Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “increasingly confident” that the GOP will have enough votes to block the Democrats from bringing witnesses to the floor in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial “by Friday,” despite efforts on the part of moderate Republican Senators, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) to whip votes in support of calling former national security advior John Bolton to the witness stand.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that McConnell is desperately whipping his caucus, looking for the votes needed to block efforts at forcing witness testimony, adding that McConnell’s vote count “wasn’t where it needed to be.” A White House source told the Journal, though, that McConnell and administration allies in Senate Republican leadership were “still in the game.”
A vote on whether to allow witness testimony is currently scheduled for Friday.
In recent days, several Republicans have expressed a desire to hear from, at least, Bolton, whose new book, “The Room Where It Happened” apparently includes new information linking Trump’s denial of foreign aid to Ukraine with his desire to see Ukrainian officials dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But those claims are as yet unverified, and White House lawyers, in their closing arguments in the Senate yesterday, cast doubt on Bolton’s credibility as a witness — and on whether such a claim even rises to the level of an impeachable offense.
Separately, reports surfaced that acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, could take the witness stand to dispute Bolton’s assertions, giving some Senators, in favor of removing Trump from office, pause.
McConnell has allies in his fight to prevent witness testimony, the WSJ reports, and in a “secret” meeting held late Tuesday, he and other Republicans Senators made the argument that any witness testimony — even arguably relevant witness testimony — would do little to change the outcome of the trial and would simply provide Democrats with more ammunition for campaign commercials, partisan attacks, and further House inquiries. No Democrat is likely to be waved away from convicting Trump by Bolton or Mulvaney; they simply want witness testimony to injure the president further.
“Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who face competitive races in the fall, addressed their colleagues in the meeting, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Gardner said a longer trial would lead to more Democratic attacks, according to a spokesman, and Mr. Tillis called impeachment a sham. Ms. McSally’s office said she doesn’t comment on what happens in private meetings.”
According to reporters covering the trial, McConnell seems concerned less with witnesses than with trial length. The longer the Senate trial wears on, the more likely it is to impact the president, and the Senate Majority leader wants things “wrapped up.”
I’m at the Senate and it’s clear to me, based on background conversations with several GOP senators, that McConnell is wary of calling witnesses and doesn’t want the trial to get out of control for his party. “Mitch wants this done,” said one of them.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 28, 2020
Wednesday morning, that looks more likely. The latest reports coming out from the Senate all seem to indicate that McConnell is confident that he can put together a coalition of Senators unconvinced by the House managers’ impeachment case, to vote to end the Senate trial.
“Republicans feel increasingly confident about prevailing,” Politico reports. “In the meeting, critics of hearing from witnesses made a ‘strong’ case against voting for new evidence, according to two attendees. A third attendee who opposes new witnesses said the meeting seemed to solidify the position against new witnesses and documents: ‘I feel good.'”
A “feeling of calm had been restored” in the GOP caucus by the end of the day on Tuesday, Politico adds.