Murkowski asks why should Bolton not testify before Senate

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked Thursday why former national security adviser John Bolton should not be called to testify during President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, noting that conflicting accounts about Trump’s decision to delay U.S. aid to Ukraine “weighs in favor” of hearing from additional witnesses. 

Murkowski, who is known for her independent streak, is considered a swing vote whether the Senate will call in witnesses like Bolton. Her question Thursday night, during the second day of a question and answer session, could signal where the senator stands.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge. Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton,” Murkowski asked in a question poised to the White House defense team.

Murkowski noted in her question that U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), an ally of the president, have said Trump did not withhold $391 million in aid to Ukraine as leverage to press Kyiv to open politically beneficial investigations, including one into a 2020 political rival.

She then said that a New York Times report of Bolton’s unpublished manuscript that says the former Trump official was referring to a direct conversation the president about the aid suggests otherwise.

Patrick Philbin, a member of the president’s defense team, argued that the question is one of precedent: The House voted to impeach Trump before it collected all the evidence it wanted to use in the Senate trial. 

“The most important consideration, I think, that this chamber has before it…has to do with the precedent that is established here for what kind of impeachment proceeding this body will accept from now going forward,” Philbin said, warning about setting the “new normal” for future presidential impeachment proceedings.

Philbin argued that the House should’ve pursued Bolton’s testimony, saying that putting the onus of calling in witnesses onto the upper chamber will do grave damage to the Senate as an institution.

Philbin was echoing a view used by Republicans who do not want to call in new witnesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered varying reasons why witnesses should not be called, arguing that the House should’ve pursued their testimony during Democrats’ impeachment inquiry rather than placing the responsibility on the Senate and claiming calling witnesses would extend the trial indefinitely.

Democrats, meanwhile, have shot back that the White House went to unprecedented heights to block witnesses — both current and former — from testifying. 

And they add that Bolton’s lawyer made clear he would challenge a subpoena for his testimony, which would’ve locked them in a court battle for months — time Democrats say they did not have.

The matter is expected to be voted on on Friday. Democrats will need four Republicans to vote in favor of calling in witnesses – that is, if no Democrats defect from the party-line.

Tags Donald Trump Gordon Sondland John Bolton Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Ron Johnson

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