The impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is already a strange one, with drama throughout but the outcome not really in doubt, and it generated another surprise on Saturday.
The potential upside to the proceedings — that it could have concluded as early as Saturday – was scuttled when the Senate voted to call witnesses and, with that decision likely extends the trial by weeks.
Or that was the plan until the Senate called off the idea of witnesses Saturday around 1:00 PM.
It is still likely the trial will end in Trump’s acquittal. In fact, it’s almost certain.
The vote, which went 55-45, was put into motion after word spread of Trump having downplayed the wishes of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection. McCarthy had apparently urged the former president to speak strongly against the rioting.
The House’s top impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), asked to bring Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to testify. Herrera has said she heard McCarthy’s account of that exchange with Trump.
Beutler has McCarthy saying the then-president told him the rioters “are more upset about the election than you are.”
The Senate “yes” votes included Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed via email to his GOP colleagues that he would vote to acquit Trump, writing, “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., confirmed the contents of McConnell’s email to USA Today.
In the time following the rioting, McConnell spoke strongly against Trump, saying “the mob was fed lies” and “were provoked by the president.”