Live impeachment updates: McConnell says he'll vote to acquit; GOP lawmaker says Trump rebuffed plea to call off rioters

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Democratic managers have made what they’ve dubbed Trump’s “big lie” – relentless and baseless claims that the election was rigged against him – a central part of their impeachment case.

During Saturday’s closing arguments, they played a montage of clips showing the then-president claiming the election was “rigged” against him months before it was held and that it was “stolen” weeks after it had been decided.

“Our point is this was not one speech,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., told senators. “This was a deliberate, purposeful effort by Donald Trump over many months that resulted in the well-organized mob’s attack on Jan. 6.”

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– Ledyard king

Cicilline: ‘inconceivable’ Trump didn’t know about riot, threat to Pence

Rep. David Cicilline said it’s “unconceivable” that President Donald Trump had no idea of the riot that was happening at the Capitol and that his own vice president was in danger for his life, a claim refuted by Trump’s lawyers.

The Rhode Island Democrat walked senators through a timeline of events on Jan. 6 that started at noon with Trump’s speech at a rally near the White House and concluded with the siege at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that afternoon.

Cicilline said it’s impossible to believe a president consumed with Congress’ tabulation that day of the Electoral College votes sealing his loss to Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election would not have known through social media and events broadcast live on television about the unrest on Capitol Hill.

That he did nothing even after speaking with GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy who implored him to ask the insurgents to back down further shows how guilty Trump was of the impeachment article charging he incited the riot, Cicilline said.

– Ledyard King

Raskin: Trump’s actions during riot ‘outrageous’

The lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin began his closing argument in the Senate impeachment trial by saying former President Donald Trump’s actions after the riot began Jan. 6 at the Capitol added to his incitement of the insurrection.

Trump’s defense team had argued that anything Trump said or did after the riot began couldn’t be considered incitement. But Raskin, D-Md., said Trump’s derogatory tweet about then-Vice President Mike Pence and his refusal to call off the mob as requested by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., each made the offense worse.

“That conduct is obviously part and parcel of the constitutional offense that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection,” Raskin said. “That is continuing incitement to the insurrection.”

Minutes after the Secret Service evacuated Pence from the Senate chamber, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., issued a statement Friday saying Trump refused to call off the mob when McCarthy asked. The Senate briefly agreed to call Beutler as a witness in the trial, but Trump’s defense team agreed to enter her statement as evidence by saying the former president didn’t dispute the statement.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Beutler quotes Trump as telling McCarthy.

Raskin said the Pence tweet and statement to McCarthy demonstrated Trump’s continued incitement of the mob that swarmed through the Capitol, beating police officers and occupying the Senate chamber.

“It was outrageously scandalous and unconscionable conduct in the middle of a violent assault on the Capitol,” Raskin said.

– Bart Jansen

Lawmakers and Trump’s lawyers reach compromise to avoid witness

Democratic lawmakers and former President Donald Trump’s lawyers reached a deal to enter a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., into the record, setting up an end to the trial later Saturday and avoiding a lengthier trial after the Senate voted earlier the same day to call witnesses.

Herrera Beutler had said in a statement released Friday she had talked with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, and McCarthy told her Trump had seemed unconcerned by the attack, trying to blame it on “antifa.” When told by McCarthy they were Trump’s supporters, Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., read aloud a statement from Herrera Beutler on McCarthy’s phone call with former President Donald Trump into the record, and then neither side moved to call any additional witnesses.

As details of the deal trickled out earlier Saturday, lawmakers signaled they would support it. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told USA TODAY, “I think it’s a reasonable deal,” and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a Biden confidant, told reporters, “I think most senators would support that.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who had voted earlier along with four Republican senators to call witnesses, told reporters, he would support a potential deal, though he would have also supported both sides calling witnesses if they wanted to do so.

“If they’ve reached an agreement,” Romney said, “then that would be great.”

– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes

Democrats say extended trial wouldn’t stop them from passing bills, confirming nominees

Democratic senators said an extended trial with witnesses would not prevent them from finding time to work on legislation or confirming President Joe Biden’s nominees.

“We’ve been moving forward on all fronts already in terms of confirming the president’s nominees, moving forward a COVID package during the trial, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters on Capitol Hill Saturday. “We can move forward” on other issues.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren agreed that the lawmakers could still find time to legislate but that they weren’t going to rush on impeachment just to free up more time for other work.

