Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday that Democrats aren’t looking to cut deals with Republicans to hear from witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Asked whether Democrats would be willing to make a deal with Republicans to allow former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden to testify in exchange for witnesses Democrats want like former national security adviser John Bolton, Schumer shot down that notion.
“We don’t need to have witnesses that have nothing to do with this,” he said at a Senate Democrats news conference, calling those suggestions “a distraction.”
Pressed on whether he’s at all open to cutting a witness deal with Republicans, Schumer said, “Right now we haven’t heard them wanting any witnesses at all.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, speaking with reporters after the news conference, said talk of a witness deal is being overblown by the media.
“That’s not a conversation that’s happening between Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “We’re not in the business of trading away relevant witnesses for, you know, reelection gambits of the president. We should be talking about witnesses that have direct knowledge of the events at the foundation of the case by the House.”
After the Senate adjourned early Wednesday morning, Murphy tweeted that during one of the breaks in the marathon session a Republican who is tempted to vote for witnesses later in the trial flagged him down to warn that too many votes on witnesses might scare off other like-minded Republicans.
But later Wednesday, Murphy told reporters that he doesn’t think any actual damage was done because Democrats had telegraphed the amendments they would be offering and it was McConnell who decided to keep the Senate in late rather than roll votes to Wednesday.
“If there were Republicans that came into yesterday considering voting for witnesses, I don’t think anything happened yesterday to chill their interest,” he said.
Schumer said the information Democrats are seeking to subpoena might not even be incriminating to the president and could even be exculpatory.
“These are certainly not Democratic witnesses or Democratic documents,” he said.
Schumer dismissed the idea that Democrats hurt their chances of getting Republican votes to subpoena witnesses and documents later by forcing them all at the start of the trial.
“We would be derelict in our responsibilities if we didn’t ask for these votes,” he said. “Remember, this is the only time we’re guaranteed getting a vote on witnesses and documents. And so we would not be doing our job if we didn’t try to make this trial fair.”
“We’re going to continue to do it,” he said. “And what will determine, in my judgment, how people vote is their conscience and their knowledge that the American people realize we’re right.”
To Schumer’s point, Republicans did vote down an amendment to the trial rules he offered to ensure votes on witnesses and documents would occur after the question and answer phase. Democrats can attempt to subpoena witnesses and documents at that time but it will be up to Chief Justice John Roberts on whether to rule on those requests himself or have the Senate vote; he is expected to choose the latter.