Democrats, Republicans tussle over witnesses as vote approaches
Republican senators and Democratic House impeachment managers doubled down Sunday on their positions on calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, with Republicans dismissing it as a stalling tactic and Democrats insisting the Senate and the public are entitled to additional information.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he was unsure of whether the Senate would vote to call witnesses but dismissed the idea on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I’m not going to vote to approve witnesses because the House Democrats have had lots of witnesses. … We listened to [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff [D-Calif.] drone on for three days, and the president’s lawyers in just two hours demolished the case they had made,” he said.
“They’re not upset that they haven’t had witnesses. They’re upset that their witnesses haven’t said what they want them to say,” he added.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), meanwhile, decried the call for witnesses as an attempt to prolong the trial as the chamber’s GOP majority seeks a speedy resolution.
“They wanted to move as fast as possible, and now they want to slow down the trial as much as possible in the Senate,” Lankford said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s just a very odd political strategy for them more than a fact-finding strategy.”
The vote on whether to call witnesses, which will likely take place this week, has become a central question in the impeachment trial. Democrats tried to include a requirement to vote on individual witnesses and documents in the organizing resolution that set the rules for the trial, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the votes to shoot down the amendments and punt the question of witnesses until after both sides deliver opening statements.
Democrats want to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Last week, they dismissed an idea floated by Republicans of “witness reciprocity,” which would allow Republicans to call a witness they want to hear from, such as former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, in exchange for each Democratic witness called.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) quoted the musical “Hamilton” in explaining her request for witnesses, saying, “I want to hear from the men — to quote the Founding Fathers musical — to hear from the men in the room where it happened. … That is people like Mr. Bolton and Mick Mulvaney.”
Democrats say Bolton and Mulvaney have firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine but that Hunter Biden’s testimony is irrelevant because he doesn’t. Trump’s allies contend that information from Hunter Biden could unravel the beginnings of the investigation.
The House’s impeachment managers also defended how the trial has been conducted thus far, with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) calling on Trump to “get a grip” after a Sunday morning tweet in which he said Schiff “has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country.”
“The president has a tendency to say things that seem threatening to people,” Lofgren said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Lofgren also called on senators to vote for witnesses as a “favor” to the country, saying, “I think the country wants a complete picture. The senators have an opportunity to do it. … I think they would be doing themselves a favor as well as the country a favor.”
Schiff also responded to Trump’s tweet, saying it was “intended as a threat.”
“It is going to be very difficult for some of these senators to stand up to this president. It really is. There’s just no question about it,” Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I want to acknowledge that, and I don’t want to acknowledge it in a way that is offensive to them, but I do want to speak candidly about it.”
Schiff also called on Chief Justice John Roberts to rule on the relevance of testimony from Hunter Biden if he is called to testify.
“We have a very capable justice sitting right behind me who can make decisions about the materiality of witnesses,” he said. “We trust the Supreme Court chief justice to make those decisions.”