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 BarrassoOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs EPA finalizes rule cutting use of potent greenhouse gas used in refrigeration House Democrat: Staff is all vaccinated 'because they don't like to be dead' MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters.

Asked if the trial proceedings should go past Friday, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff 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 TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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 McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE (R-Ky.) has advocated both publicly and privately.

But former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' 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 BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill 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 MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act before slow mail turns into no mail Kaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Seven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill 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 BraunBipartisan push for vocational training focuses on funding, curricula The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 

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

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan 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 GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles 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.