“I want to see us get on to other business,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “But it is absolutely critical that we hold a president of the United States accountable when he incites a mob to try to undermine our Constitution.”

– Ledyard King

Sudden shift by senators to call witnesses takes both sides by surprise

The Senate decision to call witnesses at the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump surprised lawmakers on both sides, who must still decide how many witnesses will be called and how they will be deposed.

Senators in both parties had expected no witnesses at the trial and a potential vote on the verdict Saturday. But after the lead manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked to hear from a House member, Trump’s defense team also sought witnesses.

Now the Senate must decide how many witnesses to call and under what rules. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recessed the trial while lawmakers debate which steps to take.

Under the resolution the Senate adopted for the trial, after allowing any witnesses, the Senate must decide whether to issue subpoenas, how to arrange depositions and whether other research is needed. Those rules would be governed by another resolution in the Senate, which would require another vote.

While Raskin requested one witness – Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. – Trump’s lawyers named at least two witnesses they would call, and indicated they would want many more.

“I’m gonna slap subpoenas on a good number of people,” Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said, adding he would like to hold 100 depositions if any witnesses are called.

“Do not limit the number of witnesses that I can have,” he said.

Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said the defense team has a list of 301 witnesses –and counting.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan, said there’s an “attempt at the moment is to see what the parameters of witnesses might be.” He wants to make sure it’s “fair” and that there’s time to take depositions, which Trump’s legal team said should be taken in person.

Democrats retreated to their offices for their discussion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained in the chamber during the lull, chatting with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and aides.

During Trump’s impeachment trial, the Senate debate over witnesses focused on providing a set number, such as three, for each side. But the Senate voted not to call witnesses in that trial.

– Bart Jansen

Graham surprises with vote to join Democrats in approving witnesses in Trump’s trial

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies, voted to approve calling witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial.

Graham, R-S.C., changed his vote to side with Democrats and several of his moderate Republican colleagues after it was clear the chamber would be moving forward with subpoenas. Graham, who huddled with Trump’s attorneys during the trial for a strategy session, had teased for weeks that if Democrats attempted to call witnesses, Republicans would demand a number of controversial witnesses.

“If you want a delay, it will be a long one with many, many witnesses,” Graham tweeted earlier Saturday. He said on Fox News earlier this month that if Democrats call one witness, “you open that can of worms, we’ll want the FBI to come in and tell us about how people pre-planned this attack and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol. You open up Pandora’s Box if you call one witness.”

– Christal Hayes

Leahy scolds chamber for lack of civility, laughing at Trump’s lawyer

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the presiding officer over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, called for civility in the chamber Saturday morning after senators erupted into laughter after Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s defense attorneys, insisted depositions for witnesses should be done in his personal injury law office in Philadelphia.

An exasperated van der Veen shot back, “That’s the way it works, folks … I don’t know why you’re laughing.”

Leahy quoted Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020 and had admonished the House managers and Trump’s defense team.

“I would remind everybody, as Chief Justice Roberts noted Jan. 21, 2020, citing the trial of Charles Swayne in 1905: all parties of the chamber must refrain from using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.”

“I listened to Chief Justice Roberts say that, I agreed with him and I thought for our colleagues I would repeat it as I did last night,” Leahy continued.

The comment from Van der Veen came after lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD., had called for witnesses, beginning with subpoenaing Rep. Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., regarding her conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about a phone call he had with Trump during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In that phone call, the former president reportedly said of the rioters: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Raskin suggested the deposition could be done through Zoom.

Van der Veen also said the defense team would call Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response, and “not by zoom”.

– Savannah Behrmann

Senate votes 55-45 to call witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

The Senate voted Saturday to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, a surprise move that potentially lengthens the trial by weeks or months.

The Senate voted 55-45 after the lead House manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., as a witness.

She had issued a statement Friday about a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with Trump during the riot Jan. 6.

She said McCarthy, R-Calif., had spoken with Trump, urging him to call off the riot, but that Trump replied indifferently.

“Needless to say, this is an additional critical piece of evidence,” Raskin said.

He said a deposition could be handled online in an hour. But one of Trump’s defense lawyers, Michael van der Veen, said if managers called witnesses, he would seek numerous witnesses with in-person depositions.

The witnesses might cover material beyond what the House requested.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would like to learn more about Vice President Mike Pence’s situation during the riot. After Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber, Trump sent a derogatory tweet about him, which impeachment managers referenced multiple times during the trial.

