Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins said Monday that they are increasingly likely to support calling former national security adviser John Bolton to testify as part of the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
The pair issued statements following a report that Bolton claims in his forthcoming memoir that Trump told him in a conversation in August 2019 that he wanted to withhold military assistance to Ukraine in order to force officials there to open investigations into Joe Biden and other Democrats.
Romney and Collins, who are considered moderates, have previously said that they prefer calling witnesses at the impeachment trial, but they have not committed to voting in support of doing so. They both said Monday that they have talked to other Republicans about the Bolton report, and indicated that momentum is building to call Bolton as a witness.
At least four Republicans would have to vote with every Democrat to reach the majority needed to call witnesses or introduce evidence at the trial. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander are viewed as two other Republicans most likely to support hearing from witnesses.
“It is increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton,” Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“I think at this stage it’s pretty fair to say that John Bolton has relevant testimony,” he continued, adding that it is “increasingly likely that other Republicans will join” in to call for Bolton to testify.
Collins echoed Romney’s remarks.
“The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues,” she said in a statement.
WATCH: GOP Senator Mitt Romney says “it is increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton,” adding it is “increasingly likely” other GOP senators would join in too. pic.twitter.com/gyeiKkyPuE
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 27, 2020
Bolton’s claim appears to undercut a key part of Trump’s impeachment defense. Trump has maintained that he did not withhold the nearly $400 million in military aid as part of a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Instead, he has said that he froze the aid package due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine, and because European countries like Germany were not contributing enough in aid.(RELATED: John Bolton Undercuts Trump’s Main Ukraine Defense In Book Manuscript)
Bolton would also be the first potential witness to provide a first-hand account of Trump linking military assistance to a Biden investigation. Current and former administration officials testified during the House impeachment inquiry that they believed that military assistance was contingent on Ukraine conducting investigations, but none testified about speaking directly with Trump about the issue.
Trump disputed Bolton’s claims in a series of tweets on Monday, and said that his former national security adviser was merely trying to sell books. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump said.
House Democrats attempted to call Bolton as a witness during their impeachment inquiry, but dropped the idea to avoid a lengthy court battle over executive privilege.
Bolton said on Jan. 6 that he would be willing to testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.
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