The Senate voted Saturday to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, a surprise move that potentially lengthens the trial by weeks or months.
The Senate voted 55-45 after the lead House manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., as a witness.
She had issued a statement Friday about a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with Trump during the riot Jan. 6.
She said McCarthy, R-Calif., had spoken with Trump, urging him to call off the riot, but that Trump replied indifferently.
“Needless to say, this is an additional critical piece of evidence,” Raskin said.
He said a deposition could be handled online in an hour. But one of Trump’s defense lawyers, Michael van der Veen, said if managers called witnesses, he would seek numerous witnesses with in-person depositions.
“I’m gonna slap subpoenas on a good number of people,” van der Veen said.
– Bart Jansen
McConnell tells GOP senators he will vote to acquit Trump
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump after weeks of leaving the door open to possibly convicting him, according to an email he sent Republican senators Saturday.
The Kentucky Republican had said for weeks, both publicly and in private, that he was open to convicting Trump – a stark change from his role in the former president’s first impeachment trial where he worked in concert with the White House to ensure the president was acquitted.
But after initially saying he’d keep an open mind, McConnell indicated he’d likely stick with his Republicans conference after voting twice that the trial should be halted on Constitutional grounds.
His vote announcement, which came before most of his conference, could send a signal to other Republicans who have stayed mum about how they will vote.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., confirmed the contents of McConnell’s email to USA TODAY.
McConnell had remained silent throughout the proceedings and, unlike his colleagues, did not take any notes or make any reactions to the days of presentations. He also ignored questions from reporters throughout the trial.
After the Jan. 6 attack, McConnell issued a striking condemnation of Trump, saying “the mob was fed lies” and “were provoked by the president.”
– Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu
GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler: Trump rebuffed plea from top Republican to call off rioters
Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler backed reports late Friday that said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with then-President Donald Trump as a mob was attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the president seemed unconcerned about the riot.
Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment on a charge of inciting the attack, said in a statement that McCarthy had told her when he reached Trump by phone as the Capitol was breached McCarthy “asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.”
According to Herrera Beutler, Trump initially tried to blame the attack on leftist members of “antifa” but when McCarthy insisted the mob was comprised of the president supporters, Trump told the top House Republican, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Herrera Beutler’s allegation supports the House impeachment managers’ claim that Trump was aware of the danger to lawmakers during the breach and did nothing to stop the riot as the Capitol was being stormed by the deadly mob.
– William Cummings
Trump’s legal team, House prosecutors eye closing arguments with witness question unanswered
WASHINGTON – A final verdict in former President Donald Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial may be near as both sides ready for closing arguments when the trial resumes Saturday.
But first, it must be decided whether witnesses will be called. If the Senate voted to call witnesses, the decision could lengthen the proceedings by weeks or months because the witnesses would have to be deposed and more research conducted.
No formal announcements on witnesses have been made, but both sides have indicated they don’t need them.
When one of the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., was asked Thursday if they needed witnesses, she replied, “I think we’ve made our case.” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who called for a thorough trial for the historical record, said Friday he doesn’t need to hear from witnesses. “I think adequate evidence has been presented,” he said.
One of Trump’s staunchest defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said witnesses aren’t necessary, but that Trump’s team should call witnesses if the managers do. One of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, told reporters Thursday “that hasn’t been decided yet.”
House managers asked Trump himself to testify under oath in hopes to question him, but the president has refused.
If both sides decide not to hear from witnesses, it would move the trial to four hours of closing arguments, after which the Senate will deliberate and make their final vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. Several senators said a vote could come Saturday afternoon.
The House impeached Trump Jan.13 by charging him with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol Jan. 6, which interrupted Congress counting Electoral College votes. Five people died, including a police officer and a woman shot by police, as rioters rampaged through the building searching for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Conviction would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate, a high bar in a chamber evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 lawmakers who caucus with Democrats. In preliminary votes upholding the constitutionality of the trial, only six Republicans joined Democrats, rather than the 17 needed for conviction, signaling Trump may be acquitted.
Over the course of the trial, which began Tuesday, the managers argued Trump fueled unrest with months of complaints about the legitimacy of the election. Trump then urged his supporters the day of the riot to “fight” the election results at the Capitol.
The lead House prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., warned that Trump represented a continuing threat to the country if not convicted and disqualified from holding office in the future.
But Trump’s lawyers argued he used standard political language to rally his supporters and can’t be blamed for the mob’s violence. The defense team also argued that Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.
Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers, called the impeachment a blatantly political trial that represented partisan vengeance. He called it a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
– Bart Jansen