number for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE, during a closed-door caucus meeting on Monday.
The re-emergence of the idea, broached by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) during the lunch, comes after former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWe've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive It's time to pull the plug on our toxic relationship with Pakistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod 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 GOP senators signaled that the idea of a swap didn't currently have much support within the caucus, nor does it have the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.).
Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit Schumer frustrates GOP, Manchin with fiery debt ceiling speech MORE (R-S.D.) asked about talk during the GOP lunch about a one-for-one deal, acknowledged that it was "discussed."
"But there didn't seem to be much support for it," he added. "Not at this point."
Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Lobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-N.D.) added that didn't "see the need for more witnesses."
Conservative senators, including Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas) and Mike BraunMichael BraunIndiana's GOP senator: Chicago police who defied vaccine mandate 'deserve respect' Bottom line Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican MORE (R-N.D.), have been publicly and privately pitching their colleagues on the idea of "witness reciprocity" for weeks.
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 RomneyTrump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals 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.
In addition to Bolton, Democrats have talked about wanting to call acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyJan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 11, including Pierson, other rally organizers MORE; Robert Blair, Mulvaney's adviser and Michael Duffey, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) staffer.
Trump has talked about wanting the Bidens, the whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt Press: Steve Bannon behind bars in Capitol basement? Paris Hilton to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for bill on children's treatment centers MORE (D-Calif.).
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.
Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates Beware the tea party of the left Bottom line MORE (D-N.Y.), have shot down talk of agreeing to subpoena Hunter Biden in exchange for hearing from Bolton.
Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyExpats plead with US to deliver COVID-19 vaccines Growing number of Democrats endorse abolishing debt limit altogether Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (D-Conn.) warned that senators should not become "complicit" in helping "destroy" the Bidens.
"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 BarrassoSenate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters.
Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema MORE (R-S.D.), asked about the potential witnesses, described the discussions as "fluid," and that McConnell was urging his caucus to "stay calm."