WASHINGTON – The Senate began hearing final arguments on Saturday in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump after entering into a bipartisan treaty to skip hearing testimony.
Both sides sought to complete the process. It took the Democrats time in the Senate to push ahead with an aid package for Covid-19 and Republicans, who wanted to put the Jan 6th Capitol uprising behind them, are accused of instigating it.
However, shortly after the Senate re-convened on Saturday, the House impeachment executives made a surprise decision to request a testimony from a Republican member of Congress who said Trump turned down a request for help during the violence.
The Senate voted largely partisan (55 to 45) that witnesses may be considered. Five Republicans – Mitt Romney from Utah, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Susan Collins from Maine, Ben Sasse from Nebraska, and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina – sided with Democratic senators.
Trump’s defense team was furious at the call for witnesses and vowed to demand “at least over 100 deposits” if the Democrats should bring something forward. After a few hours’ delay, both sides reached an agreement to include a statement by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., As evidence in the minutes.
The agreement to drop witnesses came after Senator Mike Rounds, RS.D., warned that playing the motions could advance the process “well into March” and prohibit the Senate from doing land deals.
He said witnesses were a waste of time. “Everyone knows it won’t make a difference anyway,” he told reporters.
After a pause, the chief impeachment chief, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Returned to read Herrera Beutler’s statement before the Democratic managers proceeded with their final arguments.
Herrera Beutler, one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted for the indictment against Trump, made a statement late Friday night detailing what she said. House Minority Chairman Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif Capitol Assault. According to Herrera Beutler, Trump declined McCarthy’s request for help and sided with the rioters.
“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6th and asked him to publicly and violently break the uprising, the president first repeated the lie that it was Antifa who had violated the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler told McCarthy.
Herrera Beutler: “McCarthy refuted that and told the President that these were Trump supporters. Then, according to McCarthy, the President said, ‘Well, Kevin, I think these people are more angry about the election than you are.’ “”
Raskin initially said he wanted to summon Herrera Beutler to testify via conference call and subpoena any notes she had taken during the call, while leaving the door open for other subpoenas as well.
“Needless to say, this is another critical piece of evidence that confirms the charges brought before you, as well as the president’s willful neglect and neglect of duty as United States Commander-in-Chief, his state of mind and further incitement to insurrection,” Raskin told the senators.
Trump’s actions and intentions during the uprising remain largely a mystery to the public and a key question for many senators.
Several Republicans, who were seen as swing voters in the trial, asked Trump’s attorneys on Friday what the then president did to stop the turmoil, but the defense mostly refused to respond, saying they didn’t know because of the Democrats moved too quickly to indict Trump before an investigation could be completed.
Seventeen Republicans would have to join all Democrats for the Senate to convict Trump of a single impeachment trial accusing him of instigating the Jan. 6 riot, and many doubted that new information from witnesses would resonate with so many GOP Senators would.
Senate Minority Chairman Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Told his colleagues Saturday before voting on witnesses that he would vote to acquit Trump.
Julie Tsirkin, Monica Alba, Frank Thorp V and Sahil Kapur contributed to this.