KEY POINTS

  • Sen. Cruz wants a "witness reciprocity" rule allowing an equal number of witnesses
  • Sen. McConnell seemed open to the idea
  • Republicans would likely subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden, Rep. Schiff

Of the key points of contention regarding the start of the Senate’s impeachment trial was whether or not witness testimonies would be allowed. Although Republicans have been generally against the idea, on Tuesday Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested a possible compromise.

According to Fox News, Cruz proposed the idea of a “witness reciprocity” rule during a Republican strategy meeting last Tuesday. By allowing Democrats to call their witnesses, Cruz said, Republicans would also have the right to call their own.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was in attendance, seemed open to the idea: “I can’t imagine that only the witnesses our Democratic colleagues want to call will be called.”

Last week one of the Democrats’ top choices for trial testimony, former national security advisor John Bolton, stated that he would make a statement if subpoenaed. To do so, however, requires a simple majority vote. Three Senate Republicans, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), have expressed interest in hearing from Bolton. If a fourth were to desire witness testimonies, the Democrats could successfully vote to subpoena him.

Despite the risk of bad optics, President Donald Trump said that he would consider using executive privilege to prevent Bolton from testifying in the Senate.

Allowing witnesses wouldn’t necessarily be an advantage for Democrats if Cruz’ “witness reciprocity” rule is adopted. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, would be among those most likely to be subpoenaed by Republicans. There has also been a discussion of subpoenaing the unnamed original whistleblower.

By calling these witnesses, Republicans would most likely hope to demonstrate that the Bidens were engaged in allegedly corrupt and illegal dealings in Ukraine. In doing so, it would bolster the argument that Trump was not pursuing the Bidens for political reasons. Republicans would also likely seek to portray the impeachment process as illegitimate political maneuvering by Democrats.

With the House set to release the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, the start of Trump’s trial is just around the corner. While it looks unlikely any rules regarding testimonies will be set beforehand, it’s possible a rule on “witness reciprocity” will be approved after the trial’s opening remarks.

Ted Cruz Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) attends a Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for ambassadorships on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., June 20, 2017. Photo: Getty Images