The Senate reversed course on Saturday, declining to call witnesses on the impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump after a surprise vote that allowed testimony threatened to delay the trial.
After reaching an agreement to bypass the testimony, Trump's impeachment managers and attorneys went off for up to four hours. The Senate is expected to give the former president an option to start a riot later in the day.
Once they voted to give testimony, the chamber could call certain witnesses by simple majority. The move by the House Prosecutor's Office to seek testimony on Saturday morning seemed to caught the senators off guard and led them to figure out how to proceed.
The Senate voted to allow witnesses 55 to 45 ahead, as five Republicans joined all Democrats. The GOP Senators were Susan Collins from Maine, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Mitt Romney from Utah, and Ben Sasse from Nebraska. While the other four Republicans are believed to be the most likely in their party to vote in favor of Trump's condemnation, Graham is an ally of Trump who coordinated with the former president's lawyers during the trial.
But the board quickly withdrew and agreed to end the process after including a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., As evidence.
Senior impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Had called the Beutler deposit on Saturday, confirming what came of an explosive call between the House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump during the Capitol attack on January 6th was said to have been deployed.
In this screenshot from a webcast from congress.gov, Senior House Impeachment Head Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Congress.gov | Getty Images
Beutler's testimony is that Trump said to McCarthy, "Well, Kevin, I think these people are more upset about the election than you are."
Trump attorney Michael van der Veen responded to Raskin by saying "We should close this case today" and that the call for witnesses shows that the House has not properly investigated the riots.
"This is the first time to speak about witnesses," replied Raskin. "This is completely in line with the rules set by the Senate. There is nothing unusual about it."
During Friday night's question-and-answer session, Trump's legal team repeatedly declined to say what the former president knew about the threats to former Vice President Mike Pence's life and when.
It led a disgruntled Raskin to urge the lawyers to "bring your client over here and have him testify under oath why he tweets denouncing the Vice President of the United States while the Vice President was being chased by a mob" .
The Witness reversal put the Senate on its way to decide by Saturday night whether Trump sparked an uprising against the government. Only a handful of Republicans will join the Democrats to condemn the former president.
It would take Democrats 17 GOP Senators to join Trump. You could then hold a separate vote to prevent him from running for office in the future.
In his final argument, Raskin called the evidence against Trump "overwhelming" and "irrefutable".
"President Trump must be condemned for the security of our democracy and our people," he said.
Republicans who have signaled they will vote in favor of Trump's acquittal had warned they could try to drag the process out by calling dozens of witnesses. A GOP Senator also argued that the move could delay President Joe Biden's cabinet confirmation and the passage of the Democrats' $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package.
The Senate has a planned break next week, so it is unclear to what extent the process, which will take several days, would have disrupted the Chamber's business.
"No end in sight. This could drag on indefinitely," tweeted Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn, who has opposed both the trial and the pandemic relief plan, after voting to allow witnesses.
Democrats are in a hurry to kickstart the health system and economy with no Republican votes before March 14, when programs to benefit unemployed Americans expire. Many GOP lawmakers have resisted further federal spending to respond to the pandemic.
It was unclear whether calling witnesses would have affected the votes of senators who had already made up their minds. Senate minority chairman Mitch McConnell, for example, told his colleagues he would vote for Trump's acquittal, NBC News confirmed earlier Saturday.
The Kentucky Republican argued that the chamber had no power to convict a former president. The House indicted Trump when he was still president, and McConnell declined to use emergency powers to bring the Senate back before Biden's inauguration.