The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was briefly derailed Saturday morning, after House managers pushed to have witnesses called.
After behind-the-scenes negotiations, the House prosecution team and Trump’s legal team agreed that they would move forward without calling potentially hundreds of witnesses, which could have stretched the trial out for several days. They are now back on track for senators to vote Saturday afternoon.
Trump is expected to be acquitted, as it requires two-thirds of the chamber to vote to convict. Forty-four Republicans already voted on the trial’s first day Tuesday that they don’t believe they have the authority to convict the former president on an impeachment charge because he’s no longer in office. Trump’s term ended January 20.
The Senate adjourned on a rare Saturday morning session, in what was expected to be the end of the trial by afternoon. Instead, House managers started the day with a push to call witnesses. The chamber voted 55-45 in favor of calling witnesses, after news emerged that Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican, had detailed notes about a call between Trump and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy while the riot was ongoing.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is a staunch ally of Trump, at the last minute voted in favor of having witnesses.
Trump attorney Bruce Caster then told reporters that Trump’s legal team would call “lots” of its own witnesses. Each witness would require another Senate vote whether to allow.
As the chamber took a break for negotiations over the witness issue, Trump adviser Jason Miller was spotted walking in the Capitol with a stack of papers that read “witness list 301 (so far),” indicating that the Trump team was willing to stretch the impeachment trial for several days, diverting senators from approving Biden’s cabinet appointments or advancing the next coronavirus relief package.
Both sides returned to the Senate floor shortly after 1 p.m. (Eastern) and said they had agreed to read Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record, rather than call people for in-person testimony.