Senators to Debate Calling Additional Witnesses

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Nearly all Republican senators are expected to oppose hearing from new witnesses like John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser. And they see plenty of reasons to do so.

A vote to summon witnesses for the Senate trial could prolong the proceeding and inject an element of uncertainty, while the defeat of the effort would pave the way for the quick acquittal eagerly awaited by Mr. Trump and his allies in Congress.

Among the arguments the Republicans are using to justify their stance are that hearing from witnesses was the House’s job; that the House did not try hard enough to secure testimony; that House managers already say they have proved their case; and there would be no new information.

President Trump on Friday suggested there was discord among two House impeachment managers, based on the end of the Senate trial’s question and answer session Thursday night when two of the managers appeared to want to answer the same question.

“They are fighting big time!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

The last question of the night came from Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who asked that the House impeachment managers respond to a recent answer from Mr. Trump’s defense team.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York quickly stood and approached the lectern to deliver a response. Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead House manager, tried to prevent Mr. Nadler from answering the question, standing up and quietly saying, “Jerry. Jerry. Jerry.”

Unfazed, Mr. Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, started speaking.

The dynamics between Mr. Nadler and Mr. Schiff have been tense at times during the Senate trial.

At one point last week, Mr. Schiff stepped in to respond to a reporter’s question at a news conference, cutting Mr. Nadler off.

The House managers and Mr. Trump’s defense team will have a break from speaking on Friday while senators debate whether to hear new witnesses.

Credit…Pool photo by Kevin Lamarque

KYIV, Ukraine — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the Trump administration was committed to supporting Ukraine in its defense against aggression by Russia, though he did not offer President Volodymyr Zelensky the one thing he has sought since last May: an invitation to meet President Trump at the White House.

Mr. Pompeo’s visit was aimed at calming unease among Ukrainian officials about the relationship between Washington and Kyiv, which has been thrust into the spotlight because of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

An invitation to meet Mr. Trump at the White House would be an important signal to Russia of American support for Ukraine. Mr. Pompeo’s message that Mr. Trump had no immediate plans to receive Mr. Zelensky at the White House was a blow to the Ukrainian president’s national security efforts.

Ukrainian officials are angry that the Americans have granted Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, two visits with Mr. Trump in the White House, most recently in December.

In renewing his request for a meeting Friday, Mr. Zelensky said, “If there is anything we can negotiate and discuss, and if I can bring something back home, I am ready to go straight away.”

Friday’s session could be definitive, most likely capped by a vote on whether to hear new witnesses, like the former national security adviser John R. Bolton, and consider new evidence. But after that vote, which Republicans are confident will be rejected, things in President Trump’s impeachment trial could become a little messy. Nicholas Fandos, a congressional correspondent for The New York Times, walked me through what to expect.

The trial will resume at 1 p.m., but with a new shape: There will be four hours of debate, split between the House managers and Mr. Trump’s lawyers, on the question of witnesses. We’ll most likely hear Adam Schiff talking one more time about why they need to hear from Mr. Bolton and others. The president’s lawyers will say that if you go down that path, it will open up a Pandora’s box and keep the trial going for weeks more.

After the conclusion of that debate, something unusual could happen: Senators could move into a private deliberation, where they close the doors, kick reporters out of the Senate press gallery and turn off cameras. But that’s unlikely, mostly because we already know how Republicans will vote.

Then, in the late afternoon or early evening, the vote on whether to consider witnesses and documents will take place. Remember: It’s a vote about whether they even want to allow the Senate to consider calling witnesses, not a vote on the witnesses themselves. If the vote fails, the trial is, for all intents and purposes, heading toward a conclusion.

If the Senate does vote to consider witnesses — a big “if,” considering we pretty much know the votes — then we’ll be in an uncertain period where the two legal teams can offer motions on specific people and documents, and each one will get a vote. It would open up a free-for-all in which Democrats could keep demanding votes. The president’s lawyers could demand votes, too, on witnesses like Hunter Biden.

Regardless of how the vote turns out, Senate leaders will likely break to discuss what to do next.

