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Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers threatened to bog down his second trial after the U.S. Senate agreed to call witnesses.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) succeeded in getting the Senate to vote, 55-45, to call witnesses for testimony about Donald Trump's actions around Jan. 6, but some Democratic senators, including Delaware's Chris Coons, were concerned about the impeachment trial overshadowing the early days of Joe Biden's presidency -- and Trump's lawyers threatened to do just that, according to excerpts from a new book published by Politico.
"In fact, Trump’s defense lawyers, furious and blindsided by Raskin’s witness move, had vowed just before the vote that if Raskin called even one witness, they would seek to depose at least one hundred of their own, including Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris," reported authors Rachel Bade and Karoun Demirjian. "That meant possibly hours of floor debate about which witnesses were relevant — and possibly days or weeks of testimony that could overshadow Biden’s presidency until late February or March."
Raskin wanted to hear testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) about a conversation she had with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had told her that Trump complained that the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 was "more upset about the election than you are."
Coons, however, did not believe witness testimony would change any GOP senators' minds, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed, although he allowed the vote, and Coons proposed a compromise that would allow Herrera Beutler to submit a written affidavit and then have the defense get a statement from McCarthy.
“I’m not taking that deal,” Raskin said, according to the new book "Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump." “No way are we allowing McCarthy to deny Herrera Beutler’s story without cross-examining him.”
Coons was adamant, saying they would lose Republican votes because senators already had flights lined up for Valentine's Day recess -- which outraged the House managers -- but Raskin was eventually forced to cave because no witnesses had come forward after the Senate vote, although Herrera Beutler was, unbeknownst to them, seriously considering it.
"He had no idea that Herrera Beutler’s staffers, at that exact moment, were frantically reaching out to lawyers, hoping to consult one before she agreed to testify," the authors wrote. "She had even sought assistance from Pelosi’s House counsel Doug Letter, though Letter said he could not help her because he was working with the managers. He never conveyed her interest to Raskin."
Raskin had hoped the seriousness of the insurrection would compel some Republicans to testify against Trump, but he finally agreed to hold the vote without hearing from any witnesses.
"Not 10 minutes after Coons left, Raskin caved," the authors wrote. “'Let’s take the deal,' he said."
Democrats have improved their Senate odds — but here's how Republicans could still pull off a victory
On Friday, writing for The New York Times, Lauren Leatherby and Jonathan Weisman outlined the current state of play for control of the U.S. Senate in the November midterm elections. The upshot is that Democrats are in a better position than they were several months ago, but that there are still clear paths to Republicans getting the 51 seats they need to taking over Senate control — something that would require them to gain only one net seat.
"Earlier this year, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in Georgia, had been considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats as he took on Herschel Walker, a scandal-prone Republican backed by former President Donald J. Trump," they wrote — only for the race to be upended by Walker's abortion scandal. Meanwhile, "A Democratic seat in Arizona may have at one point been vulnerable. But the enduring popularity of the incumbent, Mark Kelly, and the faltering campaign of his challenger, Blake Masters, may put it out of Republican reach." In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is maintaining his lead, if somewhat diminished, against celebrity TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz — and polls also indicate a potential "sleeper" race in North Carolina between Democratic former state justice Cheri Beasley and GOP Rep. Ted Budd.
One place Democrats have not been able to put away their opponent is Nevada, where former GOP attorney general Adam Laxalt has posted margin-of-error polling leads against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — but, they note, he "has yet to open a clear lead" and polls in Nevada have underestimated Democratic strength before. Also an issue for Democrats is Wisconsin, where notorious conspiracy theorist GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is "hanging tough against Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, who comes from the Democrats’ liberal wing and has proven vulnerable to attack, especially on crime."
All this means that Republicans still have a couple of ways they can defeat Democrats for the majority — if a few things go their way.
"Republicans still have plenty of ways to win Senate control," they wrote. "They could beat Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and push Senator Raphael Warnock to a runoff in Georgia. They could overwhelm the Georgia race with cash to rescue Mr. Warnock's opponent, Herschel Walker. They could also pull off a come-from-behind win in Pennsylvania."
"But Democrats have options as well," they concluded. "If they can seal a victory in Pennsylvania and defeat Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see a way for Republicans to take three Democratic seats to compensate."
In a segment on CNN's New Day" on Friday morning, host Brianna Keilar and correspondent Isaac Dovere name-checked Republican members of Congress who have been privately begging for funding from President Joe Biden's massive infrastructure bill while at the same time complaining in public about the evils of socialism.
With a graphic scrolling behind them that included the names of Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rand Paul (R-KY), John Thune(R-SD), as well as Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), among others, the two noted the hypocrisy of railing against Biden's plan while trying to reap the political benefits back home with voters.
According to Keilar, "WhenPpresident Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill into law last November he faced major backlash from some Republican lawmakers. Now many of those same Republicans are asking for money from the exact plan that they criticized as socialism."
"We're talking about dozens of Republicans who voted no, labeled it socialism in some cases, and now still want the money," the CNN host prompted Dovere.
"Right, dozens who wrote in letters that they wrote privately, obviously in their official capacity to the Department of Transportation, to Pete Buttigieg, the secretary there, saying, 'hey, as long as that money is there, that wouldn't be there if not for this bill, there are some grants in there that would benefit things in our districts and we think you should consider those grants. We'd like for some of that money to be given to our district for projects that they think are critical.'"
"But, of course, that was an argument the administration was making about all of the things that were in there, saying we need that money, it's critical, and that's why the money needs to be voted for," he continued.
"Gain, this money that [Republican] Tom Emmer, for example, a congressman from Minnesota, the head of the House Republicans Campaign Committee called it a 'socialist wish list' is full of things that members of Congress who voted against it then put i in their wish list for."
"It is intellectually inconsistent what we're seeing here. How are they explaining it?" host Keilar asked.
"They say as long as the money is there they might as well ask for it," he explained. " They say, some of them say we supported 20% of the bill but you couldn't ask us to vote for a bill that we disagreed with 80% of the things in there. But it still comes back to the fact that none of that money would be there if their way had been what had happened. That money is only there because the bill passed with some bipartisan support in the Senate and some in the House -- very limited though, very few Republican votes for this, even among these Republicans who decided there was enough there worth asking for."
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