Senate Republicans and Democrats had already heard much of the evidence House managers presented during the first week of President Trump’s impeachment trial last week.
But the most predictable proceeding could change dramatically this week if senators vote to subpoena new witnesses and documents that could extend the trial for weeks and provide potentially explosive new evidence damaging to both parties.
Democrats who charge the president with abusing the power of his office believe they can make their case most effectively if they summon former national security adviser John Bolton to testify about the president’s decision to withhold critical security aid from Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, plans to force a vote by midweek that would summon Bolton, who said he would serve as a witness if asked.
“We see the need for relevant witnesses and documents,” Schumer said during a break in the trial on Thursday.
Republicans believe it’s time to subpoena Hunter Biden as a trial witness. Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, took a lucrative position on a Ukrainian gas company’s board. At the same time, his father served as the Ukraine point person under President Barack Obama.
The impeachment charges against Trump allege that he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for the security aid.
House impeachment managers argued extensively during the trial that there was no conflict of interest when Hunter Biden took a job on the board of Burisma Holdings. They also argued Joe Biden did nothing wrong when, during his time as vice president, he sought the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma.
“I think it’s now clear we absolutely must call Hunter Biden, and we probably need to call Joe Biden,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said after House impeachment managers delivered their opening-day arguments.
While the two parties seek to justify their cases with additional witnesses, they are refusing the typical trade-off that senators engage in to complete legislative deals.
There will be no deal on witnesses, Schumer said last week.
Democrats don’t want either of the Bidens subjected to questioning in the trial. Joe Biden also declared last week he would not participate if summoned.
“There are no discussions with Republicans,” Schumer said. “We are not trading.”
Without a deal, the impeachment trial may come to an end without calling for any new witnesses or documents.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, will hold a vote this week that will determine whether the Senate wants to call witnesses or seek new evidence.
Republicans control 53 votes and could block a vote to call witnesses.
Democrats feel confident the presentation of their case will convince four Republicans to side with them and provide the majority needed to win subpoenas for the additional witnesses and documents.
Democrats want to summon four Trump administration officials, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as four sets of documents related to phone calls between Trump and the president of Ukraine.
They touted new polls showing a bipartisan majority of voters want the Senate to seek further evidence during the trial.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found 72% of adults believe senators “should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify.” Among those favoring new witness testimony, 84% identified as Democrats, and 69% said they were Republicans.
“I am more confident than ever that four brave and conscientious Republicans will tell Mitch McConnell, ‘You can’t shut this down without documents and witnesses,’” Schumer told reporters.
So far, none of the GOP senators has declared support for calling new witnesses, and most are instead waiting to hear both sides present arguments.
Democrats said they were talking privately to some Republicans who might be open to witnesses.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have all expressed interest in hearing testimony from Bolton but have not said definitively if they would vote to subpoena him.
Trump has already signaled he’ll move to block Bolton from testifying.
“We are prepared for any contingency that may arise,” Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told reporters in the Capitol last week.
Republicans are ultimately poised to acquit the president of the charges, which many in the party believe are politically motivated and were rushed through the House without due process for the president. It would take 67 votes to convict Trump on either of the two impeachment articles.
“At this point,” Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, told the Washington Examiner during a break in the trial, “I’ve heard nothing new.”
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