“He has firsthand information and assuming that articles of impeachment reach the Senate, I’d like to hear what he has to say,” Romney told the Salt Lake Tribune. Romney is the first and currently the only GOP senator who wants to hear from Bolton, who on Monday said he would be willing to testify during Trump’s trial.
Regardless of what Romney has said, two other moderates, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have signaled that they would follow the direction from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by issuing comments that they would vote to hold a trial without voting on witnesses first. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has frequently said that a minimum of four Republicans would need to defect from their party to join Democrats on voting to hear from witnesses.
Republicans enjoy a 53-seat advantage in the Senate, and a vote on trial rules needs a simple majority, or 51 votes, to pass.
Democrats were hoping to drive a wedge between moderate Republicans and McConnell in pressing to allow for Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify at the trial, while also seeking to subpoena documents related to Trump’s Ukraine policies.
“I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this … and that was to go through a first phase, and then they reassessed after that,” Murkowski told reporters on Monday after she left McConnell’s office in Washington. “I think what we need to do is get to the first step.”
Collins told reporters Monday that she approves of McConnell’s plan.
“I believe that the Senate should follow the precedent that was established in the trial of President Clinton, where we had three stages,” Collins said. “First, we heard opening statements from both sides, then senators submitted our own questions through the chief justice.”
“And then, we took up the issue of witnesses,” she added.
McConnell has stated that the Senate will decide on the witnesses they would like call before the initial phases of the trial are complete. What’s more, he argued on the Senate floor, the upper chamber needs to follow the precedent that was set during the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton
He warned that the Senate shouldn’t “deviate from a unanimous bipartisan precedent set in the 1999 trial of President Clinton and write new rules for President Trump.”