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Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a late twist, the House impeachment managers requested to subpoena at least one witness.

In a surprising turn of events, the Senate is moving toward calling at least one witness at the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).

On Saturday morning, the House impeachment managers requested seeking Herrera Beutler’s testimony as part of their case that the former president incited an insurrection, and the Senate subsequently voted to debate calling witnesses (though they have not yet approved calling any specific witnesses).

All Democrats voted in favor of this. Four Republicans considering convicting Trump — Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) — joined them, and staunch Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also voted yes on the motion, apparently for his own reasons.

What this means for the trial, previously expected to wrap up Saturday, is not yet clear, as senators are currently discussing how to handle what comes next. Depending on what senators agree to, this could extend the trial a little — or quite a lot.

Now, these developments do not appear to throw the outcome into serious question, since Democrats seem to have nowhere near the 17 Republican Senate votes they’d need to convict Trump. (For instance, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would vote to acquit Trump Saturday morning, ending rumors to the contrary.) But at the very least, it will extend the political focus on Trump’s conduct a bit longer.

Herrera Beutler’s revelations, and Kevin McCarthy’s phone call to Trump, briefly explained

Herrera Beutler became the sudden focus of attention Friday night, after she released a statement recounting what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told her about a call he had with Trump while the Capitol insurrection was taking place on January 6.

According to Herrera Beutler, McCarthy told her that he asked Trump to forcefully call off the riot, and Trump responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” This account indicates that even as the riot unfolded, Trump remained sympathetic to the rioters and reluctant to rein them in.

There had been previous reports that McCarthy had spoken to Trump the day a group of the then-president’s supporters stormed the US Capitol. But CNN reported new details on the matter Friday night, and the report spurred Herrera Beutler — one of just 10 House Republicans to vote in favor of Trump’s second impeachment — to release a statement confirming the account, and calling on other “patriots” with relevant knowledge to come forward.

For weeks, the widespread expectation in Washington was that the House impeachment managers would not request witnesses, acquiescing to a bipartisan desire among party leaders to get the trial over this Saturday.

But the House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (R-MD), seized on this late revelation and, on Saturday morning, revealed that they would request at least one witness — Rep. Herrera Beutler. Raskin said he wanted to subpoena Rep. Herrera Beutler and any contemporaneous notes she had, and to get her testimony by Zoom for an hour or less as soon as she is available.

And Raskin said he might not stop there. He said that if other “patriots” do indeed come forward, as Herrera Beutler requested, he reserved the right to request testimony from them as well. (This suggests that Raskin is most interested in calling friendly witnesses, not waging lengthy legal battles trying to force testimony from aides who would try and cover up for Trump anyway. In other words, it seems unlikely House managers would subpoena McCarthy himself, or White House aides who were around Trump on January 6 — unless they actually wanted to testify.)

Trump’s team was furious. “We should close this case out today!” his attorney Michael van der Veen said. He suggested that if the House asked for one witness, he’d want “over 100 witnesses” (though the Senate would have to approve those witness requests). Sen. Graham, who decided at the last minute to vote to request witnesses, also hinted he would encourage Trump’s team to drag out the process.

But the Senate voted in favor of witnesses anyway. Now, each side is trying to regroup and figure out what comes next.

Author: Andrew Prokop

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