Washington: The Senate voted Saturday to allow witnesses to be called in Donald Trump's historic impeachment trial, delaying the timetable for reaching a verdict on whether the former president bears responsibility for his role in the violent takeover of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said he wants to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who said in a statement Friday night that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told her that Trump had expressed sympathy for the mob during a heated phone call between the two as the Jan. 6 attack was unfolding.
The vote came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled that he will vote to acquit Trump. In an email, McConnell made his plans clear, according to an official who confirmed on the condition of anonymity.
The final vote tally on calling witnesses was 55 in favor and 45 opposed. Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting in favor: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carlina, who initially voted "no" but later switched to "yes."
Graham has previously warned that a lengthy trial - including witnesses - could open up "Pandora's box" because Trump's team could then call its own.
"If you open up that can of worms, we'll want the FBI to come in and tell us about how people preplanned this attack and what happened with the security footprint of the Capitol," Graham said on Fox News Channel earlier this month. "You open up Pandora's box if you call one witness."
Beutler said in a statement Friday night that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told her that Trump had expressed sympathy for the mob during a heated phone call between the two as the Jan. 6 attack was unfolding.
"Last night this was breaking news," Raskin said.
In her statement Friday night, Beutler said that when McCarthy "finally reached the president on Jan. 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."
"McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said, 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'" Beutler said.
McCarthy has not publicly responded to Beutler's account of the conversation.
Raskin's team has wanted witnesses from the beginning but relented in the face of practical considerations, Biden's preferences, the hardened vote totals against convicting Trump and the complex legal questions around calling witnesses.
Word of McConnell's plans came shortly before the trial was set to reconvene at 10 a.m. Saturday, when senators are scheduled to decide whether to call witnesses. If they skip that step, House managers and lawyers for the president will deliver final arguments.
Before adjourning Friday, senators posed questions to both sides about Trump's role in the violent takeover of the Capitol on Jan. 6. President Joe Biden is expected to remain out of public view on Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in western Maryland.
Beutler, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, urged others to step forward and share what they know about Trump's actions that day.
"To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time," Beutler said.