A new report written by Alexander Bolton of TheHill details how GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell may have derailed Mitt Romney’s attempt to recruit other Republican Senators to side with Democrats on witnesses.
One GOP Senator told Bolton most GOP Senators take Romney’s critiques of Trump with a grain of salt “I think most people attribute it to his guttural dislike of the president,” the Senator said.
Nevertheless, at one point Romney was feeling pretty confident and claimed publicly it was “increasingly likely” that at least four Republican Senators would join him in supporting hearing from John Bolton.
Per TheHill, Romney had been in talks with a small group of senators, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), even before the trial started to ensure that McConnell included language in the organizing resolution to guarantee a vote on considering additional witnesses and documents at the end of phase one of the trial.
Senate Republicans say anxiety was running high when they walked into their caucus lunch meeting on Monday, less than 24 hours after the news of Bolton’s manuscript. Romney made a passionate presentation in favor of calling Bolton to testify before the Senate.
But McConnell at the same lunch was able to derail Romney’s momentum by deploying his favorite tactic: Invoking Senate process.
McConnell urged his colleagues to hold off on rushing into a decision on whether or not to call witnesses and wait until the end of the week, after the president’s lawyers had a chance to finish their opening arguments and senators had 16 hours to ask questions of the parties.
McConnell reminded colleagues that they had already voted for an organizing resolution that set up a vote on witnesses and and didn’t have to comment on the issue before then.
“He just reiterated that a couple times as did some other people just to remind us that we have dealt with this and we don’t have to deal with the next step of it until the end of phase one,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said after the lunch of McConnell.
The GOP leader put his colleagues almost immediately at ease.
“Clearly we’re in a lot better frame of mind and a lot better shape than we were when we stepped in there,” one GOP senator said of how the collective blood pressure of fellow Republican senators after McConnell was able to blunt Romney’s call for witnesses at the lunch.
Immediately after the meeting, newly appointed freshman Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), whom McConnell is backing in a Senate primary race against Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), took to Twitter to rip Romney.
“Sadly, my colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It’s time to move on!” she wrote.
The GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity said Loeffler’s tweet reflected “pent-up frustration” among Senate Republicans.
Romney on Wednesday downplayed the notion that he’s trying to meld his colleagues’ views on the need for witnesses.