Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who reportedly feels blindsided by the Bolton news getting out at this juncture and released a statement saying he “did not have any advance notice” that this was coming—is not any more open to witnesses. Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters that “I don’t think that anything that he’s going to say changes the fact...I think people kind of know what the fact pattern is.” Despite all those times Republicans complained that there were no firsthand witnesses who heard directly from Trump that he was holding up the Ukraine aid to get an investigation of a political opponent, the emergence of a witness who could provide exactly that testimony changes nothing.
And in Thune’s telling, calling Bolton would just kind of be a big hassle. “If you start calling him, then the Democrats are going to want to call Mulvaney and want to call Pompeo ... and our guys are going to want to start calling witnesses on the other side to illuminate their case,” he said, continuing “And I think that gets us into this endless cycle and this drags on for weeks and months in the middle of a presidential election where people are already voting. My view is the fact pattern is what it is. I don’t think it’s going to change.”
Oh. The fact pattern is what it is? So basically, all that talk of how Democrats hadn’t adequately made the case that Donald Trump withheld congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine because he wanted the country to interfere in the 2020 elections was just more Republican lies. It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the fact that the number two Republican in the Senate says hearing from a firsthand witness who’s a longtime Republican official wouldn’t add any facts.
Some Republicans are operating with a little less bluster and bravado, though they’re still looking to cut a favorable deal. Sen. Pat Toomey wants a trade: one relevant witness to what Trump did for one irrelevant Republican witness with which to attack the very Democrats Trump was trying to attack all along. Sen. Lindsey Graham has a proposal to make it look like Republicans took Bolton seriously without actually allowing the public to hear what he has to say. And so on.
There may be some cracks in the unified Republican determination for a cover-up, but there are just as many Senate Republicans frantically slapping spackle onto those cracks.