Senate reaches deal on impeachment trial witnesses, moves forward with vote

U.S.

TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Thousands of Trump supporters, fueled by his spurious claims of voter fraud, are flooding the nation’s capital protesting the expected certification of Joe Biden’s White House victory by the US Congress. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) —  The Senate averted a prolonged impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump on Saturday with an agreement to enter into evidence details of Trump’s remarks in a call with a top Republican during the deadly Capitol riot.

Early Saturday, the Senate voted 55-45 in favor of allowing witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. The initial decision to call witnesses came after news that Trump told a top congressional Republican during the Jan. 6 riot that the mob was “more upset” about his election defeat than lawmakers.

Lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland said Saturday he would seek to hear from Republican congresswoman Herrera Beutler, who has widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as his supporters stormed the Capitol.

Five GOP senators voted to call witnesses Saturday: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

While most Democrats are expected to convict the former president, acquittal appears likely in the chamber that is split 50-50 with Republicans. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction, or 67 votes.

Saturday morning, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues he will vote to acquit Trump, a source told The Associated Press.

“What’s important about this trial is that it’s really aimed to some extent at Donald Trump, but it’s more aimed at some president we don’t even know 20 years from now,” said Sen. Angus King, the independent from Maine.

Thus far, much of the trial focused on how much Trump knew about the rioters’ actions as they stormed Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 seeking to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s election victory was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered Friday that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Republicans maintain the proceedings are unconstitutional, even though the Senate voted at the outset of the trial on this issue and confirmed it has jurisdiction.

Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. If convicted, the Senate could then vote to bar him from running for office again.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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