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Here's Why John Bolton Probably Won't Testify in Trump's Impeachment Trial After All

Two Republican moderates and swing votes just caved to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

by Cameron Joseph
Jan 7 2020, 3:56pm

WASHINGTON — Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is suddenly willing to testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial. But, at least for now, it doesn’t look like the Senate will hear him out.

That's because a pair of moderate Republicans who are key swing votes on setting the rules for the trial said they wouldn’t push to subpoena Bolton to begin the trial — a win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump.

“I believe that the Senate should follow the precedent that was established in the trial of President Clinton, where we had three stages,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters Monday evening, throwing cold water on Democrats’ push to immediately subpoena Bolton.

“First, we heard opening statements from both sides. Then senators submitted our own questions through the chief justice,” Collins continued. “And then, we took up the issue of witnesses.”

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McConnell has steadfastly refused to entertain bringing in new witnesses to begin the Senate impeachment trial, arguing they should stick close to the rules that governed President Clinton’s impeachment trial two decades ago. In that trial, no new witnesses were considered until after both sides presented their case.

But Democrats say that’s not fair. They want key fact witnesses who’ve so far refused to testify. Clinton’s impeachment took place after an extensive special counsel investigation, while a number of top current and former Trump administration officials — with Bolton chief among them — have until now stonewalled the impeachment proceedings.

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another key moderate Republican on impeachment, agrees with Collins — and McConnell.

“We’ve got to get to the first place first, which is starting [the trial],” she told reporters.

The only Republican who sounded open to Democrats’ arguments on Tuesday was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who said he’d “like to hear what he [Bolton] has to say” but refused to say if he’d back a push to subpoena Trump’s top former adviser.

But even if Romney goes along with them, Democrats need four Republicans to side with them to get their way on anything in the Senate impeachment trial, which requires majority support for its rules.

Without Murkowski and Collins, that’s almost impossible.

Cover: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) walk together as they arrive to a closed-door lunch meeting of GOP Senators at the U.S. Capitol, October 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Susan Collins
Lisa Murkowski