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Democrats defend lack of witnesses: 'We needed more senators with spines'

Sen. Chris Coons said on ABC's "This Week" that "what we all needed was more Republican courage."
Image: Jamie Raskin, Joe Neguse, Eric Swalwell
The lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., alongside Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Joe Neguse, D-Colo., right, speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on Saturday.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Democrats defended their decision not to subpoena additional witnesses and documents in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, saying Sunday that the additional testimony would have made no difference.

The House impeachment managers surprised some on Saturday by requesting testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who said in a statement that Trump made cavalier remarks to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., when he pleaded with Trump for help during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The Senate voted 55-45 to begin consideration of witnesses, but, after a break in the trial and negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, a deal was reached to shelve any additional live or taped testimony. Herrera Beutler's statement was entered into the official record, instead.

"I think we didn't back down," Delegate Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., one of the impeachment managers, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think what we did was we got what we wanted, which was her statement, which was what she said, and had it put the record and being able to say it on the record out loud so that others would hear.

"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," she said. "But, listen, we didn't need more witnesses. We needed more senators with spines."

In her statement, Herrera Beutler, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last month, said McCarthy told her about his phone call with Trump during the riot. She said McCarthy relayed that when he "finally reached the president on January 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."

In a statement Saturday to NBC News, Craig Wheeler, a spokesman for Herrera Beutler, said she had "offered all the information she had, and she would have testified under oath."

The Senate voted 57-43 in favor of Trump's conviction, with seven Republicans joining all of the Democratic caucus, falling short of the 67 votes required to convict. The vote was the most bipartisan in the short history of presidential impeachments.

Faced with the initial call for more witnesses, Trump's attorneys bristled and vowed to demand "at least over 100 depositions" if Democrats brought forward any witnesses. Both sides were interested in moving the trial along quickly, with Democrats wanting to move forward with President Joe Biden's policy agenda and many Republicans seeking to put the riot in the rearview mirror.

After the vote, some Republicans who voted to acquit Trump, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lambasted Trump for his actions but said that because of jurisdictional or constitutional concerns, they could not convict him now that he was no longer president.

"Once Mitch McConnell made it clear he intended to acquit, even despite the compelling evidence, what the House managers needed wasn't more witnesses or more evidence," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on ABC News' "This Week." "What we all needed was more Republican courage."

Speaking on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead House impeachment manager, said the trial "could have had a thousand witnesses, but that could not have overcome the kinds of silly arguments that people like McConnell and Capito were hanging their hats on." Capito is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

"They're trying to have it both ways," he said.

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Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., another House impeachment manager, praised Herrera Beutler for coming forward but said, "We didn't need more witnesses."

"America witnessed this," she said on "This Week."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on "Meet the Press" that hearing testimony from Herrera Beutler "would not have made a significant difference," because she would have said exactly what was outlined in her statement, which was entered into evidence.

And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on "State of the Union" that calling for additional witnesses — and stretching the trial — might have risked some of the Republican votes the Democrats were able to win.

"They weren't going to get any more Republican votes than they had," he said, adding, "I just am pretty confident they were at their high-water mark yesterday morning."