Schumer: Trump’s team made case for new witnesses ‘even stronger’
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) knocked President Trump’s legal team on Saturday over its defense of Trump in the impeachment trial, saying its arguments made “no sense” and strengthened the Democratic case for witnesses.
Schumer, speaking after the first day of arguments from the White House counsel, noted that Trump’s legal team argued there were no eyewitnesses for the Democrats’ case, while Democrats want to call individuals with firsthand knowledge to testify.
“The president’s counsel did something that they did not intend: They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents,” Schumer told reporters. “Today, we thank the president’s counsel for one thing. They made our case even stronger.”
The Senate is expected to hold a vote next week on whether additional witnesses or documents will be allowed in the Senate trial. Democrats will need four Republicans to vote with them to secure additional testimony and materials.
Schumer on Saturday stopped short of saying he thought they would be able to win over enough Republicans, describing it as a “hard road.”
“Do I think it’s easy to get four Republicans? Absolutely not. Do I think we have a chance … and after today, maybe even a little more so?” Schumer asked. “Yes, I do.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) is the only Republican who has specifically said he wants to call former national security adviser John Bolton and potentially others.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have both signaled they are open to calling witnesses but have argued specific decisions should wait until after opening arguments and questions from senators.
It’s unclear who could give Democrats their fourth GOP vote. Republican leadership and their aides have predicted that a 50-50 vote would fail.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring but close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has been tight-lipped about how he will vote on calling witnesses.
The White House team on Saturday offered a brief two-hour preview of its defense against the two House-passed articles of impeachment. One of their arguments was that the witnesses who testified before the House did not have firsthand knowledge of the discussions around the decision to hold up the Ukraine aid.
Trump’s attorneys argued that the president withheld the military aid because of concerns about burden sharing and corruption and that he didn’t tie the assistance to the investigations.
A number of witnesses called by Democrats testified that it was their understanding the administration linked the aid to the investigations, including William Taylor, then the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Updated: 2:09 p.m.