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The latest timetable for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate

The impeachment process against President Trump has remained largely frozen in place since the holidays began. There is still no firm start date for a Senate trial, and some aspects of how such a trial would be run remain in flux. Among the top questions: would the Senate hear testimony from new witnesses like John Bolton? Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For two-and-a-half weeks, the impeachment process against President Trump has remained, for the most part, frozen in place.

    Among the open questions, whether the Senate will hear witness testimony, despite John Bolton's statement today signaling his willingness to testify under subpoena, all of this even as Washington grapples with other serious foreign policy matters, as we have been hearing.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor are here to break down where we are right now on so much of this.

    Hello to both of you. As always, it's a jam-packed time for news.

    Yamiche, I want to start with you.

    We did learn today that the president's former National Security Adviser John Bolton — he put out the statement himself. He said: I'm willing to testify under subpoena.

    So, the question is, how much does that matter, and how much does it affect the call by many Democrats for there to be more witnesses testifying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, former National Security Adviser John Bolton saying he's willing to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate is potentially a huge development.

    But it's potentially, because we're not sure if we're actually going to see John Bolton subpoenaed by the Senate. Of course, this is a Senate that is controlled by the Republicans.

    I talked to some Democratic aides today, who said this puts more pressure on Mitch McConnell to come forward because John Bolton had a front seat to many of the actions and meetings that led up to the impeachment of President Trump.

    But there are Republicans also who say they would be interested in seeing John Bolton testify, Senator Mitt Romney being one of them. But he stopped short, as many senators have, of saying that he would vote to subpoena John Bolton.

    That said, I want to remind people what John Bolton might be able to say if he was subpoenaed and testified before the Senate. So here's some of the things.

    First, he objected very strongly to Ukraine being pushed to investigate Democrats. And he actually told an aide to alert White House lawyers to say, hey, Gordon Sondland, the European ambassador, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, they're trying to get this done. And he said, no, that we shouldn't be doing that.

    He also called to push Ukraine to do these investigations a — quote — "drug deal" and called Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, a hand grenade that would get everyone blown up.

    The other thing, he met personally with President Trump sometime in August to try to urge the president personally to withhold — to let go of this aid and give it to Ukraine.

    So far — at that moment, he was unsuccessful in convincing President Trump to do that. But that's just three things that John Bolton can be talking about, including much, much more.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, you have obviously been talking to people on the Hill.

    What do we know about when the Senate trial could start, assuming there's going to be one, and whether there will be any witnesses?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    Everyone, family members, crew members here at "NewsHour," is asking, when will this trial start?

    And the truth is, we only know one thing. It will start exactly one day after Speaker Pelosi transmits the articles of impeachment and the list of House managers. That could happen as soon as this week, if she chooses to do that.

    However, Pelosi's office, talking to them today — and Yamiche is talking to Democratic aides as well — they do not seem — feeling like they want to do that this week. They think that this John Bolton news adds to the pressure to try and push witnesses or an agreement for witnesses before the trial starts.

    And it's interesting, Judy. We talk sometimes about an audience of one, the president. Pelosi has an audience of four, four U.S. senators who will determine really whether witnesses are testifying or not.

    There you go, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Maine's Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, who Yamiche mentioned, and Cory Gardner. They are all senators who some have said they're interested in hearing from John Bolton. They are swing senators. They say they want more information.

    But, notably, Judy, they have all said they're OK with starting the trial without an agreement on witnesses. That's what Mitch McConnell wants.

    So, it looks like Mitch McConnell has the cards to start. It's just a matter of when Nancy Pelosi wants to make her move.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK. We have only got about 45 seconds.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Big question here, war powers, conversation about Congress wanting to limit the president's ability to take military action, where does that stand?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There will be a vote in the House this week that we have to watch closely. It's not expected to go through the Senate, but that conversation will be important, a briefing on Wednesday for the Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And where does that stand, from talking to the White House?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Talking to the White House, this is really about the president not wanting to be hamstrung by Congress.

    But there are, of course, some cynical Democrats that say the president wants people to continue to talk about Iran, because he doesn't want people to be talking about the impeachment trial and all the things that have been going on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's certainly taking the attention away.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Forty-five seconds. We did it. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You did it in less than 45.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're right, Yamiche, in that we're not talking about impeachment as much as we were. It's certainly not the lead tonight. But it's important. We're following it.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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