Both in front of the cameras and behind closed doors, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (UT) has embraced the role of leader of the Senate resistance to the party line on impeachment witnesses — and some of his colleagues are making brutally clear how they feel about it.
In a private lunch with fellow Senate Republicans Monday, the frequent critic of President Trump reportedly “made a strong pitch” for calling additional witnesses for the Senate trial, according to Politico’s sources.
In addition to trying to convince fellow Republicans to defect behind the scenes, Romney is going public with his plea. “The article in the New York Times I think made it pretty clear that [Bolton] has some information that may be relevant,” he said Monday, as reported by Politico. “And I’d like to hear relevant information before I made a final decision.”
The move followed reports based on the leaked manuscript of John Bolton’s upcoming book that reportedly claims that Trump “told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” as The New York Times reported Sunday.
While Romney has long supported calling witnesses, the conveniently timed leaks have given the Utah Senator and two of his centrist Republican colleagues, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, additional grounds for making the demands. All the trio needs is one additional Republican defector to side with Democrats to force additional witnesses in the trial, prime among them Bolton.
According to Romney, the claims in Bolton’s book has made it “increasingly likely” that his fellow Republicans will call Bolton to testify:
Romney: "Increasingly like" other Senate Republicans will want to hear from John Bolton pic.twitter.com/N0nWH8QCHH
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 27, 2020
Despite his public optimism about winning the witness argument, as Politico notes, the three moderate senators’ appeals seem to be going “nowhere,” and multiple Republican Senators have come forward to push back on Romney’s case for calling witnesses.
As The Daily Wire reported Monday, in a social media post that’s gained a lot of attention online, newly sworn-in Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler (GA) — who, along with her husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, donated more than $1.5 million to a pro-Romney super PAC in 2012 — slammed Romney for his attempt to “appease the left.”
“After 2 weeks, it’s clear that Democrats have no case for impeachment,” she tweeted Monday. “Sadly, my colleague [Senator Romney] wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the [Donald Trump] during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It’s time to move on!”
After 2 weeks, it’s clear that Democrats have no case for impeachment. Sadly, my colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It’s time to move on! #gapol
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) January 27, 2020
Politico highlights a few other strong responses from Republican senators to Romney’s witness push:
“I’d rather he not” push for witnesses, said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). “He isn’t all that close to the administration. … I don’t agree with him.”
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) has compared Romney to “Jeff Flake on steroids,” and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) asserted last fall that Romney “thinks the worst of the president.” Trump himself called Romney a “pompous ass” when he expressed concerns about asking other countries to investigate Joe Biden.
Sen. Mark Meadows (R-NC) has also addressed the issue of calling witnesses, sending a clear message to his colleagues considering caving to Democrats’ demands during an interview with CBS News Monday, as The Daily Wire reported. Asked if he thinks his colleagues with “face political repercussions if they break with the president,” Meadows said, “Yeah, I do. I mean, listen, I don’t wanna speak for my Senate colleagues. But there are always political repercussions for every vote you take. There is no vote that is higher-profile than this.”
“I’m also one that believes that when you get close to the president, whether it be his chief of staff or his national security advisor, you have to allow for that free flow of conversation back and forth, where ideas can be shared,” Meadows explained earlier in the interview. “And so I do believe that executive privilege should be invoked on that and that we shouldn’t hear from Ambassador Bolton.”