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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.