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Senate Vote To Call Witnesses Temporarily Throws Trial Into Uncertainty

In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)...

Photo by AP

Above: In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump and says he would like to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

The Senate voted Saturday morning to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, a move that was reversed a few hours later with a deal to allow a key statement into the record.

The vote on witnesses, which was 55-45, temporarily threw a wrench into the proceeding, which had been on a fast track to end, with many senators from both sides of the aisle anxious to put it behind them and move on.

House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., wanted to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., about a conversation she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. In a statement released late Friday, Herrera Beutler said McCarthy told her that Trump said to the minority leader that the mob storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 was "more upset about the election than you are."

Raskin suggested deposing Herrera Beutler by Zoom for an hour. Trump attorney Michael van der Veen responded that if the Democratic House managers wish to call witnesses, he will need "over 100 depositions."

Five Republicans voted with Democrats — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who changed his vote to yes after initially voting no.

Van der Veen said he would oppose holding any depositions by Zoom, saying they should be "in person in my office in Philadelphia," drawing laughter from the Senate. "I haven't laughed at any of you," van der Veen responded.

Confusion on the floor

After the vote, the Senate ground to a halt, amid general confusion among senators about how to proceed from here.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., when asked whether he was expecting this, threw up his hands. "Shelby says he's seen three of these and this is the craziest," referring to Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby.

Before the deal was reached to avoid witnesses, an informal adviser to the Trump defense team dismissed the Democrats' move, saying there was a risk that it would drag out the trial for weeks, all so that they can depose a witness whose contribution was already made public in a press release.

Trump attorney Bruce Castor said his side would call "lots" of witnesses. Van der Veen threatened to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Harris as witnesses.

A Trump aide was photographed with a list containing, it claimed, 301 witnesses (so far). Among them was Pelosi, Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a New York Times photographer, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser as well several of the House managers.

No witnesses were called in the first impeachment trial of Trump, but in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, witnesses were deposed on video.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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