U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner kept his cards close to his chest Tuesday, declining to say whether he wants to hear from more witnesses as President Donald Trump's legal team wrapped up its arguments in his impeachment trial.
“I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and with the seriousness our oath requires,” said the Colorado Republican, considered among a handful of swing votes who could determine whether the trial ends in days with a quick acquittal or is extended to allow senators to consider new evidence.
“Now that the House and defense have closed their arguments, I will continue to closely review the law and evidence presented to the Senate, including testimony from the impeachment witnesses," Gardner told Colorado Politics in a statement, adding: "I am now focused on the questions I will be pursuing during the time allotted for senators’ questioning.”
Senators will spend Wednesday and possibly much of Thursday submitting written questions, which will then be posed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, to the attorneys representing Trump and the House Democrats prosecuting the case, including U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora.
The two sides will have 16 hours to ask questions about the arguments they've heard since last Tuesday, when the trial started, before debating whether to subpoena additional witnesses and documents.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his Republican colleagues Tuesday that he lacks the votes to block Democrats' demand for more witnesses.
Additional witnesses could include Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton, who says in an unpublished book that the president told him that he wanted military and other aid withheld from Ukraine until the country opened an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Bolton's contention, reported Sunday night by The New York Times, refutes arguments made by Trump's defenders who have said Democrats lack eyewitness evidence to support allegations contained in the first article of impeachment against the president.
Trump has vehemently denied Bolton's reported account.
Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump's legal team, argued Monday that revelations contained in Bolton's forthcoming book wouldn't amount to impeachable offenses, even if they're true.
McConnell's remarks about the possibility that more witnesses might be called were delivered during a closed-door meeting of GOP senators, according to the Associated Press and multiple other news outlets.
The decision to call witnesses in the Senate trial would require 51 votes, meaning four Republicans would have to cross the aisle to vote with the chamber's 47 Democrats.
By Tuesday afternoon, three GOP senators were indicating they want to hear additional testimony: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Gardner, along with several other senators running for re-election this fall in competitive states, has faced immense pressure to break with his fellow Republicans but has so far remained noncommittal, refusing to go beyond a statement he issued the day before the trial began.
“Impeaching the president is one of the most serious constitutional actions, and I will closely evaluate the law and facts presented to the Senate as I fulfill my constitutional duties as a United States Senator," Gardner said a week ago.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Gardner's Democratic colleague from Colorado, hasn't been coy about his demands that the Senate hear from witnesses who were either kept from testifying during House impeachment proceedings or who have emerged since Trump was impeached on Dec. 18.
“This is a critical moment in American history, and I think we have a very important issue in front of us, which is whether the United States Senate is going to fulfill our Article I responsibilities and demand evidence and witnesses in the trial of Donald Trump,” Bennet told reporters last Thursday as the trial entered its third day.
"At this point in the Clinton trial, there were 90,000 documents and witnesses for the Senate and the American people to consider," Bennet tweeted last week. "Today, we have none of that — because of the president’s cover up."
The second article of impeachment charges Trump with obstructing the congressional investigation into his efforts to pressure Ukraine to help advance his political ambitions.
A national poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University found that 75% of registered voters said witnesses should be allowed to testify in the trial, and 20% said they shouldn't. Support for witness testimony included 49% of Republicans surveyed, the pollster said.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that Gardner was among three Republican senators facing tough re-election bids who talked about the prospects of prolonging the trial with their colleagues at the GOP caucus's afternoon, closed-door meeting.
In a discussion that also involved Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Gardner pointed out that a "longer trial would lead to more Democratic attacks," The Journal reported, citing a Gardner spokesman who later told Colorado Politics that the senator was describing what Democrats have been saying since the trial began.
"Democrats are the ones saying this is going to hurt Republican senators up for re-election and are making this political," Gardner campaign spokesman Jerrod Dobkin said after the Wall Street Journal story appeared. "Sen. Gardner is concerned the longer this goes on and is used as a political tool, the more it divides the country."
Dobkin said his boss isn't happy that Democrats' efforts to politicize the impeachment trial are stoking division but insisted, "He still takes his constitutional oath seriously and will vote based on the facts and not anything else like the potential of making the trial longer."
Manny Lopez del Rio, a spokesman for the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, interpreted Gardner's reported remarks differently, charging in a statement that the Republican was "advocating behind closed doors for a coverup."
"For Gardner, the only thing that matters is self-preservation," Lopez del Rio added.
Dobkin said Gardner's decision whether to call witnesses, including Bolton, won't be affected by campaign contributions and an endorsement Gardner received months ago from Bolton's political action committee.
The Bolton PAC gave $10,000 to Gardner's campaign in September, soon after the foreign-policy hardliner left his job at the White House.
"There's a broad coalition of people supporting Sen. Gardner's reelection, including President Trump, and the Bolton PAC supports Sen. Gardner because of his commitment to a strong foreign policy," Dobkin told Colorado Politics in a written statement.
"All of Senator Gardner's supporters know what's at stake in this election and are standing with him in his fight to defeat the far-left, radical proposals his opponents are campaigning on."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.