Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses
Liberals on and off Capitol Hill are up in arms after Democratic impeachment managers abandoned their effort to compel new witness testimony in the trial accusing former President Trump of inciting last month’s attack on the Capitol.
The progressive critics contend that Democratic prosecutors, by accepting a deal to exclude those witnesses and wrap up the trial, missed a unique opportunity to highlight Trump’s involvement in the assault, particularly his refusal to defuse the violence after it had begun.
They aren’t mincing words.
“This is retreat. White flag. Malpractice. Completely unstrategic. They just closed the door on others who may have stepped out, as @HerreraBeutler urged last night,” Adam Green, who heads the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said on Twitter, referring to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who had called Friday for Republicans to come forward with information about Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.
“Just when we thought Dems were being bold and strategic. This is grabbing lameness out of the jaws of boldness,” he added.
Markos Moulitsas, the liberal activist founder of Daily Kos, was more blunt. “It really all boils down to this: Hey Democrats, you f—ed up,” he said.
The criticisms came after a chaotic day of debate and partisan bickering in the Senate trial, which ultimately resulted in Trump’s acquittal.
Democratic prosecutors had stunned Washington on Saturday morning when they scrapped an initial plan to rest their case and instead forced the Senate to adopt a measure allowing for new witnesses — a strategy that even Senate Democrats said they had not been warned of.
“We have social conversations, but we don’t talk strategy. So we did not know if they were going to request witnesses or not. We just didn’t,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), adding that he supported the additional testimony.
“If the managers believe it helps their presentation to have witnesses, we should let them have witnesses,” he added.
The additional testimony was necessary, the managers argued, after the emergence of new details surrounding Trump’s refusal to intervene when the violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, even despite the pleas from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP allies to do so.
McCarthy’s urgent request for Trump’s help had been reported last month, but Herrera Beutler provided new details this week, saying Trump had sided with the rioters over those under attack in the Capitol.
“Well Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump told McCarthy mid-attack, according to Herrera Beutler’s account. That led the impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), to request that she testify as part of the trial.
“Needless to say, this is an additional, critical piece of corroborating evidence further confirming the charges before you, as well as the president’s willful dereliction of duty,” Raskin said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had signed off on the decision, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Yet after a few hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the sides cut a deal: They would allow Herrera Beutler’s statement to become a part of the official trial record, but no witnesses would be asked to provide new testimony in the case.
The impeachment managers quickly claimed victory, saying it was a concession that Trump’s defense team would never have made without the threat of bringing new witnesses.
“Now that Trump’s Team has conceded to bringing this uncontradicted statement into the trial record, it can be considered by Senators along with the already overwhelming evidence about President Trump’s conduct on January 6, without the need for subpoena, deposition and other testimony,” said a senior aide on the impeachment team.
The trial’s quick end means that Democrats can shift their energies back to the task of adopting the ambitious legislative agenda of President Biden, beginning with a massive COVID-19 stimulus bill.
But the decision to scrap new witnesses launched a firestorm of attacks from the left, as liberals blasted sour notes of disappointment that Democrats hadn’t fought harder to win Trump’s conviction.
“The fact that Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, Tommy Tuberville and Kevin McCarthy will likely *never* have to testify under oath about the insurrection is an insult to justice and to history,” tweeted David Atkins, a liberal activist in California.
“Republicans would have conducted a month-long impeachment trial calling dozens of witnesses,” he added.
Some Democrats on Capitol Hill were just as angry. One Democrat familiar with the witness negotiations said Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), were ready to accept whatever decision the wavering impeachment managers made on the question of calling for new testimony — a message the senators delivered to the House prosecutors.
Yet after the Senate voted to allow those new witnesses, the source said, the managers botched the next steps.
“After the vote, it was clear the managers had no plan,” said the Democratic source. “Senate Democrats gave them the votes, but the managers didn’t know what their next step was.”
The tensions might not matter in the long run. The final vote on Trump’s fate featured seven Republican senators who crossed the aisle to convict the former president, marking the most bipartisan conviction vote in the nation’s history.
That’s provided Democrats with a potent talking point heading into the 2022 cycle, when both chambers are up for grabs. And many Senate Democrats noted that the GOP opposition to Trump’s conviction was so entrenched that new witnesses would never have changed the verdict.
“I don’t think anything would have made a difference with the folks on the other side,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said after Trump’s acquittal.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, however, the Democrats’ liberal base is making sure to send party leaders an unmistakable message that they’re expecting more fight in the debates to come.
“Only Democrats can indisputably win a vote and then concede,” said Green.
Jordain Carney contributed.