Republicans Crafting Way To Avoid Calling Bolton As A Witness

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) (C) talks to reporters before heading into the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senators will vo... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) (C) talks to reporters before heading into the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senators will vote Tuesday on the rules for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, which is expected to last three to five weeks. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 28, 2020 11:17 a.m.

The Ukraine bombshell revealed in former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s unpublished manuscript has made it more difficult for Republican senators to insist that additional witness testimony is unnecessary. 

The previously unreported episode, where President Donald Trump allegedly told Bolton that the withheld military aid was linked to investigations into Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, bolstered the already very good case that Bolton would be a witness with germane, first-hand knowledge of the pressure campaign. 

Now, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) seems to be crafting an off-ramp from calling Bolton to testify for himself and his Republican peers. 

He proposed Tuesday that Bolton’s manuscript be given to the senators in a classified setting for individual review. He also urged Bolton to speak out publicly about his experiences — just not in the Senate. 

“I think getting that information first-hand would be really important for us,” Lankford said, per the Oklahoman. “My encouragement would be: If John Bolton’s got something to say, there’s plenty of microphones all over the country that he should step forward and start talking about it right now.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has already jumped aboard, saying that he “totally supports” Lankford’s proposal. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told a Blaze reporter that it “might be helpful” to read the manuscript in private.

The proposal is a duplicitous way for Republicans to “support” hearing from Bolton without having to concede to calling witnesses. Most Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have been staunchly against the idea of calling witnesses, who may present new and damaging information further implicating Trump. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) immediately bashed the proposal.

“This is a book, there’s no need for it to be read in the SCIF [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] unless you want to hide something!” he said at a press conference Tuesday.

Republicans have been reduced to arguing that inclusion of new evidence would drag the trial out, and, speciously, that it was the House’s job to call the witnesses.

At least a couple of GOP Senators seemed swayed in favor of calling witnesses Monday, after Bolton’s reveal went public.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said that it seems “increasingly likely” that other Republicans will want to hear from him.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that she was already inclined to support calling witnesses, but that the Bolton news “strengthened the case” for their inclusion.

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