Even if the Senate votes down witnesses, the House can still get John Bolton’s testimony.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House managers and the president’s defense team wrapped up their opening arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. The trial now moves to a 16 hour period in which senators ask hand-written questions of the president’s defense team and House managers. But most pundits are already looking past the Q and A time towards the looming question of whether Senate Democrats will get at least four GOP defectors to call trial witnesses.

Polls show growing public support for calling witnesses, particularly after the recent Bolton book manuscript revelations. (As an aside, the support number is likely inflated because the question doesn’t specify which witnesses respondents want to call. Of the 49 percent of registered Republicans who support witnesses, many are probably thinking of the Bidens or the whistleblower, not Bolton, when giving their affirmative answer.)

While a very few number of GOP Senators appear to be open to the idea of calling witnesses, the vast majority within the conference is decidedly not. Some Senators argue witnesses will delay the trial for too long; others say the election should decide the president’s fate, and many, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, suggest that it is the House’s responsibility to get any relevant testimony before sending the articles to the Senate. And, of course, GOP Senators know that any additional evidence isn’t likely to paint a pretty picture of the president’s actions.

Even if the Senate votes down witnesses, though, congressional Democrats still have options, albeit imperfect ones, to get Bolton’s, and other vital witnesses, testimony. Most notably, Democrats in the House of Representatives still hold an open and broad impeachment inquiry into President Trump. House Democrats still control committee agendas, and, importantly, maintain subpoena power. If the Senate declines, nothing is stopping the House from subpoenaing Mr. Bolton, especially considering Bolton’s public position he would comply with a Senate subpoena.

Plus, Speaker Pelosi has previously warned that given the level of stonewalling from the administration, the House would remain open to investigating and potentially voting on additional articles of impeachment. The House could hear Bolton’s testimony under oath and in front of cameras, and could even theoretically use it to pass another article of impeachment. Doing so would then force House Republicans to re-cast their impeachment vote in light of the new first-hand accusations. If passed, it would be presented to the Senate with the Bolton testimony included.

Of course, there are political ramifications in taking this route. The American public may well be tired of impeachment and want to move on. Republicans and the President will relentlessly characterize Democrats as unwilling and unable to stop trying to remove the elected president. It will be spun as Democrats needing a do-over on their first failed impeachment process. Important too, it is far fetched to think that an additional article presented from Bolton’s testimony would all of the sudden change the political calculus of Republican Senators on whether or not to acquit or not in the new trial considering that several GOP senator’s have accepted that the charges against the president are accurate, but not impeachable.

The realistic goal, then, of this option is to get Bolton’s testimony, under oath and expand the scope of conflict outside of the Congress where the outcome of the entire impeachment process has been baked in from the start: impeached in the House, acquitted by the Senate. If Bolton’s testimony matches the reporting of his manuscript—that Trump directly tied Ukranian aide to political investigations—it would give Democrats the best evidence to date, on camera from Trump’s own National Security Advisor, that Trump abused his powers and should be removed, if not by the Senate, then by the voters on Election Day. The House’s effort could be explained as a pursuit of a full record on the Ukraine scandal—for voters, for precedence, and history.

The testimony would also highlight, most likely in campaign ads, that many vulnerable GOP Senators voted down an opportunity to hear from Bolton directly during the impeachment trial. Charges of Republican Senators being partisanly beholden to the president, all too willing to cover up for his apparent abuses of power, and neglecting their oath as impartial jurors and actors would only amplify heading into 2020.

Despite all of this, the House subpoenaing Bolton is extremely unlikely to happen. Given that we are so deep into one impeachment trial, the political consequences of re-upping impeachment efforts in the House are too uncertain and too hard to spin to a public already split on the issue. With that said, if Democrats want to get Bolton’s testimony within their congressional halls, they have an avenue to make it happen.

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