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senate impeachment trial

Mitch McConnell may have just given Nancy Pelosi a strategic opening in the impeachment standoff

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he has the votes he needs, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may still have the leverage.

McConnell announced Tuesday that Republican senators have enough votes to launch President Trump's impeachment trial without an agreement on witnesses with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his Democratic colleagues.

Pelosi is still holding on to the articles of impeachment, however, which is blocking the proceedings from getting underway. The Washington Post notes Pelosi is under increasing pressure to pass them over, including from some members of her own party. But in a Twitter thread Tuesday Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, laid out how and why Pelosi might not be in any rush. It has a lot to do with former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bolton said Monday he'd be prepared to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed. With that in mind, Wittes wrote, McConnell's latest announcement may have provided Pelosi with a "strategic opening." Since a new witness is now saying he's available, Pelosi could theoretically announce she won't conduct the hand-off until Bolton provides testimony, and then have the House Intelligence Committee issue the subpoena instead. In this scenario described by Wittes, the House would hang on to the articles until Bolton testifies, while also retaining the right to pass superseding or amended articles of impeachment based off Bolton's testimony.

While not everyone agrees that Pelosi withholding the articles is a bad look for McConnell, Wittes doesn't think the senator wants it to play out this way. Tim O'Donnell