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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

Updated 36 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.