Schumer: Vote to Call Impeachment Witnesses Is ‘Uphill Fight’

January 30, 2020 Updated: January 30, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) conceded on Jan. 30 that his caucus and House impeachment managers likely will not convince four Republican swing-vote senators to vote for more witnesses during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

“I hope we can get witnesses and documents. It’s an uphill fight. Is it more likely than not? Probably no. But is it a decent, good chance? Yes,” he told reporters on Jan. 29.

“The president and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell put huge pressure on these folks,” Schumer said, referring to the Republican senators. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have been floated as possible swing-voters, while Collins and Romney have both suggested the need to call former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness.

Schumer, on Jan. 30, said that his “focus is getting four Republicans” to vote on witnesses, and Democrats “shouldn’t rely on” Chief Justice John Roberts to act. “We don’t know what the four witnesses will say,” he said. “They might be exculpatory. They might be … incriminating.”

At the same press conference, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he hopes there are at least “three Republican senators who are seriously considering joining” Democrats’ push to vote for witnesses.

The question on whether to call witnesses was muddied this week after a report from The New York Times was published, alleging that Bolton’s forthcoming book contained details of him seeing Trump link the provision of military aid to Ukraine to investigations. Trump has categorically denied the allegations in the NY Times report.

House Democrats voted to impeach Trump on two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and alleged that the president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals. Trump and Zelensky have denied there was any pressure campaign.

“Remember Republicans, the Democrats already had 17 witnesses, we were given NONE!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Jan. 29. “Witnesses are up to the House, not up to the Senate. Don’t let the Dems play you!”

Some Republican senators this week sounded optimistic when asked about whether they have the votes to block calling witnesses.

“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told The Hill following a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Jan. 29.

Rounds also told the same publication that they would be able to bypass calling witnesses. “I think we’ll be OK,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also told Fox News that “the president will be acquitted, and I think it will be this week.”