The dinnertime hours could be when things get really messy. The next big step, assuming the witness motion fails, is a vote on each of the impeachment articles. But there are a lot of high jinks Senate Democrats could pull between the witness vote and the verdict, including forcing a bunch of procedural votes. But it’s hard to say exactly what they could do, because they’re still figuring that out. The session could go deep into the night.

If Republicans had their choice, they would vote to acquit Mr. Trump by the end of the night. But that may be difficult. Some senators may want, as they did during the Clinton impeachment, to deliberate a while about final votes, which are expected by Saturday.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, is the rare Senate Republican — actually the lone Senate Republican until late Thursday — vocally pushing for witnesses to be called in President Trump’s impeachment trial. He is also the only Senate Republican who is seen as a possible vote to convict the president, an added distinction since Mr. Trump got every House Republican to fall in line.

All of which places upon Mr. Romney a level of curiosity that goes beyond the quasi-celebrity treatment he already receives as the last pre-Trump standard-bearer of a Republican Party that feels about 80 years removed from the party that nominated him eight years ago.

At least among Democrats lately, Mr. Romney has also become a magnet for nostalgia. “He is a decent, honorable man,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a recent interview. Mr. Biden conceded that it was unlikely that he would be running for president right now if it were Mr. Romney seeking re-election, not Mr. Trump.

“I think this is Senator Romney’s moment to shine,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential candidate who was in Washington for the impeachment trial. She was referring specifically to Mr. Romney’s support for calling witnesses.

“Hopefully he can bring some people with him,” Ms. Klobuchar said. She meant Republicans, a prospect that was looking more and more unlikely. By most indications, Mr. Romney’s ability to recruit Republican colleagues to his position has been minimal at best. After the Senate adjourned Thursday night, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she would vote in favor of considering additional witnesses and documents. But Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee announced he would vote no.

The president has not been shy about heaping scorn upon Mr. Romney. It has created a situation in which some of Mr. Romney’s colleagues have taken their own shots at him, no doubt as a way to prove allegiance to their audience of one in the White House.

Before leaving the sanctuary of his hideaway and heading back to the trial, Mr. Romney grew solemn. “I think of this as an inflection point, politically in our country,” he 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?”

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.
Credit…Image by Doug Mills/The New York Times

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The impeachment trial was upended this week by revelations from John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, that contradict much of President Trump’s defense about freezing aid to Ukraine. The new information, laid out in a manuscript of Mr. Bolton’s coming book, left Republican senators scrambling to assess what else Mr. Bolton might disclose.

For a time, it looked as if the trajectory of the trial could shift. By midweek, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, privately acknowledged that he was uncertain whether he had enough votes to block Democrats from calling witnesses like Mr. Bolton to testify.

But by Thursday, Senate Republicans once again seemed confident that they could prevail in voting down a motion to introduce new witnesses, and potentially fast-track a vote on whether to remove Mr. Trump from office. That seemed even more certain after Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican whose vote is critical for Democrats, said he would vote against calling witnesses.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead House manager, on Thursday worked to sell Republicans on a compromise in which new witnesses could be deposed but their collective testimony would be limited to one week. At the same time, Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, suggested that he was examining ways to stall a final vote to acquit the president, most likely by resorting to procedural tactics.

The vote over witnesses on Friday is likely to determine the remainder of the trial. After a tense week in which it seemed as if lawmakers could be swayed to compel witnesses, each senator will have to make a final decision after debate.

What we’re expecting to see:
The Senate will convene for a highly anticipated debate over whether to subpoena new witnesses and seek additional documents from the Trump administration that could shed more light on the central questions in the impeachment inquiry.

When we’re likely to see it:
The trial will reconvene at 1 p.m. Eastern. Senate rules dictate that there will first be a four-hour debate over new witnesses and documents, followed by a vote. Each side will have two hours.

How to follow it:
The New York Times’s congressional and White House teams will be following all of the developments in Washington and will be streaming the trial live on this page. Stay with us.

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