Advertisement

McConnell concedes, says he doesn’t have votes to block impeachment witnesses: source

As Trump legal team wraps up arguments, calls for witnesses in impeachment trial intensifies
WATCH ABOVE: As Trump legal team wraps up arguments, calls for witnesses in impeachment trial intensifies

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators privately Tuesday he does not yet have the votes to block new witnesses in U.S. President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial.

McConnell convened a closed-door meeting of GOP senators shortly after Trump’s legal team made its closing arguments in the trial, the third and final day of defence proceedings punctuated by revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. A Republican familiar with the meeting was not authorized to describe it by name and requested anonymity.

The GOP leader faced a handful of potential defections, but several days remained before any potential witness vote would be taken.

READ MORE: Trump impeachment: Defence concludes arguments as pressure for witnesses grows

A decision to call more witnesses would need 51 votes to pass. With a 53-seat majority, Republicans can only afford to lose three Republicans to prevent more debate over witnesses.

Story continues below advertisement

McConnell has been trying to prevent a prolonged trial. Republicans were warned that subpoenaing testimony from Bolton or other witnesses could run quickly into legal challenges that could drag out for weeks.

But Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has said he wants to hear what Bolton has to say. Two other Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also want to hear from more witness.

Schiff says Trump impeachment defence team ‘reeling’ from revelation about John Bolton’s book
Schiff says Trump impeachment defence team ‘reeling’ from revelation about John Bolton’s book

The White House has blocked its aides from appearing in the impeachment proceedings and would almost certainly claim some sort of executive privilege or national security objections over Bolton testifying.

One closely watched Republican, retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told reporters as he exited the private meeting he would wait for the next few days of the trial and make his decision.

Some senators have discussed trying to reach a deal with Democrats in which each side would call a witness _ for example, Bolton and Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice-President Joe Biden whose work in Ukraine has been referenced by Trump’s team in the impeachment proceedings. Such a deal, so far, has had few takers as most Republicans don’t want to hear from Bolton and few Democrats want to draw the Bidens into the impeachment proceedings.