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Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight

Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday voicing renewed confidence that they will bypass a nasty witness fight in the impeachment trial.

“The consensus is that we’ve heard enough and it’s time to go to a final judgement,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters.

Asked if the trial proceedings should go past Friday, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Biden owes us an answer on court-packing MORE (R-S.D.), another member of Senate GOP leadership, said it “shouldn’t.”

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“We’re kind of confident,” Thune added.

The chamber is expected to vote Friday on whether to allow new witnesses or documents in President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE's trial. If they skip witnesses, that will pave the way for a swift vote to acquit Trump.

Democrats will need four Republican votes in order to call for additional witnesses. Both sides would then make motions for specific individuals, and the Senate would vote on whether to call them. 

Senate Republicans had voiced confidence last week that they would be able to finish the trial with no witnesses, a strategy Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (R-Ky.) has advocated both publicly and privately.

But former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' Demand for Trump-related titles sparks expected record year for political books MORE's allegation, included in his forthcoming memoir, that Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country helping investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE and his son Hunter Biden, has added fresh uncertainty to the witness fight. 

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Underscoring the urgency of the caucus discussion, Senate Republicans met Tuesday only hours after their normal closed-door caucus lunch. 

Though Thune and Barrasso signaled leadership is more confident about the possibility that Republicans could avoid calling Bolton or other witnesses, several other GOP senators signaled no decisions were made during the caucus meeting. 

There are still several Republican senators, including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal Climate change — Trump's golden opportunity MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed The Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci amid Trump criticism Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (Kansas), who have not said how they will vote on witnesses. 
 
The indecision of the handful of GOP senators underscores that, despite public confidence, McConnell still does not have a lock on 51 votes to block witnesses.
 
Tuesday's gathering, according to GOP senators, was to check the temperature of the caucus as a whole as Republicans face intense external pressure to call Bolton. 

It was “just a broad discussion like we had at all the meetings. No clear conclusions,” said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP lawmakers gloomy, back on defense after debate fiasco Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 

Asked if a decision was made, he replied, "No, nothing at all." 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (R-Texas) added that there were "no deals" made in the meeting. 

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"We're still talking. Everybody is taking this very seriously. ... I know those conversations are continuing," Cornyn said. "I think we'll all just have to wait for Friday." 

Calling witnesses would put a spotlight on a messy fight within the Senate Republican Conference. Conservatives are warning that if Republicans vote to help call Bolton, they will try to subpoena Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the whistleblower. 

"If we do call witnesses, we're not just going to call one witness. We're going to call a bunch of witnesses," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters after the meeting. 

When a reporter noted that it sounded like Graham thought there were going to be witnesses, he responded, "I would not say that. I would not take that from what I just said. ... We'll see Friday." 

"I feel good. I feel good that we're in a good spot in terms of ending trial sooner rather than later," he added. 

Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.