The House, which is controlled by Democrats, needs a simple majority to impeach Trump; a trial on the articles of impeachment would then commence in the Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Without a two-thirds vote on the articles, Trump would remain in office.
A number of House Republicans and President Trump have said they want to call witnesses during the trial, including House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the person who filed a complaint against Trump, and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden. House Republicans tried multiple times to call witnesses during the impeachment hearings but were blocked by Democratic colleagues.
But a growing number of GOP Senate leaders are suggesting a trial will move quickly, without witnesses.
“I think a protracted period where there are motions to call witnesses offered by both sides and lots of votes … is not going to be terribly popular with either side. I think there’s going to be a desire to wrap this up in at least somewhat of a timely way,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican Senator, told reporters in Washington on Dec. 10, according to the Hill.
While a decision hasn’t been made yet, “there’s going to be a lot of people who I think are going to say, ‘I don’t really want to drag this on.'” he added.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), another Republican Senate leader, said that the GOP doesn’t want to get into a “bidding war” over witnesses.
“When the outcome is almost certain, once both sides have presented their case, I think it would be legitimate to ask, ‘Is there any more that we need to hear that is going to change the result?’ And if not, how much more time is reasonable to spend on this?” Blunt said.
“Surely no one wants to get into a bidding war of upping the ante on who can call what witnesses, just for the sake of calling witnesses.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a press conference on Tuesday that one path would be moving to a vote without witnesses being called.
“It could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial or it could decide—and again, 51 members could make that decision—that they have heard enough and believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment sent over to us by the House. Those are the options. No decisions have been made yet,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said over the weekend that he would not call Schiff as a witness. A vote in a Senate trial could come as soon as the House presents their case—meaning no witnesses are called—provided there’s “nothing new and dramatic,” Graham said.
The last impeachment trial, for President Bill Clinton, included witnesses such as Monica Lewinsky, Sidney Blumenthal, and Vernon Jordan Jr.