The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, a surprise move that will likely extend the trial even as the top Republican Senator said he would vote to acquit the former president for inciting insurgency.
Mitch McConnell’s reported decision to vote for the acquittal means Trump is unlikely to be convicted on charges of instigating his supporters’ deadly attack on Congress on Jan. 6.
The Senate met at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT) to consider whether testimony in impeachment proceedings against the 74-year-old former Republican president would be admissible.
The process should be completed on Saturday. But in a surprise move, the House’s chief impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, said he wanted to call a Republican lawmaker to testify as a witness.
This resulted in Trump’s defense attorneys threatening to call Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House, Vice President Kamala Harris and other witnesses.
The Senate then voted between 55 and 45 to admit witnesses, and five Republicans joined their Democratic counterparts.
The move caused some confusion in the Senate, and it was not immediately clear how many, if any, witnesses would eventually be called upon to testify.
Raskin said he would call Rep Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, to testify after she released a statement on the January 6 events.
Herrera Beutler was one of ten Republican lawmakers who voted to indict Trump in the House of Representatives.
In her statement, Herrera Beutler said Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump while the attack was ongoing and begged him to call off the rioters.
“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and violently end the uprising, the president first repeated the lie that it was Antifa who had violated the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
“McCarthy refuted this and told the president that these were Trump supporters,” said the congresswoman.
“Then, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I think these people are more upset about the election than you are,” she said.
“A close thing”
Before the call for testimony, the process should be completed on Saturday afternoon with final arguments and a vote. Making a decision to call witnesses can add indefinitely to the process.
Each side has two hours to present their final arguments.
Trump was indicted by the Democratic House on January 13 for instigating the deadly attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to block Congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3rd victory.
However, a 100-member Senate conviction, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, would require a two-thirds majority and appears unlikely after McConnell announced he would vote for an acquittal.
Just before the trial resumed Saturday, McConnell sent an email to fellow Republican senators.
“During a close conversation, I am convinced that impeachments are first and foremost an instrument of elimination and so we have no jurisdiction,” said McConnell. “The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that criminal misconduct by the President during his tenure after he has left office can be prosecuted.
“Given these conclusions, I will vote for the acquittal,” McConnell said.
Trump’s defense attorneys argued Friday that the former president bears no responsibility for his supporters’ attack on Congress and finished their presentation in just three hours.
This was followed by two days of evidence from Democratic impeachment executives revolving around harrowing footage of the mob attack on the Capitol.
In disputes on Friday, defense lawyers called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance”.
Former president’s lawyers argued that Trump’s rally near the White House that preceded the January 6 attack when he told supporters to “fight” was just rhetorical.
To turn the tables on how the Democrats use video evidence vigorously, defenders played their own compilations depicting Democratic lawmakers at various times using the word “struggle”.
Democratic impeachment managers accuse Trump of deliberately fueling national tensions with a campaign of lies alleging mass voter fraud following his defeat by Biden.
On January 6th, he held a fiery rally near the White House, urging the crowd to march on Congress, which was in the process of confirming Biden’s victory.
The mob then stormed the Capitol and disrupted certification. Five people, including a police officer and a woman, who were shot during the riot, died as a result of the chaos.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)