Moscow Mitch Makes Mistake [Updated: He Admits He Doesn't Have the Votes]

Nicholas Fandos writes in the New York Times impeachment liveblog that “There might be a strategic reason the trial is slowing down,” pointing out that the Trump defense has slowed its delivery, and that the question period (16 hours total) may be stretched out over two days. This will push the vote over witnesses to Friday rather than Wednesday, which was MM’s original timetable. But:

It appears Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, may now be seeing the advantages of a more deliberative approach. Putting as much distance as possible between the Bolton news and a vote on whether to call him to testify might just cool the temperature in the Capitol enough to prevent four Republicans from joining Democrats in a vote to prolong the trial. Slowing down now, in other words, could speed up the final result.

If that’s his strategy, McConnell deserves to lose his reputation as a master strategist. That’s two more days for more Bolton or Bolton-like revelations to come out, which will increase pressure to hear from Mulvaney and Pompeo as well as Bolton (and others, maybe even Barr). And they will; the Times is already reporting more stuff from the Bolton book (though the latest revelations don’t directly relate to the impeachment charges). Even Trump is reported to be “resigned” to the possibility that witnesses will be called.

Quick update: The Daily Beast has a story out this morning about Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who was in the July 10 meeting with Sondland that Bolton had abruptly stopped — only to have Sondland move the meeting elsewhere.

Danylyuk said he and his team, which included Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak, “couldn’t conclude [the meeting] properly” because as The Daily Beast previously reported, Sondland interrupted the conversation to bring up the demands from Trump that Zelensky agree to the investigation of the Bidens. Soon after Sondland’s interjection, Bolton ended the official meeting. That’s when the group, which included Hill, Sondland, and other trop Trump officials, moved into the Ward Room of the White House and Sondland again, but more ferociously, pushed the investigations further, telling Danylyuk and Yermak that it was the only way the two countries could develop a meaningful relationship.

In short, the Ukrainians were being pressured to deliver the goods, and they knew it.

Team Zelensky grew more and more concerned as the days rolled on, Danylyuk said. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had for weeks appeared on television shows, saying Ukraine should open an investigation into the Bidens and claiming it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia. (The claim is a widely debunked conspiracy theory that national-security officials say has been propagated by Russian intelligence services.)

Danylyuk should be added to the witness list, to counter Trump’s argument that the Ukrainians never felt any pressure.