January 07, 2020

Trump Wavers Over Impeachment Trial With Bolton Offer Now in Mix
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump is wavering over how he wants his impeachment trial in the Senate to unfold, people familiar with his thinking said, but an offer by his former top national security aide to testify challenged Republican plans for a quick proceeding.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave no indication that John Bolton’s willingness to testify was putting pressure on him to yield to Democrats’ demands for additional witness testimony. At least one GOP senator expressed an interest in hearing from Bolton but didn’t back a subpoena.The terms of a trial are crucial to how the case ultimately is perceived by voters before the November elections, and even Republicans haven’t agreed on how to proceed, though McConnell has early support from key moderates. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is withholding the articles of impeachment approved last month by the House as a way to influence terms of the trial.Trump and other Republicans have been pressing for a swift resolution -- either a trial or a dismissal, citing a need for the president to focus on other matters such as fallout from the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. However the trial unfolds, the chances the GOP-led Senate would remove Trump from office are remote.Trial or DismissalTrump’s thinking on Senate proceedings remains fluid, according to the people, who asked for anonymity to describe the president’s private comments. As he returned to Washington from Florida aboard Air Force One on Sunday night, the president said he either wants a trial or a dismissal.“I would personally be very happy with a trial, but I would live with a trial or a motion to dismiss,” Trump said. The next morning, he underscored the urgency for some kind of resolution in a series of tweets on impeachment, saying: “Get this done.”Trump hasn’t decided if he’d allow top aides or former officials to testify or if he wants witnesses at all, three people familiar with the matter said. The president considers the impeachment trial to be McConnell’s process, two of them said.Yet the president has expressed interest in hearing from at least one witness: The whistle-blower whose complaint triggered the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment. Democrats staunchly oppose that effort, saying the person’s anonymity must be preserved.Complicating CalculationsBolton’s announcement that he would testify, if subpoenaed, may complicate Republicans’ calculations. Bolton earlier refused to testify before the House, at the direction of the White House, and if the Senate GOP shows no interest in his testimony, party leaders would be forced to explain why they don’t want a top aide offering first-hand details to appear.Some Republicans already are offering a rationale.“My construction of our constitutional duties is to try the articles of impeachment that are delivered, not to try and tease out new articles by receiving testimony,” said Senator Todd Young of Indiana.But Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said that “of course” he’d like to hear from Bolton, though he didn’t indicate whether he’d vote with Democrats to call him as a witness.It’s unclear whether Bolton’s testimony would help or hurt the president. The former national security adviser was one of the central figures in White House conversations about Ukraine that led to Trump’s impeachment.Private ConversationsBolton could potentially offer testimony about what Trump said privately during his effort to force Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. He would be the most senior Trump White House aid to testify in impeachment proceedings.As the wrangling over how to move forward continues, Trump raised $46 million in the fourth quarter, a record for him that Campaign Manager Brad Parscale attributed to backlash over impeachment.McConnell so far appears to be waiting for Pelosi to send impeachment articles to the Senate to decide how to proceed.McConnell said Friday he wants to copy rules that governed former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Those set parameters for the early stages of the proceedings, though not later ones, including witnesses, he said.“We should address mid-trial questions such as witnesses after briefs, opening arguments, senator questions and other relevant motions,” McConnell said.No Republican senator has opposed McConnell’s position, indicating he will probably have enough votes to adopt the Clinton rules and punt on the question of calling witnesses. Susan Collins of Maine backed McConnell and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the Senate must first get the articles of impeachment from the House.‘Disguised Trap’Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell’s “proposal to vote on witnesses and documents later is nothing more than a poorly disguised trap.”Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri on Monday introduced a resolution that would empower the Senate to dismiss the case if they don’t receive articles of impeachment within 25 days of a House vote. Ten fellow Republicans co-sponsored the resolution, which is unlikely to pass.McConnell said Friday that “we can’t hold a trial without the articles. The Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that.” Changing the Senate rules would take 67 votes. Republicans control just 53 votes in the chamber.Trump has expressed confidence in how the Senate GOP will handle impeachment.“Republicans are fighting tough, it’s good,” he said last week at a campaign event.\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams, Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis, Laura Litvan and Jennifer A. Dlouhy.To contact the reporter on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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