Senate strikes deal, bypassing calling impeachment witnesses
House impeachment managers, former President Trump’s legal team and top senators struck a deal on Saturday that will let the Senate bypass calling witnesses.
The agreement comes after senators were caught flat-footed by a request from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, to depose Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who has hammered Trump for his actions after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.
Instead, the Senate entered a statement Herrera Beutler released on Friday night into the trial record.
The move will allow the Senate to bypass calling witnesses — a process senators warned could prolong Trump’s second impeachment trial for days if not longer.
Herrera Beutler released a statement saying that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had told her about his conversation with Trump on Jan. 6 as the riot was unfolding.
“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,'” she said.
Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers, said the statement was the same as the testimony the GOP lawmaker would have given if deposed. Raskin then formally agreed to the deal and read Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record.
The Senate then moved on to closing arguments for the trial.
The decision was effectively a backpedal of the vote earlier Saturday to call witnesses.
Democrats and Trump’s legal team both appeared caught off guard by Raskin’s request to depose the GOP lawmaker.
“We don’t know what the managers are going to do. … I know Jamie Raskin personally. We have social conversations but we don’t talk strategy. So we did not know if they were going to request witnesses or not,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, showed reporters a list of 301 names the former president’s team was prepared to call if Democrats moved forward with witnesses. They wouldn’t have ultimately gotten anywhere near that, but it underscored the headache Democrats were facing.
Republicans also fumed over the decision to call witnesses, which five of their GOP colleagues supported.
“I can’t speak for the other 49, but there’s a lot of a lot of upset people,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
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