Senate

Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap

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 Trump, during a closed-door caucus meeting on Monday. 
 
The re-emergence of the idea, broached by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) during the lunch, comes after former national security adviser John Bolton 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 McConnell (R-Ky.). 
 
Sen. Mike Rounds (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. Joni Ernst (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.”

 
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) added that didn’t “see the need for more witnesses.” 
 
Conservative senators, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Braun (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 Romney (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 Mulvaney; 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 Schiff (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 Schumer (D-N.Y.), have shot down talk of agreeing to subpoena Hunter Biden in exchange for hearing from Bolton. 
 
Sen. Chris Murphy (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 Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told reporters. 
 
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (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.”

Tags Adam Schiff Bolton memoir Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Donald Trump Donald Trump Impeachment impeachment trial impeachment witnesses John Barrasso John Bolton John Thune Joni Ernst Kevin Cramer Mick Mulvaney Mike Braun Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Ted Cruz
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video