“I think a lot of us are curious about the situation that was present with the vice president,” Murkowski said.

– Bart Jansen

McConnell tells GOP senators he will vote to acquit Trump

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump after weeks of leaving the door open to possibly convicting him, according to an email he sent Republican senators Saturday. 

The Kentucky Republican had said for weeks, both publicly and in private, that he was open to convicting Trump – a stark change from his role in the former president’s first impeachment trial where he worked in concert with the White House to ensure the president was acquitted.

But after initially saying he’d keep an open mind, McConnell indicated he’d likely stick with his Republicans conference after voting twice that the trial should be halted on Constitutional grounds.

His vote announcement, which came before most of his conference, could send a signal to other Republicans who have stayed mum about how they will vote.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., confirmed the contents of McConnell’s email to USA TODAY. 

McConnell had remained silent throughout the proceedings and, unlike his colleagues, did not take any notes or make any reactions to the days of presentations. He also ignored questions from reporters throughout the trial.

After the Jan. 6 attack, McConnell issued a striking condemnation of Trump, saying “the mob was fed lies” and “were provoked by the president.”

– Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu

GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler: Trump rebuffed plea from top Republican to call off rioters

Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler backed reports late Friday that said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with then-President Donald Trump as a mob was attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the president seemed unconcerned about the riot.

Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment on a charge of inciting the attack, said in a statement that McCarthy had told her when he reached Trump by phone as the Capitol was breached McCarthy “asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.”

According to Herrera Beutler, Trump initially tried to blame the attack on leftist members of “antifa” but when McCarthy insisted the mob was comprised of the president supporters, Trump told the top House Republican, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” 

Herrera Beutler’s allegation supports the House impeachment managers’ claim that Trump was aware of the danger to lawmakers during the breach and did nothing to stop the riot as the Capitol was being stormed by the deadly mob. 

– William Cummings 

Trump’s legal team, House prosecutors eye closing arguments with witness question unanswered

WASHINGTON – A final verdict in former President Donald Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial may be near as both sides ready for closing arguments when the trial resumes Saturday.

But first, it must be decided whether witnesses will be called. If the Senate voted to call witnesses, the decision could lengthen the proceedings by weeks or months because the witnesses would have to be deposed and more research conducted.

No formal announcements on witnesses have been made, but both sides have indicated they don’t need them.

When one of the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., was asked Thursday if they needed witnesses, she replied, “I think we’ve made our case.” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who called for a thorough trial for the historical record, said Friday he doesn’t need to hear from witnesses. “I think adequate evidence has been presented,” he said. 

Trump impeachment trial: Sen. Tommy Tuberville stands by account of Jan. 6 Trump phone call after lawyers say it’s ‘hearsay’

One of Trump’s staunchest defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said witnesses aren’t necessary, but that Trump’s team should call witnesses if the managers do. One of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, told reporters Thursday “that hasn’t been decided yet.”

House managers asked Trump himself to testify under oath in hopes to question him, but the president has refused. 

If both sides decide not to hear from witnesses, it would move the trial to four hours of closing arguments, after which the Senate will deliberate and make their final vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. Several senators said a vote could come Saturday afternoon.

The House impeached Trump Jan.13 by charging him with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol Jan. 6, which interrupted Congress counting Electoral College votes. Five people died, including a police officer and a woman shot by police, as rioters rampaged through the building searching for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Eugene Goodman: Eugene Goodman, heralded as hero during Capitol riot, to be awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Conviction would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate, a high bar in a chamber evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 lawmakers who caucus with Democrats. In preliminary votes upholding the constitutionality of the trial, only six Republicans joined Democrats, rather than the 17 needed for conviction, signaling Trump may be acquitted.

Over the course of the trial, which began Tuesday, the managers argued Trump fueled unrest with months of complaints about the legitimacy of the election. Trump then urged his supporters the day of the riot to “fight” the election results at the Capitol.

The lead House prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., warned that Trump represented a continuing threat to the country if not convicted and disqualified from holding office in the future.

But Trump’s lawyers argued he used standard political language to rally his supporters and can’t be blamed for the mob’s violence. The defense team also argued that Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.

Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers, called the impeachment a blatantly political trial that represented partisan vengeance. He called it a “politically motivated witch hunt.”

– Bart Jansen

Capitol officer awarded Congressional Gold Medal
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live impeachment updates: Senate won’t hear witnesses in Trump trial after reversal, prosecutors present closing arguments

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