Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the original anti-Trumpers who in 2016 tried to block President Donald Trump from getting the party’s presidential nomination, announced that he wants to call additional witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
The action, which Romney had been publicly ruminating about throughout the week, was confirmed by Liz Johnson, Romney’s communications director.
“For those asking: As @SenatorRomney has said, he wants to hear from Ambassador Bolton, and he will vote in favor of the motion today to consider witnesses,” she tweeted.
For those asking: As @SenatorRomney has said, he wants to hear from Ambassador Bolton, and he will vote in favor of the motion today to consider witnesses.
— Liz Johnson (@LJ0hnson) January 31, 2020
The Senate is expected to vote Friday on whether to call witnesses now that the first two phases of the trial are complete.
Each side was given three days to present opening arguments. Senators followed that up with two days of written questions to the two sides.
Democrats have said from the start that they wanted the case sent to the Senate by the House to be augmented with witnesses.
Those calls grew louder after media reports said a book being released in March by former national security adviser John Bolton claims that Trump linked military aid to Ukraine with the country’s willingness to investigate a corruption investigation from 2016 that targeted Hunter Biden, the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, who intervened to derail the investigation.
Trump has denied any connection, but the claim has roiled the waters of Trump’s impeachment trial because it is at the heart of the allegations against him.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she wants to hear from a limited number of witnesses, which would include Bolton.
However, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has said no witnesses are necessary, leaving only Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska among the Republicans who are publicly on the fence over the issue of witnesses.
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats would need four GOP senators to support witnesses in order to extend the trial. As of Friday, that seemed unlikely.
Romney, the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2012, said he believed more testimony was necessary.
“I, of course, will make a final decision on witnesses after we’ve heard from not only the prosecution, but also the defense. But I think at this stage it is pretty fair to say John Bolton has a relevant testimony to provide,” Romney said to reporters, according to the Desert News.
“I know there are some who feel if we open the door, we’d have tons of witnesses and court battles,” Romney said, according to The New York Times.
Many on Twitter took Romney to task for his stand.
2. I guess he wasn’t listening when the president’s lawyers eviscerated the Democrat House managers yesterday. But he is getting lots of fawning press. https://t.co/BL6xH7g7bn
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) January 26, 2020
Mitt Romney is doing a fantastic job of making us all realize how utterly disappointing a Romney presidency would have been.
— ForAmerica (@ForAmerica) January 31, 2020
Mitt Romney is a yes on witnesses because he hates President Trump
Susan Collins is a yes on witnesses because she’s trying to hold on to her seat in a blue state
I’m ok with the latter, not the former https://t.co/U9BZuoGvtn
— Will Chamberlain ?? (@willchamberlain) January 31, 2020
Romney’s plan calls for each side getting one or two witnesses, with each side getting 30 days to have them testify.
“I think of this as an inflection point, politically in our country,” Romney said. “It’s a constitutional issue. I feel a sense of deep responsibility to abide by the Constitution, to determine — absent the pulls from the right and the pulls from the left — what is the right thing to do?”
Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said calling witnesses would set a dangerous precedent, encouraging a future House to send “half-baked” cases to the Senate.
“It will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete,” Philbin said, according to USA Today. “That’s not the way the way that his chamber should allow impeachments to be presented to it.”
Philbin also noted that Bolton has not publicly said whether the report about his book is true.
Jay Sekulow, another defense lawyer for the president, said that if witnesses are allowed, Trump’s defense wants to call the Bidens and the whistleblower whose complaint last summer touched off the impeachment inquiry.
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