Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pitched the idea of “witness reciprocity” on Tuesday during a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders who convened to discuss strategy for the upcoming impeachment trial that will decide if President Trump is removed from office, Fox News has confirmed.
The idea would mean if Democrats call a witness, such as Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Republicans would in turn be allowed to call a witness.
Likely candidates to be subpoenaed by the GOP include former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the unidentified whistleblower who reported a July phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine.
McConnell appeared receptive to Cruz’s idea in remarks to reporters after the meeting.
“We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial. And I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses if they wanted to hear from them,” McConnell said. “So if you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses our Democratic colleagues want to call will be called.”
The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also tweeted support for Cruz’s suggestion.
“I love @tedcruz’s plan of witness reciprocity. The American people want to hear from #wheresHunter Biden, #sleepyJoe Biden, #fullofschiff, the phony “whistleblower” etc. much more than they do anyone on our side especially since the house had free reign of witnesses for months,” Trump wrote.
McConnell, R-Ky., has distanced himself from an earlier notion that the GOP-controlled Senate would simply dismiss the articles of impeachment once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hands them over from the House. He called on Cruz, as well as Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to talk strategy as the party plays a careful numbers game to prevent Democrats from commandeering the trial.
A simple majority is required to win a motion in the Senate. Though Republicans control 53 seats, three GOP senators have indicated they’re open to hearing testimony from Bolton, who was ousted from the Trump administration in September after clashing with the president on a number of foreign policy issues regarding Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.
Bolton has indicated that he would appear before the Senate if subpoenaed — but President Trump told Fox News last week that he might use executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying.
Three moderate Republicans — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have either said explicitly or suggested they’re deciding whether they want to hear from Bolton later in the trial after House Democrats have presented their case.
Democrats in the Senate would need only a fourth Republican vote to effectively move to call a witness. The “witness reciprocity” rule, which Fox has learned Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul also pitched as a suggestion to the broader Senate Republican Conference at their weekly luncheon Tuesday, would ensure the party doesn’t completely forfeit control of trial proceedings over to Democrats should enough votes move for Bolton to testify.
Fox News’ Kevin Kirby contributed to this report.