Trump's defense lawyers forced House impeachment team to surrender on key strategy: new book
Former US president Donald Trump goes on trial in the Senate beginning February 9, 2021 on impeachment charges that he incited a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. (AFP)

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.

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“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."

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