Live politics updates: Managers defend decision not to call witnesses, Graham says McConnell speech will haunt GOP

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Impeachment managers in the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump on Sunday defended their decision not to call witnesses.

Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands, confirmed on CNN’s “State of the Unions” that the managers were told calling witnesses, a move that could have dragged the trial on for weeks or months, could have cost them the support of one or more of the seven Republicans who ended up voting to convict. 

Host Jake Tapper said a Democratic senator told him that if the trial was not concluded quickly, they would lose GOP senators, such as Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. 

“We heard that,” Plaskett said, adding she agreed it was “possible” the time required to gather witness testimony would have weakened the little GOP support they had. 

But Plaskett denied that concern factored into their decision to reach a compromise that allowed the addition of a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., into the trial record without having to depose her. 

When Tapper asserted that witnesses “might have made the case more compelling,” Plaskett quickly interjected to ask him if he thought they would have convinced any more senators to convict. When Tapper acknowledged he didn’t know, Plaskett flashed a dubious expression. 

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., agreed the impeachment managers “might have lost votes if they had moved forward with a week or two or three weeks of argument over witnesses.” 

“They weren’t going to get any more Republican votes than they had,” Murphy told CNN. “I think they made the right decision to move to closing arguments.” 

Before Saturday, the impeachment managers had indicated they did not intend to call witnesses, arguing they had made their case without them. But after Herrera Beutler issued a statement Friday saying that Trump had rebuffed a plea from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to urge the rioters to stop, Raskin made an unexpected request to depose her. 

Graham: McConnell’s speech blasting Trump will haunt GOP in 2022

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday he thought Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech blasting former President Donald Trump would be used against Republicans in campaign ads next year when the party fights to reclaim the Senate.

“He got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans,” Graham, a staunch Trump defender, told Fox News Sunday. “That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns.”

Although McConnell, R-Ky., voted for acquittal, he said Trump’s “crescendo of conspiracy theories” and false claims of a stolen election led to the riots in which his supporters rampaged through Capitol, bloodied police, tried to hunt down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chanted about murdering Vice President Mike Pence.

“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he had lost an election,” McConnell said. “Former President Trump’s actions preceded the riot for a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Graham said he viewed McConnell’s speech as “an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this.”

Source USA Today.

– Bart Jansen

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