Jan 28, 2020

McConnell says Republicans do not yet have the votes to block witnesses

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.

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Republicans increasingly confident they'll sink witness vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks through the Capitol Building. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

As the Senate prepares for another long day of Q&A, Republicans seem increasingly confident that at least 51 senators will vote Friday to prevent bringing additional witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial.

The bottom line: The whip count is still fluid, but GOP senators are far more optimistic after yesterday's eight-hour session than they were following their closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 30, 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

Poll: 75% of Americans say witnesses should testify at impeachment trial

President Trump addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Jan. 21. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

75% of registered voters say witnesses should be allowed to testify in President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, a Quinnipiac University poll published Tuesday finds.

Between the lines: 49% of Republicans surveyed say they support having witnesses, a sign that they may be hoping to hear from Hunter Biden on his work in Ukraine more than former national security adviser John Bolton.

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Keep ReadingArrowJan 29, 2020