One of the House managers in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial dismissed criticism that her team should have called witnesses, stating instead that a lack of “senators with spines” was to blame for Trump’s acquittal.
The impeachment managers surprised many, including some Democratic leaders, on Saturday by pushing for a vote to call witnesses as the trial appeared to be coming to a close. After the Senate approved the request, the impeachment managers asked only for a single lawmaker’s statement to be added to the record, prompting some bipartisan confusion.
Asked Sunday why the managers backpedalled, delegate Stacey Plaskett told CNN’s “State of the Union” that her team “got what they wanted” by adding the statement from representative Jamie Herrera Beutler.
“Just so the American public is aware: Witnesses in a Senate hearing do not come and stand before the senators and make any statements,” Plaskett said. “It’s a deposition. It’s video-taped. And that is brought before the Senate.”
“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 added. “But listen, we didn’t need more witnesses; we needed more senators with spines.”
A majority of the Senate ― all 50 Democratic senators and seven Republican senators ― voted to convict Trump of inciting the deadly insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol on January 6. But convictions require a two-thirds majority, so Trump was acquitted with the support of the remaining 43 GOP senators.
After voting to acquit him, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel said Saturday that he believed Trump was responsible for the Capitol riot but did not believe the Senate had the power to convict him because Trump is no longer president. (The Senate voted Tuesday that the trial was indeed constitutional.)
But, questions of constitutionality aside, many Republican senators said they didn’t believe Trump was responsible for inciting the riot, which resulted in five deaths that day, including a police officer. Two other police officers who responded to the attack died by suicide in the days after.
On Sunday, senator Lindsey Graham said he didn’t believe McConnell’s statement was representative of most Republicans’ opinions on the matter.
Trump loyalists in the Senate have falsely equated Trump’s violent rhetoric and brazen lies of a “stolen” election to some Democrats’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement or their opposition to the Trump administration. Others have claimed, despite all evidence, that Trump had wanted the January 6 demonstration to be peaceful.
In her statement, which was entered into the trial as evidence on Saturday, Herrera Beutler described a conversation that took place between Trump and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy during the January 6 attack.
“When McCarthy 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,” said Beutler, one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump last month.
“McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters,” she continued. “That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”
Politico reported Saturday that several Democratic senators urged the House impeachment managers not to call witnesses, fearing the process would extend the trial significantly and that they could lose some Republicans’ votes to convict.