Neguse says witnesses "would not have made a difference" in Trump impeachment trial
Washington — Congressman Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado who served as a House impeachment manager in the trial against former President Donald Trump, said Sunday that calling witnesses to testify in the proceedings would not have changed the minds of Republican senators who ultimately voted to acquit Mr. Trump.
"Whether it was five more witnesses or 5,000 witnesses, it is very clear that the senators who voted to acquit on a technicality — which was the jurisdictional argument, that we had successfully defended early in the trial and actually had convinced a majority of the Senate, including Republicans, that the Senate did have presidential jurisdiction to move forward — it would not have made a difference to those senators," Neguse said in an interview on "Face the Nation."
The Senate on Saturday evening voted to acquit Mr. Trump on the impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection, though seven Republicans joined with all 50 Senate Democrats in finding him guilty for his role in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. While the acquittal was expected given the 67-vote threshold to convict the former president, the proceedings were thrust into chaos earlier Saturday after the Senate voted to allow witnesses to be called.
The vote on witnesses was held after Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland who was the lead impeachment manager, said he wanted to issue a subpoena to Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington. Herrera Beutler said in a statement Friday night that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged Mr. Trump to call off the attack as it was being waged, to which the former president responded, "Well Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."
The Senate, however, agreed not to hear from witnesses after all, as the House managers and Mr. Trump's legal team instead reached a deal to enter Herrera Beutler's statement into the record.
Neguse said the stipulation agreed to by the former president's lawyers was "important," but pointed to remarks by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the vote as evidence hearing from witnesses would not have changed the outcome.
The minority leader, Neguse said, "conceded that the president was morally responsible for provoking the events of January 6." But McConnell voted to acquit the president, arguing the trial was unconstitutional because Mr. Trump is no longer in office.
The Colorado Democrat also said proceeding with calling witnesses likely would have drawn out the trial for some time.
"Witnesses that were not friendly to the prosecution were not going to comply voluntarily, which meant that we would be litigating subpoenas for months or potentially years," he said.
Neguse pointed to the ongoing legal battle over a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to former White House counsel Don McGahn issued two years ago as part of the House's first impeachment proceedings.
"At the end of the day, Leader McConnell himself yesterday acknowledged the president's disgraceful dereliction of duty and nonetheless voted to acquit," he said.
Neguse, however, said that while Mr. Trump was acquitted in both of his impeachment trials, first in 2020 and again this year, the Senate vote Saturday was historic.
"It was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of our republic," he said, adding 57 senators, including seven Republicans, reached the conclusion Mr. Trump incited the insurrection. "We shouldn't lose sight of that."
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