In a surprise move on Saturday, the Senate voted to call witnesses in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial following new revelations about the former president’s activity on Jan. 6 as rioters were storming the U.S. Capitol.
The late-breaking development threatened to prolong the proceedings, possibly for several weeks, while senators agreed on which witnesses to call. House impeachment managers wanted to hear from a key House Republican, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), who revealed more information about Trump on Jan. 6.
Shortly after the bipartisan 55-45 vote to allow witnesses, however, the Senate agreed to simply enter into the trial record a signed statement from Herrera Beutler and proceed to closing arguments. The vote on Trump’s acquittal is expected to take place later on Saturday.
The Senate was set to hear closing arguments followed by a quick vote on Trump’s acquittal on Saturday and then head home for recess, but a dramatic Friday-night revelation about the former president’s conduct while the Jan. 6 violence unfolded shook up the trial.
According to CNN, Trump reportedly responded with mockery after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called him on Jan. 6, pleading with the then-president to call off his supporters — prompting a “shouting match” between the two men.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump told McCarthy, according to a CNN report published Friday.
The conversation between the two men, which sheds more light on Trump’s state of mind as rioters hunted for lawmakers in the halls of Congress, was confirmed directly by Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last month.
House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) read Herrera Beutler’s statement summing up Trump’s call with McCarthy into the record on Saturday.
One Senate Democrat made the case for admitting new testimony in the wake of CNN’s report on Friday. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) suggested deposing McCarthy and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who also spoke with Trump that day, as well as asking the Secret Service to produce communications back to the White House regarding Pence’s safety during the siege.
Democrats initially seemed ready to move on prior to the Friday night revelation, viewing the case against Trump as open-and-shut. But Raskin’s request made them reconsider.
Subpoenaing witnesses would almost certainly have prolonged the trial, something Democrats wanted to avoid in order to move on to more politically popular issues such as passing additional coronavirus relief. Democratic lawmakers are racing to send a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill to President Joe Biden’s desk by March, when added federal unemployment insurance is due to expire for millions of Americans.
Democrats also knew that witness testimony isn’t likely to change the minds of many Republicans who were ready to acquit Trump before House impeachment managers had even delivered their opening arguments. Only a handful of Republicans are considering voting to convict Trump, far short of the 17 votes needed.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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