I think he and the Democrats are fine with either outcome at this point. They’d like to have Bolton testify because it’s increasingly clear that Bolton would have unkind things to say about Trump and the Ukraine matter, but it’s hard to know for sure just how unkind they’d be. If he stopped short of claiming Trump personally said anything incriminating, his testimony would be a bust. And that would color public perceptions of the entire Democratic case.
It’s also hard to say for sure that Dems would benefit politically more from an acquittal after Bolton testified than they would from an acquittal if Republicans blocked him. If Bolton is called and the GOP declares Trump not guilty anyway, Republicans get to tell the public that they did a diligent job and carefully considered the Democrats’ “blockbuster” testimony before concluding that the quid pro quo just isn’t a high crime or misdemeanor. Whereas if Bolton isn’t called and the GOP declares Trump not guilty, Schumer gets to spend the next nine months accusing them of a sham verdict that involved suppressing key evidence in the case, very possibly buttressed by John Bolton himself. The book is coming eventually, and the book tour. And the guy is clearly eager to speak, per his announcement this month that he’d testify if subpoenaed.
At this point, given all the dribbles of damaging info over the past few days, it wouldn’t surprise me if he leaked something big tonight for tomorrow’s papers, right before the Senate vote on witnesses. Or if he just turned up on the news somewhere tomorrow morning and gave an interview that put the GOP in a box.
Either way, Schumer and the Dems get something out of this no matter how the vote goes down. And Schumer’s right when he says in the clip that the public is on his side on the issue of calling witnesses. They’re not on his side on the broader issue of removal — that’s been a 50/50 issue, more or less, from the moment Trump was impeached in mid-December. But I can’t recall a single poll over the last few weeks showing less than majority support for calling witnesses. Sometimes that support is north of 60 percent; yesterday Quinnipiac placed it at 75 percent(!). The wrinkle for Dems is that at the moment a large minority, sometimes even a plurality, of Republicans is also keen to hear witnesses, hoping to finally be able to grill Hunter Biden and possibly the whistleblower. If no witnesses end up being called and Trump celebrates that outcome, it’ll cool some of the Republican support in polling.
But maybe not independents. There were at 75/18 in favor of calling witnesses in the Quinnipiac data. That’s fertile ground potentially for Democratic “cover-up!” talking points.
Senate Republicans have been coy today about where things stand but there were signs this morning that McConnell will get his wish:
There was no discussion of witnesses at a Senate GOP lunch meeting Wednesday, which was held a couple hours after McConnell and Murkowski met for about 20 to 30 minutes.
That was seen as a sign by several senators that Democrats will fail to convince four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses. Without a vote to hear from witnesses, the trial could end as soon as Friday.
“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said following the meeting.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), emerging from the lunch, said, “I think I can say the mood is good.”
Murkowski wasn’t there. I think she’ll eventually join Collins and Romney in voting yes, but that 51st vote is elusive. Pat Toomey made pretty clear earlier that he’s a no. Lamar Alexander’s not going to cross McConnell. Former stalwart Trump critics Mike Lee and Ben Sasse? Don’t make me laugh.
Come to think of it, if we’re headed for a 50/50 stalemate, maybe Murkowski will do McConnell a favor and vote no to avoid it. She won’t be punished back home either way and it’s nice to have the majority leader owe you a favor, especially when you represent a state that receives a lot of federal money. Besides, Murkowski has crossed Trump before (e.g., Kavanaugh) and doubtless will again. It’ll be useful to her to have some “good soldier” cred to point to the next time it happens. “I was with you on impeachment, wasn’t I?”
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 29, 2020