McConnell Says GOP Doesn't Have Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell had told GOP leaders in a private meeting that he doesn't currently have enough votes to block impeachment witnesses.

Republican leaders said they don’t currently have enough votes to block witnesses in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, after his legal team concluded its efforts to counter Democrats’ charges that the president abused power and obstructed Congress.

On the third and final day of presentations by the Trump legal team, lawyers tried to cast doubts on the importance and credibility of allegations by former national security adviser John Bolton about the president’s motives for freezing aid to Ukraine.

But at a meeting of all Republican senators late Tuesday, GOP leaders told their conference that they don’t currently have the votes to prevent witnesses from being called, people familiar with the matter said. Republicans had hoped to wrap up the trial with an acquittal of the president by this week, but Democrats have said he should appear under oath to offer a firsthand account of the president’s motivations for freezing aid to Ukraine—a matter at the heart of the impeachment case.

A whip count on the issue of witnesses had been taken, and McConnell said the vote total "wasn’t where it needed to be."

A source close to McConnell confirmed the story to Fox News:

The White House's plans for a speedy trial were thrown into doubt with Senate Republicans on Tuesday floating competing proposals on how to deal with new explosive revelations from ex-national security adviser John Bolton that have the potential to blow up the  impeachment trial -- and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling Republicans he doesn’t have enough votes to block the calling of impeachment witnesses.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Trump's defense team has been preparing for the possibility that the Senate will vote in favor of calling more witnesses, including going to court to fight a subpoena for John Bolton’s testimony.

While the GOP may not be able to block new witnesses from testifying in the Senate trial, there will certainly be a new debate over who will get called.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa./), who may be one of the Republican Senators who supports having new witnesses, "re-upped the idea of witness reciprocity as a way to hear from Bolton but also gain testimony from Hunter Biden or Joe Biden in return," according to Fox News. Democrats have consistently shut down the idea of making any deals on witnesses, which suggests that this issue is far from resolved.

Jerry Nadler has previously suggested that he'd rather have no new witnesses than to have Hunter or Joe Biden testify. It will be interesting to see how Republicans who support new witnesses in the Senate trial would respond to such a scenario where Democrats would refuse to allow the Bidens or any inculpatory witnesses the opportunity to testify in exchange for witnesses they'd like to call.

This story is developing.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama's Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis