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Sen. Mitch McConnell. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus Tuesday that Republicans currently lack the votes needed to block witnesses from being called in the impeachment trial against President Trump, but are hopeful they could get there by Friday, three sources familiar with the closed-door meeting tell Axios.

The big picture: Most Republicans have tried to avoid calling witnesses, and just a few days ago it looked like their efforts would be successful. But bombshell revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book have swayed more GOP senators in recent days, with some signaling they're more likely to vote for witnesses than before.

But, but, but: Some Republicans say they feel confident key Republican senators could change their minds on the witness vote after the 16-hour question and answer period that starts Wednesday, with many using the line the trial is "still fluid."

  • GOP leaders signaled on Tuesday that the White House and Trump's Republican allies still have their work cut out for them to reach at least 51 no-votes.

What we're hearing: During the meeting, GOP leaders discussed the politics and dynamics of what a vote in favor of bringing in witnesses would mean. Specifically, they emphasized that a vote in that direction would drag out the impeachment proceedings and could ultimately impact the races of senators’ up for reelection.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz: "We discussed as a conference next steps, and it's no secret that the question of whether additional witnesses are needed or are relevant to the questions before the Senate -- that continues to be a question that is much discussed and debated. ... There are differences of opinion, none of which is terribly surprising."
  • Sen. Kevin Cramer said McConnell did not provide them with a whip count. Rather, the meeting "was a serious family discussion” and that some of his Republican colleagues are still looking at all their options. But he added that in his view, "another question is like another witness. I know I'm not looking for more information to convict the president.”
  • Sen. John Hoeven said the purpose of the meeting was "generally to understand how the Q&A is going to go, and talk about the whole process, as well as the timeline."

State of play: 51 senators need to vote in favor of witnesses. And while Republicans currently control the 53-47 majority, it now appears at least four GOP senators are willing to break from the party line.

  • Meanwhile, recent polls show that Americans favor calling new witnesses.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden taps Brian Deese to lead National Economic Council

Brian Deese (L) in 2015 with special envoy for climate change Todd Stern (C) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R). Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he has selected Brian Deese, a former Obama climate aide and head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to serve as director of the National Economic Council.

Why it matters: The influential position does not require Senate confirmation, but Deese's time working for BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager and an investor in fossil fuels, has made him a target of criticism from progressives.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
28 mins ago - Economy & Business

The places regulation does not reach

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Financial regulation is not exactly simple anywhere in the world. But one country stands out for the sheer amount of complexity and confusion in its regulatory regime — the U.S.

Why it matters: Important companies fall through the cracks, largely unregulated, while others contend with a vast array of regulatory bodies, none of which are remotely predictable.

1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Boeing gets huge 737 Max order from Ryanair, boosting hope for quick rebound

Ryanair low cost airline Boeing 737-800 aircraft as seen over the runway. Photo by Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Dublin-based Ryanair said it would add 75 more planes to an existing order for Boeing's 737 Max airplanes, a giant vote of confidence as Boeing seeks to revive sales of its best-selling plane after a 20-month safety ban following two fatal crashes.

The big picture: Ryanair's big order, on the heels of breakthrough vaccine news, is also a promising sign that the devastated airline industry might recover from the global pandemic sooner than expected.