‘Nobody Knows’: 11th-Hour Witness Flip-Flop Upends Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial

Trump Impeachment
Susan Walsh/AP
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., talks on a phone on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, after the fourth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

Update 1:16 p.m.

After a morning 55-45 vote to subpoena witnesses ground the quick impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump to a halt Saturday, a deal paved the way for closing arguments and a final vote.

House Impeachment Managers and Trump’s defense team agreed to enter into the record a Feb. 12 Statement from Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington that relates a conversation Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6.

Both Colorado senators supported the earlier call for witnesses. Five Republicans also voted on the motion: Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse. Sen. Lindsey Graham initially voted no, but when it became clear the motion would pass switched to a yes vote. 

“I think it’s appropriate we should have witnesses,” said Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. “Hopefully they can negotiate a reasonable agreement.”

The surprise decision brought confusion into the chamber, which had expected to hear closing arguments from impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team.

When asked about the timeline, Bennet said “Nobody knows.”

“I said to somebody that’s sitting next to me in there, it’s so rare that something unexpected happens here, but now something expected has happened.”

The chamber has recessed while details are worked out. In past impeachments, the Senate had to vote on who and how many witnesses to call, and under what rules.

It could drag out the process. Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper said he didn’t expect it to go weeks or months, something some Republican senators have said could happen.

“I know everyone's interested in efficiency, making sure everyone's heard, that we get all their information and evidence,” Hickenlooper said. “But we do it efficiently.”

There are a number of priorities Democratic senators want to move on, including confirming President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees and additional COVID-19 relief.

“I said we’re going to have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Bennet said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland mentioned one name: Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington. She tweeted about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s phone call with then President Trump the day the Capitol was stormed. 

Trump’s lawyer countered he’d want to depose more than 100 people, and not via zoom, but in person in his office in Philadelphia. It was a comment that united the chamber for a moment in laughter.

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