Democrats defend lack of impeachment witnesses: ‘We needed more senators with spines’

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Democrats on Sunday defended their decision not to move to subpoena additional witnesses and documents in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, saying the additional testimony would not have made a difference in the end result.

On Saturday, the House impeachment managers surprised some by requesting testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who said in a statement that Trump made cavalier remarks to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., when he pleaded with the then-president for help amid the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The Senate voted 55 to 45 to begin consideration of witnesses but, after a break in the trial and negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, a deal was reached to shelve any additional live or taped testimony. They instead entered Herrera Beutler’s Friday statement into the official record.

“I think we didn’t back down,” Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I. and one of the House impeachment managers, told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I think what we did was, we got what we wanted, which was her statement, which was what she said, and had it put the record, and being able to say it on the record out loud, so that others would hear.”

“So, I know that people are feeling a lot of angst and believe that maybe, if we had this, the senators would have done what we wanted,” she said. “But, listen, we didn’t need more witnesses. We needed more senators with spines.”

In her statement, Herrera Beutler, one of the 10 House Republicans to vote in favor of impeaching Trump last month, said McCarthy told her of his phone call with Trump amid the riot. She said McCarthy relayed that when he “finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol.”

In a statement to NBC News on Saturday, Craig Wheeler, a spokesman for Herrera Beutler, said the congresswoman “offered all the information she had, and she would have testified under oath.”

The Senate ultimately voted 57-43 in favor of Trump’s conviction, falling short of the 67 votes required even with seven Republicans joining the entirety of the Democratic caucus. The vote was the most bipartisan in the short history of presidential impeachments.

Faced with the initial call for more witnesses, Trump’s attorneys bristled and vowed to demand “at least over 100 depositions” if Democrats did bring forward any witnesses. Both sides were interested in moving the trial along quickly, with Democrats wanting to move forward with President Joe Biden’s policy agenda and many Republicans seeking to put the riot in the rearview mirror.

Following the vote, some Republicans who voted to acquit Trump, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lambasted the president for his actions but said because of jurisdictional or constitutional concerns, they could not convict him now that Trump is no longer president.

“Once Mitch McConnell made it clear he intended to acquit, even despite the compelling evidence, what the House managers needed wasn’t more witnesses or more evidence,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told ABC’s “This Week.” “What we all needed was more Republican courage.”

Speaking with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and the lead House impeachment manager, said the trial “could have had a thousand witnesses, but that could not have overcome the kinds of silly arguments that people like McConnell and [Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito were hanging their hats on.”

“They’re trying to have it both ways,” he said.

Elsewhere on “This Week,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and a House impeachment manager, praised Herrera Beutler for coming forward but said “we didn’t need more witnesses.”

“America witnessed this,” she said.

On “Meet the Press,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that gaining testimony from Herrera Beutler “would not have made a significant difference” because she would have said exactly what was outlined in her statement, which was entered into evidence.

And on “State of the Union,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that calling for additional witnesses —and stretching the trial — may have risked some of the Republican votes the Democrats were able to win over.

“They weren’t going to get any more Republican votes than they had,” he said, adding, “I just am pretty confident they were at their high water mark yesterday morning.”

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