Democrats are primed to pivot to a critical new phase of impeachment -- building a public case that President Donald Trump abused his power -- to ensure no shows by administration witnesses don't blunt their momentum.
At that point, the process would shift from a closed doors investigation of Trump's covert Ukraine policy into an attempt to convince Americans that he should be removed from office in dramatic televised hearings.House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is also expected to start releasing transcripts of witness testimony delivered in closed door depositions as early as this week. The plan prompted Trump to launch what was, even by his own standards, an extraordinary torrent of personal abuse at the California Democrat."House Republicans must have nothing to do with Shifty's rendition of those interviews. He is a proven liar, leaker & freak who is really the one who should be impeached!" Trump tweeted.At least six executive branch insiders have made it known over the past few days they will ignore subpoenas to testify, but this week could still hold a sting in the tail.Former national security adviser John Bolton, a fiery figure who was recently fired by Trump, is due to testify on Thursday -- though there are doubts over whether he will appear.A Bolton sighting would spark a frenzy since other witnesses have testified that he decried Trump's decision to outsource Ukraine policy -- a caper one former senior official said he referred to as a "drug deal."No one could be sure what Bolton might say. Would he stay loyal to his former boss or to the iconoclastic approach to foreign policy that steered him through a colorful career in Washington?"I like John Bolton. I always got along with him," Trump said Sunday, misrepresenting his relationship with the renowned Washington bruiser in a possible sign of concern about his potential testimony. Asked whether Bolton speak up, Trump replied: " ... that's going to be up to him."Democrats believe they have built a strong case that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a domestic rival -- Democratic 2020 candidate Joe Biden -- during weeks of depositions featuring career officials.But if executive branch officials due to testify this week do not show up, they may reach a point when there is little to be gained by holding off a more visible phase of the inquiry. Party leaders believe they already have a strong enough case to go ahead without holdout witnesses, though more evidence could further bolster their confidence.