House impeachment managers on Sunday stood by their decision to not call witnesses to help make their case a day after former President Trump was acquitted for “incitement of insurrection.”
On Saturday morning, a surprise 55-45 Senate vote temporarily dashed hopes of a speedy trial by allowing witnesses to testify. However, after a two-hour recess, House managers reached a deal with Trump’s defense team allowing a statement released Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) to be entered into the trial record as evidence.
Herrera Beutler recalled a conversation she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) about an expletive-ridden call the California Republican had with Trump on the day of the Capitol insurrection. Beutler’s statement said Trump rebuffed McCarthy: “Well Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
House impeachment managers defended their decision to not call on witnesses before the Senate ultimately voted to acquit Trump. Here’s how they argued that a longer impeachment trial with witnesses wouldn’t have worked to their advantage:
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), lead House impeachment manager
Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Raskin was asked whether he believes more Republicans would have voted to convict Trump by adding a dereliction-of-duty article.
Raskin said that the House impeachment managers have “no regrets at all.”
“We left it totally out there on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and every senator knew exactly what happened. And just go back and listen to McConnell’s speech,” Raskin said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scolding Trump on the Senate floor for bogus claims of election fraud shortly after voting to acquit the former president. “Everybody was convinced of the case we put forward, but, you know, as the defense lawyer said, just pick any one of these phony constitutional defenses, and then you can justify it.”
Raskin later reasoned that Senate Republicans would “have found some way” to acquit Trump, despite how the prosecution was “absolutely overwhelming and meticulous and comprehensive.”
“So, look, when you listen to what McConnell said or what Sen. Capito from West Virginia is saying, they’re saying: ‘Look, the facts were there.’ They’re not disputing that. They’re just saying we don’t think that we can prosecute a former president,” Raskin said. “They would have found some way — you can always slice the bologna real fine to come up with some way to acquit somebody, if that’s what you want to do.”
EXCLUSIVE: @RepRaskin explains why Democrats chose not to hear from witnesses.
Raskin: “We could have had a thousand witnesses but that could not have overcome the kinds of silly arguments that people like McConnell and Caputo were hanging their hats on.” pic.twitter.com/tkStrGVxUV
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) February 14, 2021
Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), House impeachment manager
Asked on CNN why House impeachment managers didn’t go through with Raskin’s initial request to subpoena Herrera Beutler, Plaskett insisted that the Democrats “didn’t back down” but rather had their wishes granted by entering Beutler’s statement into the record.
Plaskett added that witnesses in the trial would have needed to be deposed, which involves videotaped statements that would be played back before the Senate.
Plaskett acknowledged the “angst” behind the House impeachment managers’ decision against calling witnesses, before placing the blame of Trump’s acquittal on senators who lack “spines.”
“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,” Plaskett said. “But, listen, we didn’t need more witnesses. We needed more senators with spines.”
Much like Raskin, Plaskett went on to argue that the potential fight over subpoenas for additional testimony would have extended the trial for months and perhaps even years. Plaskett said that Democrats already presented “sufficient evidence” to prove that Trump incited the deadly Capitol insurrection.
"We didn't need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines."
Del. Stacey Plaskett, one of the House impeachment managers for former Pres. Trump's second trial, reacts to the Senate vote acquitting the former president. #CNNSOTU https://t.co/caivjlDfYs pic.twitter.com/jRk3qkHZwd
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 14, 2021
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), House impeachment manager
Pressed on whether she agrees with several Democrats assessing that the House impeachment managers caved by simply agreeing to stipulate that Herrera Beutler’s statement be on the record, Dean denied the notion.
“Not at all. And I give a lot of credit to Rep. Herrera Beutler for coming forward with that information that revealed the state of mind of this president, that when he’s being called, desperate calls to help, to send troops, to send help, to protect the Capitol, and to protect the joint session of Congress, and his own vice president, what was his state of mind?” Dean said. “He was more concerned about his so-called big lie and the rigged election.”
Dean reiterated that she gives Herrera Beutler “a lot of credit” before arguing that there didn’t need to be more witnesses in the trial after the Washington Republican’s statement was entered into the trial record as evidence.
“We didn’t need more witnesses. America witnessed this. We were in a roomful of witnesses and victims,” Dean said. “We needed no more witnesses, but what we were able to secure a stipulation by the former president’s lawyers that what she had to say was true, it was entered into the record, further witness of the high crime and insurrection incited by a president.”
Pressed on not calling witnesses in the impeachment trial despite securing a vote to do so, Rep. Dean defends the move, telling @GStephanopoulos: "We didn't need more witnesses, America witnessed this." https://t.co/DZBFQhmWmw pic.twitter.com/9VI9uS6VwQ
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 14, 2021
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), House impeachment manager
Neguse argued on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it was “very clear” that Republican senators who deemed Trump’s second impeachment trial unconstitutional in the first place wouldn’t have changed their minds regardless of how many witnesses potentially testified.
“Whether it was five more witnesses or 5,000 witnesses, it is very clear that the senators who voted to acquit on a technicality — which was the jurisdictional argument, that we had successfully defended early in the trial and actually had convinced a majority of the Senate, including Republicans, that the Senate did have presidential jurisdiction to move forward — it would not have made a difference to those senators,” Neguse said.
The Colorado Democrat said calling witnesses would have dragged out the impeachment trial, before adding that witnesses who are “not friendly to the process” wouldn’t “comply voluntarily” anyway.
“Witnesses that were not friendly to the prosecution were not going to comply voluntarily, which meant that we would be litigating subpoenas for months or potentially years,” Neguse said.
Neguse cited the ongoing legal battle over a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to former White House counsel Don McGahn issued two years ago during the House’s first impeachment proceedings while Trump was in office.
Neguse additionally brought up McConnell’s speech scolding Trump for baseless claims of election fraud as further evidence that the former president would have been acquitted even if witnesses testified.
“At the end of the day, Leader McConnell himself yesterday acknowledged the President’s disgraceful dereliction of duty and nonetheless voted to acquit,” Neguse said.
.@RepJoeNeguse tells @margbrennan that Democrats backed off on their request for witnesses because Former President #Trump’s impeachment lawyers agreed to allow a statement from @JaimeForUSRep entered into the Congressional record pic.twitter.com/jOtltE8lqf
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 14, 2021
Why didn’t House impeachment managers call for witnesses – like @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke with former President Trump on Jan 6? #Impeachment Manager @RepJoeNeguse explains –> pic.twitter.com/yvBa9I03c2
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 14, 2021