Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Thursday night that she will vote to allow new witnesses and documents as part of President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
Collins is the first Republican senator to formally say she will vote yes on a blanket up-or-down vote, scheduled for Friday, that would open the door to hearing from new witnesses as part of the Senate proceeding.
“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed,” Collins said in a statement.
The rules resolution that passed last week for the trial allows for a vote on whether to request new witnesses or documents. Collins, who is on the ballot in 2020, was part of a small group of Republican senators who worked to get the guarantee into the resolution.
Democrats will need four Republicans to vote with them to allow witnesses as part of the trial. Or they will need three Republicans and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to step in to break a tie and side with them. Senators have suggested it’s unlikely that Roberts will put himself in the middle of the political fight.
The potential pool of GOP swing votes is quickly winnowing for Democrats. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) announced on Thursday night that he will vote against witnesses. In a bigger blow to Democrats, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also announced that he would oppose the effort to allow new witnesses.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense,” Alexander said in a statement.
Two more other key GOP senators — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) — have not yet said if they will vote to allow witnesses, though Romney is widely viewed as a “yes” vote.
“I am going to reflect on what I have heard, re-read my notes and decide whether I need to hear more,” Murkowski said in a statement after Thursday’s session wrapped.
If Democrats pull off an eleventh hour feat on the initial witnesses vote, both sides would then get to request specific individuals. The Senate would vote on each request with a simple majority needed to approve a witness or request documents.
Democrats want to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney’s adviser Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, an Office of Management and Budget staffer.
Trump’s team and GOP allies have warned that if Bolton is called, it would not only spark a protracted legal battle, but they would also have a “long list” of witnesses they would want to testify, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower who helped spark the House impeachment inquiry.
Collins did not say which specific individuals she will support calling.
“If this motion passes, I believe that the most sensible way to proceed would be for the House managers and the president’s attorneys to attempt to agree on a limited and equal number of witnesses for each side. If they can’t agree, then the Senate could choose the number of witnesses,” Collins added.
Updated Jan. 30 at 11:29 p.m.