Both Senate leaders took the floor for their planned addresses Monday, hours after former National Security Adviser John Bolton dropped the bombshell news that he’d be willing to testify in the impeachment trial if subpoenaed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referenced the news only obliquely, signaling that Bolton’s decision did not alter how he intends to go forward.
Democrats “are pursuing avenues that Chairman Schiff himself didn’t bother to pursue,” he said, adding later that “the Senate does not just bob along on the currents of every news cycle.”
McConnell also advocated for starting the trial now and figuring out witnesses later. Democrats object to that idea, not least because it removes all the leverage they currently have in withholding the articles of impeachment.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took the floor a few minutes later, not mincing words about the optics of Republicans blocking such a big-ticket witness, now that Bolton publicly voiced his willingness to testify.
“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new and relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we’ve requested, they would make it absolutely clear they are participating in a coverup of one of the most sacred duties we have in this Congress, in this Senate —and that is to keep a President in check,” he said.
He emphasized that Democrats only need four Republicans to defect to summon Bolton, along with other witnesses, and to obtain critical documents.
Bolton announced earlier on Monday that he would testify, saying that he “had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study” after a judicial decision he was waiting on fell through. He’d piggybacked on his deputy Charles Kupperman’s case, waiting for a judge to decide if a House subpoena or White House gag took precedence.
The House withdrew Kupperman’s subpoena, choosing to focus on witnesses willing to testify and lump the rest in with the case for the White House’s obstruction. Bolton was never subpoenaed.
Democrats have long desired the testimony of the man who called the Ukraine pressure campaign a “drug deal” and Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Multiple witnesses recalled during the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings that Bolton was an objector to the backchannel negotiations, and that he directed some of them to pass their concerns up the chain of command.
Bolton left the administration on September 10.