As Trump’s impeachment trial moves into the questioning phase, as of now, Republican leaders believe that they do not yet have the votes to block Democrats from summoning John Bolton or other witnesses.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that news to fellow GOP senators late Tuesday. It could be a major hurdle for Trump’s team’s hopes to end the trial with a quick acquittal.
According to a GOP Senator who choose to remain nameless, the news was broken during a meeting that McConnell convened, shortly after Trump’s legal team made its closing arguments in the trial.
Democrats are demanding several witnesses, especially Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who writes in a forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden. That’s the crux of one major article of impeachment against the president.
There are still several days before any potential witness vote would be taken. As the trial resumed on Wednesday, Senators will have two days to ask both sides questions. When the questioning period is done, the Senate’s trial rules dictate there will be four hours of debate and then a vote on whether the Senate should seek witnesses and documents.
A decision to call more witnesses would require 51 votes to pass. With a 53-47 majority, Republicans can only afford to lose three. McConnell’s admission that he is not yet comfortable that he can avoid the necessary defections, came as Trump’s legal team argued forcefully against the relevance of testimony from Bolton and concluded their defense, as the Senate braced for debate on witnesses.
If the Senate defeats any kind of resolution to call witnesses, the trial is likely to head to a quick acquittal.