Jan 19, 2020

What's next in the impeachment witness battle

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senators will almost certainly get to vote on whether or not to call impeachment witnesses. The resolution laying out the rules of the trial, which will be presented Tuesday, is expected to mandate that senators can take up-or-down votes on calling for witnesses and documents.

Yes, but: Those votes won't come until the House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team deliver their opening arguments and field Senators' questions.

  • Some moderate Senate Republicans have pushed for this precise language, including Sen. Susan Collins, who faces a tough re-election. The language is "critical" for her, a source familiar with Collins' thinking told Axios.

What to watch: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also expected to use the vote on the resolution to push Democrats' messaging, with an eye trained on weakening the GOP majority in the Senate and clawing back the more vulnerable seats in November.

  • A Democratic leadership aide told Alayna that they will force votes on subpoenaing key witnesses such as Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney's senior advisor Robert Blair, and top White House budget official Michael Duffey, as well as relevant documents.
  • This has concerned some vulnerable Senate Republicans. "The Democratic amendments that will be offered in the beginning will be designed to screw us," a Republican Senate aide told Axios. "Like, 'How can we cut these to look like an ad?'"

"Democrats are going to try and amend these things until the cows come home, but remember, senators can't talk [during the trial]," a GOP leadership aide said. "So there won't be a clip of Susan Collins voting no on this."

  • Reality check: Although senators are required to remain silent during the trial, all votes will be recorded.
  • "This is not the political silver bullet that Democrats think it will be," the aide added. "Remember that every time Schumer offers up something to tweak our organizing resolution, it's an implicit way of saying that the House investigation came up short."

Meanwhile, a key strategy within the Trump team's defense mechanism is the notion that the articles themselves are not criminal, and therefore are not impeachable offenses, even if proven.

  • In turn, they'll claim this is why the debate over witnesses is bogus.
  • "If a person is indicted on something that is not a crime, you don't call the witnesses," Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump's defense team, said earlier today on CNN's "State of the Union."
  • Expect to hear this line again.

Go deeper: Inside Trump's strategy for blocking impeachment witnesses

Go deeper

Democrats struggle to count to four

McConnell, Alexander and Collins in a hallway at the Capitol last month. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democrats may fall short of securing the minimum number of Republican senators needed to bring new witnesses into President Trump's impeachment trial, 10 senior staffers to key Senate Republicans tell Axios.

The big picture: As of Thursday night, the prevailing view emerging among Republican Senate aides was that Democrats — who need four GOP senators' votes and not to lose any from their own party — will struggle to get more than three.

Go deeperArrowJan 24, 2020

Republicans brace for domino effect on witnesses

Photo: Getty Images

If at least four Senate Republicans decide to vote with Democrats this week to subpoena witnesses and documents in President Trump's impeachment trial, Hill Republicans fear a potential domino effect, with additional GOP senators — especially those up for reelection in November — falling.

What they're saying: “You don’t want to be one of the first four. But no one gives a f*** about the fifth vote,” a GOP senate aide told Axios. “Especially for all of the 2020-ers. If it turns into a free vote, why wouldn’t you vote for witnesses?”

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

McConnell changes rules for Senate impeachment trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to the Senate through the Capitol Rotunda. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revised the terms for President Trump's impeachment trial during Tuesday's proceedings, after his office released the organizing resolution on Monday.

What's new: The House record will be admitted as evidence, but each side retains the ability to raise motions regarding what can be added or struck as evidence, a McConnell spokesperson told Axios. House Democratic managers and Trump's defense team will be given up to 24 hours over three days to present their cases, instead of the two days in McConnell's original draft.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 21, 2020