GOP Senators mull a witness swap for Bolton testimony

Meanwhile, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, wonders if the Trump trial will drain votes from Joe Biden when Iowa casts the first 2020 votes next Monday.

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Senate Impeachment Trial Of President Trump Continues

Trump defense lawyer Ken Starr told the Trump Senate trial Monday the U.S. is in the ‘Age of Impeachment.’

Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, facing the reality on Monday there may be the votes to force witnesses at President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, are talking about witness swaps.

“If we get the witnesses it’ll be a one for one or two for two,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a Senate Republican leader, talking to reporters during the dinner break.

By that he means Hunter Biden traded for ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton; the whistleblower for someone else — Democrats also want acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Fueling this are excerpts from Bolton’s tell-all memoir — out March 17 — bolstering the Democratic case against Trump as he writes about Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Trump’s impeachment trial veered off the path of the predictable Monday. And it’s not clear yet where it will lead. The witness swap is the GOP fallback proposal.

The Senate Democrats have a decent chance of finding four GOP senators to force witnesses to testify at President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial in the wake of a New York Times story breaking Sunday with the bombshell revelations from Bolton, who said he was in the room when Trump talked about freezing Ukraine military aid for personal political gain. Indeed, the title of his book is, “The Room Where It Happened.”

As of Monday evening, it looks like the earliest a vote on witnesses could take place is Friday, Barrasso said.

Bolton’s expose could change the course of Trump’s impeachment trial. Not the final outcome — there are enough Republicans to make sure he is not convicted and removed from office, since that will take a supermajority of 67 votes.

But it takes only a majority, or 51 votes, to allow witnesses.

Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah; Susan Collins of Maine; and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they are open to witnesses. That’s three.

Romney told reporters he’s not sure how Bolton’s testimony will play ultimately, but in the meantime, “I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”

As for a witness swap, Romney said dealing with other witnesses or documents will be “another matter.” He added, “It’s important to be able to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgment.”

Barrasso tried to downplay the impact of Bolton’s potential testimony. “There’s really nothing new here. It does seem to be an effort to sell books.” If there is nothing new, then why has the White House blocked his testimony in the House and now the Senate?

During the trial Monday, Trump’s defense team went on the attack, targeting Hunter Biden — who lives in Beverly Hills — as they said Trump was merely trying to root out corruption. Hunter Biden got a well-paid spot on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company with no obvious qualification except that his father was vice president.

Muddying up Biden in the Trump trial comes a week before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus vote. Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst gleefully noted that during the dinner break scrum with reporters.

Said Ernst, “Iowa caucuses, folks. Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?” 

About Ken Starr

The witness debate outside the Senate chamber is overshadowing the Trump defense inside the room, which featured the debut Monday of Trump lawyer Ken Starr, who, of all people, lamented that we are in the “Age of Impeachment” and that it is happening too “frequently.”  Trump saved celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard Law School professor, for a prime time presentation, alas, well after my deadline.

Starr was the independent counsel who pursued President Bill Clinton and oversaw the drive that turned his sexual escapades into a 1999 Senate impeachment trial. He seemed totally unaware of the irony factor as he lectured the senators about presidential impeachments. Starr is part of two of the three presidential impeachments in U.S. history.

Poor Starr, suffering so. This is just so rich. Said Starr, “Like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell.”

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