Live impeachment updates: Trump’s legal team, House prosecutors eye closing arguments with witness question unanswered
WASHINGTON – A final verdict in former President Donald Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial may be near as both sides ready for closing arguments when the trial resumes Saturday.
But first, it must be decided whether witnesses will be called. If the Senate voted to call witnesses, the decision could lengthen the proceedings by weeks or months because the witnesses would have to be deposed and more research conducted.
No formal announcements on witnesses have been made, but both sides have indicated they don’t need them.
When one of the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., was asked Thursday if they needed witnesses, she replied, “I think we’ve made our case.” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who called for a thorough trial for the historical record, said Friday he doesn’t need to hear from witnesses. “I think adequate evidence has been presented,” he said.
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One of Trump’s staunchest defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said witnesses aren’t necessary, but that Trump’s team should call witnesses if the managers do. One of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, told reporters Thursday “that hasn’t been decided yet.”
House managers asked Trump himself to testify under oath in hopes to question him, but the president has refused.
If both sides decide not to hear from witnesses, it would move the trial to four hours of closing arguments, after which the Senate will deliberate and make their final vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. Several senators said a vote could come Saturday afternoon.
The House impeached Trump Jan.13 by charging him with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol Jan. 6, which interrupted Congress counting Electoral College votes. Five people died, including a police officer and a woman shot by police, as rioters rampaged through the building searching for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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Conviction would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate, a high bar in a chamber evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 lawmakers who caucus with Democrats. In preliminary votes upholding the constitutionality of the trial, only six Republicans joined Democrats, rather than the 17 needed for conviction, signaling Trump may be acquitted.
Over the course of the trial, which began Tuesday, the managers argued Trump fueled unrest with months of complaints about the legitimacy of the election. Trump then urged his supporters the day of the riot to “fight” the election results at the Capitol.
The lead House prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., warned that Trump represented a continuing threat to the country if not convicted and disqualified from holding office in the future.
But Trump’s lawyers argued he used standard political language to rally his supporters and can’t be blamed for the mob’s violence. The defense team also argued that Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.
Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers, called the impeachment a blatantly political trial that represented partisan vengeance. He called it a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
– Bart Jansen