As Some Senators Weigh Calling Witnesses, Toomey Sends Mixed Signals

Jan 27, 2020

A political uproar has exploded after a New York Times report that President Trump told his former national security advisor, John Bolton, he wanted to withhold military assistance to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of one of his political rivals. Democrats have said Bolton must testify, and even some Republicans are reportedly considering whether to call witnesses to the Senate's ongoing impeachment trial. But Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey sent mixed signals on Monday.

Asked about the report Monday morning, his office sent a statement asserting that Toomey's position on calling witnesses had not changed: “[Toomey] will make a determination regarding the need for additional witnesses – including Ambassador John Bolton – after the President’s lawyers make their presentation and senators have had a chance to pose questions."

But by Monday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that Toomey had discussed the possibility of a one-for-one witness deal, in which Democrats and Republicans would each get one witness to testify at the Senate trial. The Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has tightly controlled the rules of the trial, discouraged the idea.

Toomey's office said it had no comment on the Washington Post story, which cited unnamed Republican officials. The account was later confirmed by other outlets.

Bolton’s manuscript reportedly says Trump told him directly that the Ukrainian aid was dependent on an investigation of Joe Biden's son, who had business dealings in the country. His description of President Trump’s request was laid out in an unpublished manuscript for a forthcoming memoir of his time at the White House. The Times reported the draft had been circulated to close associates as well as the White House for a standard review process.

The former national security advisor's claim contradicts the argument Trump’s defense team has employed during the Senate impeachment trial: Trump lawyers have argued the hold in security aid to Ukraine reflected concerns about corruption in the country, not a personal political agenda.

Toomey’s Democratic counterpart Bob Casey tweeted that in the wake of the Times story, Senate Republicans “face a clear choice: party or country. Given this report, to continue to block witnesses is to become fully complicit in this Administration’s cover-up.”

President Trump also weighed in on Bolton’s manuscript Monday, tweeting that Bolton is just trying to sell books. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination,” Trump tweeted.