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Senate Votes to Call Witnesses in Trump Impeachment Trial

The U.S. Senate voted Saturday morning to subpoena witnesses in the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump.Five Republican senators voted with all 50 Democrats to hear testimony from witnesses.  The vote was a somewhat surprising development, as the Senate was expected to hear closing arguments from each side, and possibly hold a vote later Saturday to acquit or convict Trump, bringing an end to the trial that began Tuesday. The move to call witnesses means the trial will continue at least into next week.Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, announced that he wanted to subpoena Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state.  Beutler issued a statement Friday night that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her Trump had expressed sympathy and admiration for the mob during a heated phone call between the two amid the unfolding attack on the Capitol. McCarthy had made the call urging Trump to intervene and call off rioters.Earlier Saturday, several U.S. news organizations, citing anonymous sources, reported that Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had told his Republican colleagues he planned to vote to acquit the former president in the vote expected Saturday. On Friday, Trump’s lawyers wrapped up their defense of the former U.S. leader, denying he helped incite a deadly mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump’s lawyers described the trial as a politically inspired and illegal “witch hunt.”“Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people,” said Trump attorney Michael van der Veen.Watch the session live:  Trump’s lawyers presented their case in three hours Friday, choosing not to use the full 16 hours allocated.Trump’s attorneys told senators that the former president had every right to dispute his election loss to President Joe Biden and that Trump’s 70-minute speech just minutes before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol did not amount to inciting the violence.When Trump urged thousands of supporters on the Ellipse to “fight like hell,” the defense said it was no different from Democrats’ using similar rhetoric that could spark violence.Trump’s lawyers played a lengthy video montage featuring prominent Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, using the word “fight” without any context.Also featured in the video were many of the Democratic lawmakers who are the impeachment managers prosecuting the former president.After the defense’s presentation Friday, the senators held a question-and-answer session, taking turns submitting written questions to both the lawyers for Trump and the Democratic lawmakers prosecuting the former president.One of the first questions came from Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have both been critical of Trump’s actions, asking exactly when Trump learned of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions he took.Van der Veen did not directly answer the question but blamed Democrats for not investigating the matter.Lead impeachment manager Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland said later in the session that the details being sought are “in sole possession of the president” and noted that Trump was invited to participate in the trial but declined.Friday’s question-and-answer session and defense presentation followed a powerful two-day presentation by House Democrats linking Trump’s rhetoric at a rally on Jan. 6 to the actions of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol shortly afterward in an attempt to block certification of the 2020 presidential election results.Impeachment prosecutors contended Thursday there is “clear and overwhelming” evidence that Trump incited insurrection by sending a mob of his supporters to the Capitol last month to confront lawmakers as they were certifying that he had lost the November election to Democrat Joe Biden.In wrapping up his presentation, Raskin told the 100 members of the Senate acting as jurors they should use “common sense on what happened here.”Raskin argued that Trump urged hundreds of his supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then, when they stormed the building, smashed windows, ransacked offices and scuffled with police, “did nothing for at least two hours” to end the mayhem that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.However, there has been no immediate indication that Republican supporters of Trump in the Senate are turning en masse against him. Trump remains on track to be acquitted.

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