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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 BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters.

Asked if the trial proceedings should go past Friday, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP For platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Streamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures 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 TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT 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 McConnellGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report MORE (R-Ky.) has advocated both publicly and privately.

But former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonNSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order After insurrection: The national security implications McConnell won't reprise role as chief Trump defender 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 BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries 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 MurkowskiDemocratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) Moran'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Electoral College fight splits GOP as opposition grows to election challenge Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation 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 BraunTop Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win Congress affirms Biden win after rioters terrorize Capitol Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 

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

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 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 GrahamGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP An attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation 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.