Trump’s ‘chilling’ call read into evidence as Senate moves into final stage of trial without witnesses

Senate had voted 55-45 to hear witness testimony in Trump impeachment trial, but all sides backtracked later in the day

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Saturday 13 February 2021 20:08
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House managers read statement from Rep Herrera Beutler
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The House Democratic impeachment managers have backed away from their request to hear testimony from Congresswoman Jaime Herrera-Beutler about the heated phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump during the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January.

SenateDemocrats and Republicans as well as the impeachment managers and Mr Trump’s defence counsel worked out a last-minute agreement on Saturday to read Ms Herrera-Beutler’s statement from the previous night about the Trump-McCarthy call into the record so the trial could proceed to closing arguments and a final vote.

“The former president’s counsel is agreeable to the admission of that public statement into evidence at this time,” Mr Trump’s lawyer Bruce Castor said.

“The managers are prepared to enter into the agreement,” lead manager Jamie Raskin said.

Mr Raskin read Ms Herrera-Beutler’s statement into evidence and then commenced his side’s closing argument.

Just roughly an hour earlier, the Senate had voted 55-45 to hear from witnesses, per Mr Raskin’s request, a move that came as a surprise to both Mr Trump’s defence team as well as senators from both parties.

Five Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — voted with all 50 Democrats to allow the impeachment managers and Mr Trump’s defence counsel to call witnesses.

But in order to begin calling witnesses, Democrats and Republicans would have needed to come together on a bipartisan deal governing the deposition process since any resolution would need to clear the chamber’s traditional 60-vote threshold.

Senate leaders spent roughly an hour weighing the open questions presented by a potential drawn-out phase of witness depositions, which threatened to freeze the chamber in place amid the impeachment trial for weeks: How many witnesses would be called? How would the depositions be conducted? How would the trial proceed if a witness defied a subpoena to testify? How many lawyers would be in the room for each deposition?

Ultimately, Democratic leaders and the impeachment managers caved, agreeing to the GOP’s proposal to enter Ms Herrera-Beutler’s statement into evidence.

In her own words, here is what happened between Mr McCarthy and Mr Trump on 6 January:

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

Subsequent reporting has claimed Mr McCarthy responded to the president: “Who the f*** do you think you’re talking to?”

Mr Raskin on Saturday argued that the exchange supports the impeachment managers’ case that Mr Trump purposely incited the insurrection on 6 January while Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“That conduct is obviously part and parcel of the constitutional offence that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection. That [conduct] is continuing incitement to the insurrection. The conduct described not only perpetuated his continuing offence, but also provides to us here today further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place,” Mr Raskin said.

Mr Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen responded to the managers’ request for witnesses on Saturday by threatening to call dozens of witnesses of his own in order to delay the proceedings and potentially drag Democratic politicians through the mud.

“I’m going to need 100 witnesses. Not just one,” Mr Van der Veen said.

“The only thing that I ask, if you vote for witnesses, do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do,” he said of the impeachment managers. “I need to do the 9/11-style investigation that Nancy Pelosi called for. It should have been done already. It is a dereliction of the House managers’ duty that they didn’t.”

The 9/11 Commission, which was established more than a year after the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, took nearly two more years to complete. It was not published until 26 July 2004.

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