- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Senate on Saturday afternoon reached a deal averting Democrats’ last-minute push for witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, paving the way for Mr. Trump’s likely acquittal later in the day.

The agreement was struck after Mr. Trump’s legal team appeared to have forced the hand of Democratic impeachment managers by threatening to call at least 301 witnesses in their side of the case, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala D. Harris.

Both parties instead agreed to accept as evidence a news report claiming that Mr. Trump essentially taunted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a phone call on Jan. 6, when Mr. McCarthy was pleading with the former president to call off the rioters at the U.S. Capitol.

House impeachment managers had interrupted the trial Saturday morning by announcing they wanted to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington Republican, the source of the news report about the phone call. She also was one of 10 House Republicans who voted in favor of Mr. Trump’s impeachment on Jan. 13 for inciting the riot.

But after two hours of negotiations, Trump lawyer Bruce Castor and lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin agreed that Ms. Herrera Beutler’s account of the phone call would be entered into the trial record. Impeachment managers dropped their demand to call her as a witness.

The deal came after a Senate vote of 55-45 earlier in the day in favor of calling witnesses.

Five Republicans had voted with all 50 Democrats: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Mr. Graham changed his vote to “yes,” saying if the Democrats want witnesses, he envisions a lengthy delay with many witnesses called by Mr. Trump’s side.

Most Republicans had reacted angrily to the Democrats’ call for witnesses, saying it would prolong the trial and exacerbate an already bitterly partisan drama.

“It’s just like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican. “Trump supporters understand that, and it just inflames the situation … rather than bring this to a close. We’re trying to put the fire out, and these guys [Democrats] are lighting the fire.”

The trial now is expected to move to a final vote on Saturday. 

Ms. Herrera Beutler on Friday night reiterated her version of the phone call between Mr. Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, that took place as the rioters were attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6. Mr. McCarthy had called Mr. Trump at the White House urging him to call off the rioters.

“Well Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Mr. Trump allegedly told Mr. McCarthy, according to Ms. Herrera Beutler.

Mr. Raskin called it “a critical piece of corroborating evidence confirming the charges before you. We want to subpoena her. We would be prepared to proceed by Zoom deposition of an hour or less .. and then proceed to the next phase of the trial.”

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen objected heatedly.

“If they want to have witnesses, I’m going to need at least over 100 depositions, not just one,” he told the Senate. “If you vote for witnesses, do not handcuff me. I’m going to slap subpoenas on a good number of people, if witnesses are what is required here.”

Mr. Trump’s legal team pushed back on the comment attributed to the former president, saying Mr. McCarthy has disclaimed the rumor, and that the trial should conclude Saturday.

“This entire proceeding is based on rumor, report and innuendo,” said Mr. van der Veen. “We should close this case out today.”

He said if senators voted to allow witnesses, he would need to do a thorough investigation and conduct depositions at his law office in Philadelphia. The Democratic side of the chamber broke out in laughter.

“I don’t know why you’re laughing,” Mr. van der Veen said. “That’s civil process. That is the way we lawyers do it. I haven’t laughed at any of you. And there’s nothing laughable here.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat who is overseeing the trial, called for order.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, relayed to reporters a comment from his colleague, Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, about the 11th-hour twist on Saturday.

“Shelby says he’s seen three of these [impeachment trials], and this is the craziest,” Mr. Cassidy said.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had warned earlier that they might call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a witness, as the person ultimately responsible for Capitol security. Vice President Kamala D. Harris‘s name also has been tossed around as a potential witness.

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