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Senators to consider witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

Senators have voted to consider witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

Closing arguments were expected Saturday with no witnesses called. But lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked for a deposition of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler over fresh information.

She has widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as the mob was rioting over the presidential election results.

Raskin said it was necessary to determine Trump’s role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot. There were 55 senators who voted to debate the motion to subpoena, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who changed his vote in the middle of the count.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen balked at the request, saying he’d then call 100 witnesses and said it was not necessary.

His animated statement was met with laughter from the chamber, which visibly angered van der Veen.

“There’s nothing laughable here,” he said. The trial is being held in person, but lawmakers are wearing masks and the coronavirus pandemic has halted most normal activity, including close contact in offices for depositions. In many civil and criminal cases, such work is handled via conference call.

The last-minute fight over witnesses followed Friday night revelations from a Republican House lawmaker about a heated phone call on the day of the riot between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that Democrats say establishes Trump’s indifference to the violence.

The proceedings came to abrupt halt Saturday morning, with even senators seemingly confused about next steps. Senators were huddling on floor of the chamber as leaders spoke to the clerks at the dais.

Senators are meeting in a rare Saturday session in what is expected to be the final day in Trump’s historic trial.

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