Washington (AFP) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated Tuesday that Democrats will likely be able to force Republicans to call witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, US media reported.
With Democrats pressing for former national security advisor John Bolton to testify, McConnell told Senate Republicans in a closed meeting that the party likely did not yet have enough votes to prevent calling witnesses, several media outlets reported, citing Republican party sources.
In order for witnesses to testify, at least four out of the 53 Republican senators would have to cross party lines and side with the 47 Democrats in an expected vote on Friday.
Democrats want to summon or subpoena at least four current and former top Trump aides to testify, including Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Bolton and Mulvaney are believed to have direct knowledge of Trump's pressure campaign on Ukraine to help smear Democratic rival Joe Biden and the Democrats generally.
Trump is accused of abuse of power for holding up military aid to pressure Kiev into complying with his demands.
According to reports, a draft of a forthcoming book by Bolton says Trump told him in August that the aid freeze would remain in place until Ukraine President Volydymyr Zelensky's government announced an investigation into Biden and another into a spurious story claiming Ukraine supported Democrats in the 2016 election.
Democrats also want the trial to subpoena White House records which would support the allegations against Trump.
If Democrats do muster the 51 votes needed to call witnesses on Friday, the trial -- which the White House hopes will end by the weekend with Trump's acquittal -- could continue for two or more weeks.
Republicans as well would be able to demand their own witnesses, including Biden and his son Hunter, who had business ties to Ukraine.
"If people want witnesses, we're going to get a lot of witnesses. This idea of calling one and one makes zero sense to me," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier Tuesday.