In an unexpected move, Democratic deputies responsible for the prosecution against Donald Trump in the US Senate asked for witnesses to be summoned in the process of impeachment of the former president.
Senators hoped to end the case against Trump later on Saturday, but the new strategy should delay the verdict on the Republican’s future.
By a majority, the Senate approved this morning that witnesses be heard in the impeachment process in which Trump is accused of inciting an attack on the January 6 Capitol, when a crowd broke into the US Congress building and tried to prevent the certification session from Joe Biden’s victory. If the option is for sentencing, lawmakers can prevent Trump from running for federal office, which would leave him out of a new race for the White House.
Prosecution and defense now discuss which testimonies will be requested. Democrats want the testimony of Republican MP Jaime Herrera Beutler, who said on Friday night that another deputy, majority leader Kevin McCarthy, received a call from Trump at the time of the invasion of the Capitol that indicated that the then president supported the invaders. In a statement on Friday, the deputy said McCarthy told her that Trump said the invaders were “more upset about the election” than the deputy.
To dissuade senators from the idea of prolonging the trial, Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen said he would need to summon more than 100 depositions. He said he would seek the testimony of Vice President Kamala Harris, and provoked mocking laughter by suggesting that he will ask for testimonies to be collected in person at his office in Philadelphia.
None of the parties have any interest in prolonging the case against Trump. In the case of Republicans, the intention is to turn the page on a negative brand for the party and quickly absolve Trump, who maintains influence over the electoral base of the legend. Democrats want to release Congress’ agenda to negotiate the economic relief package proposed by the Joe Biden administration to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. So Saturday’s strategy surprised parliamentarians and analysts, who expected the trial to end today.
The call for witnesses was approved by 55 votes to 45. Democrats were supported by five Republican senators: Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse. The number of Republicans who have aligned themselves with Democrats in the Senate, in this week’s two impeachment votes, shows that the majority of party senators do not intend to condemn Trump.
The prosecution needs 67 votes to convict the former president. The Senate is currently divided between 50 Democratic and 50 Republican senators. That means Democrats need 17 Republican votes against Trump, a far cry from the five opposition votes obtained today and six votes for the constitutionality of the trial, to be voted on last Tuesday.
Trump’s defense argued that there is no legal basis for hearing any testimony about Trump’s call to McCarthy. “(This process) is about inciting, not about what happened next. This is irrelevant, ”said van der Veen, Trump’s lawyer. “It doesn’t matter what happened after the insurgency, because it’s not about incitement. Incitement is a moment in time when words implicitly or explicitly say to commit an act of violence or outside the law. It is not what we have here ”, said the lawyer. The prosecution’s leader, Deputy Jamie Raskin, said Jaime Herrera Beutler’s information was “a new critical piece of evidence”.
Trump’s allies criticized the decision. “Democrats can now force a trial in which House managers (prosecution) get their witnesses and ex-President Trump none. A complete farce, ”wrote Senator Marco Rubio on Twitter at the end of the vote.
Defense and prosecution arguments
The Senate heard arguments from the prosecution and defense in the past three days, in a short and unprecedented impeachment process. Trump is the first president to be impeached after leaving the White House.
The prosecution – made up of Democratic deputies – argues that Trump’s insistence on the narrative that there was electoral fraud and incitement to violence during the Republican’s presidential years were instrumental in the invasion of the US Congress on the day that parliamentarians were conducting certification. Joe Biden’s victory.
The prosecution presented the senators with videos that mix excerpts from Trump’s speech on the day of the invasion, scenes from the attack on the Capitol and unpublished images from the Congressional security circuit to sensitize senators and create the timeline of events.
Democrats also presented testimonies from invaders who said they followed orders from the then president when breaking into the Capitol. Democrats argue that the Republican can again incite civil violence in the country if he is not punished in the impeachment process and prevented from returning to power.
Trump’s defense alleges that the impeachment of an out-of-office president is unconstitutional and that the instrument was designed to remove the chief executive, not to lose his political rights.
The lawyers also maintain that the president’s speech on the day of the attack on the Capitol, in which he asked his supporters to “fight like hell” for him, is part of a traditional political speech, protected by the right to free speech, provided for in the First Amendment of the American Constitution. Lawyers argue that Trump cannot be held responsible for the attack on the Capitol and that he is the victim of a witch hunt.