Republican Senator Susan Collins says she is working with a "fairly small group" of GOP senators to allow witnesses in the impending impeachment trial of President Trump. Collins, who is one of the more moderate Republicans in the Senate, is running for re-election in a closely watched Senate race this year.
According to the Bangor Daily News, Collins told reporters Friday that she was working with this cadre of fellow senators to ensure that House impeachment managers and the president's lawyers would be able to call witnesses in the trial, saying "we should be completely open to calling witnesses."
"I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the president's counsel if they choose to do so," Collins said.
Collins' remarks followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi'sthat the House will be voting next week on a resolution to designate impeachment managers — who will prosecute the case against Mr. Trump — and to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Pelosi has been withholding the articles from the Senate, saying she needs to see the rules for the trial set by the Senate before the House delivers the articles. Democrats maintain that the Senate needs to hear from new witnesses and admit new evidence to ensure a fair trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't want to include new witnesses and documents in the vote on the rules for the Senate trial. He'd prefer to vote on the rules and then hear the opening arguments from the House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team before voting on calling witnesses or considering new evidence.
McConnell announced Tuesday that he has enough GOP support to move forward with the approach he prefers. The vote on the resolution determining the rules of the trial will, according to McConnell, mirrors the procedures used in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Under the resolution, House impeachment managers and the president's defense team would deliver opening statements before the Senate would vote on whether to call witnesses or consider new evidence.
Senate Democrats want to call four witnesses from the administration, among them, former national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton said earlier this week that he's "prepared to testify" before the Senate if he's subpoenaed. But that won't happen if the president prevails. In an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham, Mr. Trump said he could invoke executive privilege to keep Bolton from testifying — "I think you have to for the sake of the office," Mr. Trump told Ingraham when she asked if he would invoke the privilege to stop Bolton.
But there are witnesses the president wants to hear from, too, like the whistleblower who prompted the impeachment inquiry, as well as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter. Most Senate Republicans are less likely to want to hear from them.
Meanwhile, the president's legal team for impeachment appears to be set. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will be the president's lead counsel, and Mr. Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow will also defend the president in the Senate. White House counsel deputies Patrick Philbin and Mike Purpura will also aid the defense team.
Without having the articles of impeachment, McConnell has yet to disclose what dates a Senate trial will take place. Whatever the case, a trial will take place in the heat of the 2020 Democratic primary season, with the Iowa caucuses just weeks away. Several Democratic senators will have to take time away from the campaign trail to serve as jurors in the political trial.
— CBS News' Paula Reid contributed to this report