WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted in favor of calling witnesses to testify in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, an 11th-hour development suggesting the trial may slow down.
Five Republican senators, including Trump’s ally Lindsey Graham, joined all the Democrats to pass the motion in a 55-45 vote.
Democratic House impeachment managers required the Senate to subpoena Republican House lawmaker Jaime Herrera Beutler earlier on Saturday after she described a phone call that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with Trump as the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot was unfolding.
More details were revealed on Friday night about the phone call between McCarthy and Trump on the day, in which Trump appeared to side with rioters and said they were more “upset” over the election results than the House Republican leader, raising new questions about precisely when Trump knew the Capitol riot had occurred and whether he knew that then Vice President Mike Pence was being targeted by the mob.
The lead impeachment manager, Democratic House lawmaker Jamie Raskin, said the deposition could happen remotely by Zoom and that Democrats would request “an hour or less” of Beutler’s time.
Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s defense attorneys, had urged senators to reject calling witnesses for new evidence before their vote, arguing that the single article of impeachment is for “incitement of insurrection” and therefore the Senate jurors should ignore anything Trump did after the attack.
“It’s about the incitement. It’s not about what happened afterwards,” he said.
The Senate was poised to vote Saturday afternoon on whether to convict Trump for inciting the insurrection in the Capitol riot. To call witnesses means the trial is likely to extend beyond Saturday.
So far it’s unclear how the process will play out next. A CNN report said there needs to be another vote on a simple majority basis to subpoena specific witnesses such as Beutler or anyone else and senators may need to recess and find a time to depose them.
After the deposition, the upper chamber of Congress would need to set new guidelines on what to do to with the testimony that derives from the witness, said the report.
In another development, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday morning told Republican senators in an email that he will vote to acquit Trump, according to local media reports.
“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” said McConnell, adding that criminal misconduct by a president while in office can be prosecuted after the president leaves office.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday said of Republican senators that he is “just anxious to see what my Republican friends do — if they stand up” in the impeachment trial.
Trump’s defense team made their opening arguments on Friday, following two days of arguments by Democratic House impeachment managers prosecuting the case.
Trump’s lawyers argued that there’s no link between Trump’s rhetoric and the Capitol riot leaving five people dead, including a Capitol police officer, claiming the trial is unconstitutional since Trump is no longer in office, the House rushed the impeachment process and Trump’s remarks are protected by the First Amendment.
In their arguments, House impeachment managers, using security footage of the riot and quoting rioters defending their actions by saying Trump invited them, argued that it was Trump who called his followers to Washington, D.C., to fight for a “stolen” election, failed to act during the riot and showed no remorse afterwards.
Trump was impeached on Jan. 13 by the Democrat-led House on one article of inciting insurrection leading to the Capitol riot which interrupted Congress’ electoral vote count of Biden’s victory.
Before the attack on Capitol began, Trump held a rally outside the White House, calling for supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the election results.
No U.S. president before Trump had ever been impeached and tried twice, and no trial has ever been held for a former president. If the impeachment trial concludes this weekend as expected, it will be the shortest one in U.S. history.
A two-thirds majority of the currently evenly split Senate is required for Trump conviction. However, more than a third of the chamber, all Republicans, have twice voted that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional since Trump now is a private citizen, suggesting the former president will be acquitted. Enditem