Washington: Senate Republican leaders remained optimistic Thursday that they can knock down an attempt to call more witnesses during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and wrap up the whole thing by the weekend. But they don’t have it in the bag just yet.
It will all come to a head Thursday night when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a key swing vote, plans to announce his decision.
The pool of potential yes votes for witnesses is continuing to shrink, with few undecided Republican senators left to join the 47 Senate Democrats who will vote to extend the trial and hear new evidence. All speculation in the Senate centers on Alexander and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The two Republican senators were still undecided as of Thursday evening and met privately, according to a person familiar with the GOP conference’s dynamics.
Republicans anticipate at least one will side with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and sink the witness vote, though they concede the final tally is up in the air, according to senators and aides. McConnell told reporters Thursday he’s “always” confident. A White House official said the vote tally is still in flux.
Pressure on Republicans had intensified after The New York Times reported on Sunday that former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his forthcoming book that the president told him last year he would withhold military aid to Ukraine until the country investigated his political rivals.
GOP leadership is beginning to think now about the endgame of the trial, strategizing how to end things quickly if the vote to seek more evidence fails on Friday. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) isn’t going to just roll over and allow a quick acquittal of Trump, but Republicans say they will move to a final vote on a verdict as soon as they can.