After a chaotic morning, House Democrats have abandoned a plan to call witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, instead agreeing with Republicans that a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) could be admitted into the record.
House Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump had moved on Saturday morning to call for additional testimony in the trial. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead impeachment manager, wanted to call Beutler, who has confirmed reports that Trump told House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Jan. 6 that the people storming the Capitol were “more upset about the election than you are.” Raskin said Beutler’s testimony—requested via an hourlong Zoom deposition—was a relevant piece of evidence shedding light on Trump’s intent and state of mind on Jan. 6.
But, an irate Michael van der Veen, representing Trump, responded to Raskin’s call by vowing to call “100” witnesses for their side if necessary. (The Democratic-controlled chamber could have rejected most, if not all, of the witnesses Team Trump may want.)
In a surprise turn, five Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—joined all 50 Democratic senators in approving the motion to allow witnesses. The first four are seen as possible votes to convict Trump, while Graham, who has been advising Trump’s legal team, may have joined them to support Trump’s team calling their own witnesses.
Eventually, both sides agreed to simply enter Buetler’s statement into the record and proceed to closing arguments. Calling witnesses would have delayed the end of the trial, which is on track to happen Saturday afternoon, and could have added a fresh layer of uncertainty in a proceeding that is widely expected to deliver Trump an acquittal.