Senate Republicans to meet Tuesday afternoon on witness question

Senate Republicans will hold a special meeting Tuesday afternoon after President Trump’s legal team finishes its opening arguments to hash out their strategy on how to handle the tricky question of subpoenaing additional witnesses and documents.

Two Senate Republican sources confirmed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called the meeting to get his GOP colleagues on the same page as phase one of the impeachment trial nears its end.

Under the trial’s organizing resolution, which McConnell drafted, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of the House managers and the president’s lawyers before voting on whether it should be in order to subpoena additional witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Senate Republicans have come under increased pressure to call for Bolton’s testimony after The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton’s unpublished book manuscript claims Trump said he wanted to freeze military aid for Ukraine until officials there announced an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Two moderate Republicans, Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), said Monday that news of Bolton’s draft book strengthened the case to agree to additional witnesses and testimony.   

Romney said “it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”

McConnell was able to keep his other GOP colleagues in line Monday when he urged them to hold off on deciding the question of witnesses until after the president’s lawyers had finished their opening arguments and senators had time to ask questions.

Now that the White House is close to finishing its opening presentation, McConnell is checking back in with colleagues to discuss the next steps of the trial.

Several GOP senators have floated proposals to allow them to review Bolton’s claims without voting to issue new subpoenas, which could prolong the trial past the Feb. 4 State of the Union address and perhaps for weeks beyond.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is in talks with the White House to make Bolton’s manuscript available for senators to review at the Sensitive Compartment Information Facility (SCIF) in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday suggested that Bolton reveal what he knows to the media.

“Now that what has unfolded with the manuscript being leaked — by the way, exquisite timing, maybe suspicious timing — The Wall Street Journal has called for John to just come forward. Just tell the public what you know. I think that would actually be a smart thing. I’d encourage John to do that,” Johnson told reporters.

Johnson said Bolton should do so “without involving the trial” and possibly go straight to the media.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has proposed a one-for-one witness swap, under which Republicans would agree to hear Bolton’s testimony in exchange for subpoenaing Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, to hear about his business dealings in Ukraine.

Tags Donald Trump Impeachment James Lankford Joe Biden John Bolton Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Ron Johnson Susan Collins

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