Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters Monday morning that Republicans are now “likely” to vote to call witnesses to testify in front of President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial following revelations Sunday night that former White House national security advisor John Bolton wrote about President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian officials in his forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened.”
Democrats need four Republican Senators to agree to hear additional witness testimony in order to bring Bolton and others to the Senate floor. So far, though, only three Republicans — Romney, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — were publicly supportive of adding witnesses to the current Senate trial. A fourth vote was elusive — until apparently, Monday.
Romney told reporters Monday morning that it is “increasingly likely” that votes are piling on.
Romney: "Increasingly like" other Senate Republicans will want to hear from John Bolton pic.twitter.com/N0nWH8QCHH
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 27, 2020
The reports from Sunday night were unsettling, Republicans claim. Bolton, the Washington Examiner reports, says “Trump told him that he wanted to keep security assistance to Ukraine frozen until the government moved forward on investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 campaign. The claim is significant because if Bolton were to testify to that effect, it would be the first time that any official would have said they directly heard Trump tie the aid to the investigations — an issue that is at the heart of the impeachment debate.”
Part of the problem seems to be that Senate Republicans felt “blindsided” by news reports that appeared Sunday night. The New York Times reported Monday that Senate Republicans were speaking to the White House about the issue, and that many feel betrayed, given that the National Security Council has been reviewing Bolton’s book for some time, and could have warned the White House about its contents well before it became available to reviewers and reporters.
President Donald Trump lashed out at Bolton on Monday on Twitter.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump wrote. “With that being said, the transcripts of my calls with President Zelensky are all the proof that is needed, in addition to the fact that President Zelensky & the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said there was no pressure and no problems.”
Bolton’s attorney also released a statement, but did not deny the New York Times’ report on the book’s contents. Instead, they claim that the NSC’s review process was “corrupted.”
BREAKING: Statement from Bolton's lawyer Chuck Cooper. Story TK. pic.twitter.com/u3JOV7l5dD
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) January 27, 2020
At the very least though, Republicans, now unsure of whether the Trump White House’s official line of defense on Ukraine, may be rattled enough to seek information from Bolton — something Bolton said, several weeks ago, that he’d be more than willing to provide. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the administration’s best friends in the Senate, was concerned enough to pull out of a press conference Monday morning.
Although Romney and others seem convinced that testmony would be limited to Biden, and that it’s simply “fact-checking” that won’t end up a media and partisan circus, allowing Bolton to testify could open the door to a parade of witnesses, depending on whom Bolton mentions during his Q&A.