From NBC news:

McConnell says he has enough Republican votes to begin Trump's trial without witnesses

The process cannot get started until Pelosi sends the House-passed articles charging the president to the Senate.

From the BBC:

John Bolton ready to testify in Trump impeachment trial


  • the Senate Republicans don't want any witnesses
  • the House Democrats have not yet passed over the articles of impeachment

Could the House Democrats still subpoena Bolton, in order to get his testimony into the record that it handed to the Senate?

I imagine that if they did, they would have to re-vote on new articles of impeachment. Is that legal, possible, probable? Is there any other way to get Bolton's testimony heard, if the Senate Republicans won't introduce him as a witness?

  • Unless I missed something, McConnell said that he didn't want to call 4 specific witnesses that Schumer wanted, one of which was Bolton, not no witnesses at all.
    – user29681
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 5:08

2 Answers 2


The short answer is no. It is up to McConnell to set the rules for the trial. He intends (According with the listed articles) to follow the precedent of the 1999 trial. That is Prosecution, then Defense, then a vote for listening to witnesses.

If you believe that then the phrase "The republicans don't want any witnesses" has no relevance, The Senate, as a whole, does not know if witnesses are required at this time.

To elaborate on the answer, the Democrats in the Senate can call witnesses only if McConnell allows it.

The secondary question about whether the HOR can create new articles of impeachment is completely legal. They can impeach the president how ever many times they want. This impeachment is done and other than presenting the articles to the Senate, there is no changing anything in it from the HOR point of view. The HOR can impeach again even without sending the first articles to the Senate.

The two chambers are very separate and the power of one does not affect the other in this case. They are independent.

  • 2
    It would be ever so clever if you would tell us which question you are answering when you say "the short answer is no".
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 21:38
  • 1
    I expect it is the question in the title to which the short answer applies.
    – Jontia
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 23:10
  • 1
    Can't the senate vote by simple majority to adopt different rules?
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 23:40
  • 1
    @Jontia HoR Democrats are certainly able to subpoena witnesses - so that answer would be "yes". In the Senate, Ds can call for witnesses but will not be able to subpoena without McConnell action. The point is the title question does not specify Senate or House.
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 1:00
  • 1
    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica - regarding your comment that seems to make a distinction between public testimony before the Senate by Bolton and private (or closed door) testimony by Bolton before the Senate - was that your intent to ask?
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 14:45

In the House of Representatives

As Frank Cedeno said, it would be perfectly legal for the House to repeat whatever pieces of the impeachment process they choose, as many times as they want. The only thing that they (probably) can't do is unimpeach after they've voted on and passed articles of impeachment.

The House can open a new investigation, hold more hearings under the existing one (closed or open), write new reports or add addendums to the previous ones, and/or vote to add new articles to the existing set.
All of this is true regardless of whether the Senate has started to try the President, is in the middle of doing so, or has previously voted to acquit. If they vote to convict and remove the President from office (or the President resigns), the President is no longer impeachable, but everything else is still an option for the House - it might lead to changes to laws, a referral to prosecutors for criminal charges, or just dig up more political dirt.

Since the Democrats currently control the House, where everything can be passed by simple majority, they can do any of these things over any Republican objections (as they have for the whole process). This would include calling Bolton to testify in an open hearing and writing a new article of impeachment based on the result.

In the Senate

In the Senate, on the other hand, the Democrats have very little power (but not as little as the Republicans in the House). The Senate can set whatever rules it wants for the trial, except that the SCOTUS Chief Justice must preside over it and that it takes 2/3 to convict. That leaves a lot of leeway for the Senate to make whatever rules they want, which are all doable by simple majority. This also applies to any other mid-trial decisions (or rule changes) such as whether to call a given witness. (I'm not actually sure if cloture is relevant to impeachment rule changes, but even if it is, there's ways around the 2/3 it'd normally require.)

As such, if the Democrats want to call any witnesses during the trial, they need enough Republicans to vote with them to reach 51 votes to do so.

  • 1
    Bolton likely will legally fight a new subpoena from the House, like he has done before. His statement referred to a potential subpoena from the Senate.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 2:26
  • 1
    Rules of the Senate Rule XXII 2 "except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting". This does not include the "nuclear option".
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 2:40
  • 1
    Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senatem p. 5, Rule XXI "All preliminary or interlocutory questions, and all motions, shall be argued for not exceeding one hour (unless the Senate otherwise orders) on each side." There is no need for a cloture vote due to the time limit.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 2:41
  • @Sjoerd Most likely true, but it doesn’t really matter to what the House is and is not able to do. It might be a bad idea for them to start holding more hearings and subpoenaing unwilling witnesses, but they can.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 4:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .