Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Senate Hears Arguments and Holds Vote to Allow Witnesses in Senate Impeachment Trial of Former President Trump; The Senate Votes to Allow witnesses and Depositions in Senate Impeachment Trial; House Impeachment Managers Argue to Subpoena Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial of Former President Trump; Senate Votes in Favor of Allowing Witnesses in Senate Impeachment Trial; Senate Holds Quorum Call During Impeachment Trial to Pause Proceedings after Unexpected Vote on Allowing Witnesses. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 13, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They're looking at all of this and saying they're not going to vote to convict in any case. So, move on, get it over with. We've got COVID business. We've got cabinet confirmations in the Senate we need to do. We've got to move on to our agenda.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but he's also the president of the country that is being divided again by this. And so, what's going to happen today? This closes one chapter. It closes the second impeachment trial, assuming they finish today. But then it does reopen the question about Lindsey Graham, says he's off to Mar-a-Lago, Kevin McCarthy even on that phone call on the insurrection days goes off to Mar-a-Lago. What is former President Trump's next move? Does he stay quiet? I wouldn't bet on that.
And so, Joe Biden does want to move on. He wants to get his cabinet confirmed. He wants to get a COVID relief package. He will be judged not on the impeachment of Donald Trump, or the trial of Donald Trump. Joe Biden will be judged on the vaccine rollout and does the economy bounce back after the vaccine rollout and with the vaccine rollout. He knows that. He wants to get to it. But he's also the president of a country that is, once again, going through Trump trauma, so he'll have to speak to that.
BLITZER: It's so, I think, important to just note these past few weeks, Trump himself down in Mar-a-Lago, he's playing a little golf, doing what he's doing, probably watching a lot of television. He's been silent.
KING: He has been relatively silent. A few statements put out by what he calls the office of the 45th president because he still wants to be called president. His --
BLITZER: Hold on. This session is about to begin.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): The chaplain, Dr. Barry Black, will lead us in prayer. Order. Order. And the chaplain will lead us in prayer. BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Let us pray. Oh, Lord, our God,
yesterday this chamber reverberated to a standing ovation for the courage of Officer Eugene Goodman in defending this building and human life. May our legislative jurors strive to emulate his courage in their defense of the United States Constitution. Lord, touch and move them to believe that the end does not justify the means. Help them to remember that the end is inherent and built into the means. Fill our senators with a spirit that combines common sense with commitment, conscience, and courage. We pray in your merciful name. Amen.
LEAHY: Please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
LEAHY: Senators, please be seated. If there's no objection, the journal proceedings of the trial are approved to date, and I would ask the sergeant in arms to make the proclamation.
JENNIFER HEMINGWAY, SENATE ACTING SERGEANT AT ARMS: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all persons are commanded to keep silence on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, former president of the United States.
LEAHY: And pursuant to the provisions of Senate Resolution 47, the Senate has provided up to two hours of argument by the parties, equally divided, on the question of whether or not there should be an order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents. Are both parties ready to proceed at this point?
They may proceed.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you, Mr. President. Good morning, senators.
Over the last several days we presented overwhelming evidence that establishes the charges in the article of impeachment. We've shown you how President Trump created a powder keg, lit a match, and then continued his incitement even as he failed to defend us from the ensuing violence. We've supported our position with images, videos, affidavits, documents, tweets, and other evidence, leaving no doubt that the Senate should convict. We believe we've proven our case.
But last night Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state issued a state confirming that in the middle of the insurrection, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the president to beg for help, President Trump responded, and I quote, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." Needless to say, this is an additional critical piece of corroborating evidence, further confirming the charges before you, as well as the president's willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as commander in chief of the United States, his state of mind, and his further incitement of the insurrection on January 6th.
For that reason, and because this is the proper time to do so under the resolution that the Senate adopted to set the rules for the trial, we would like the opportunity to subpoena Congresswoman Herrera regarding her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and to subpoena her contemporaneous notes that she made regarding what President Trump told Kevin McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection. We would be prepared to proceed by Zoom deposition of an hour or less, just as soon as Congresswoman Herrera Beutler is available, and to then proceed to the next phase of the trial, including the introduction of that testimony shortly thereafter.
Congresswoman Beutler further stated that she hopes other witnesses to this part of the story, other patriots, as she put it, would come forward. And if that happens, we would seek the opportunity to take their depositions via Zoom, also for less than an hour, or to subpoena other relevant documents as well.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER: Thank you. Senators, good morning. And good morning to the American people.
The first thing I want to say on the issue of witnesses is that the House manager just got up here and described the articles of impeachment and the charges. There is no plural here. That's wrong. There's one article of impeachment, and there's one charge, and that's incitement of violence and insurrection.
What you all need to know and the American people need to know is as of late yesterday afternoon, there was a stipulation going around that there weren't going to be any witnesses. But, after what happened here in this chamber yesterday, the House managers realized they did not investigate this case before bringing the impeachment, they did not give the proper consideration and work, they didn't put the work in that was necessary to impeach the former president.
But if they want to have witnesses, I'm going to need at least over 100 depositions, not just one. The real issue is incitement. They put into their case over 100 witnesses, people who have been charged with crimes by the federal government, and each one of those they said that Mr. Trump was a co-conspirator with. That's not true. But I have the right to defend that.
The only thing that I ask, if you vote for witnesses, do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do. I need to do the 911- style investigation that Nancy Pelosi called for. It should have been done already. It's a dereliction of the House managers' duty that they didn't. And now, at the last minute, after a stipulation had apparently been worked out, they want to go back on that.
I think that's inappropriate and improper. We should close this case out today. We have each prepared our closing arguments. We each -- I had eight days to get ready for this thing. But we each had those eight days equally, together, to prepare ourselves. And the House managers need to live with the case that they brought. But if they don't, please, in all fairness and in all due process, do not limit my ability to discover, discover, discover the truth. That would be another sham. And that's the president's position, my position.
LEAHY: Mr. Raskin?
RASKIN: Thank you, Mr. President.
First of all, this is the proper time that we were assigned to talk about witnesses. This is completely within the course of the rules set forth by the Senate. There's nothing remotely unusual about this. I think we've done an exceedingly thorough and comprehensive job with all the evidence that was available. Last night this was breaking news, and it responded directly to a question that was being raised by the president's defense counsel, saying that we had not sufficiently proven to their satisfaction, although I think we've proven to the satisfaction of the American people, certainly, that the president after the breach and invasion took place was not working on the side of defending the Capitol, but rather was continuing to pursue his political goals.
And the information that came out last night by Congresswoman Beutler, apparently backed up by contemporaneous notes that she had taken, I think will put to rest any lingering doubts raised by the president's counsel, who now says he wants to interview hundreds of people. There's only one person the president's counsel really needs to interview, and that's their own client. And bring him forward, as we suggested last week, because a lot of this is matters that are in his head. Why did he not act to defend the country after he learned of the attack? Why was he continuing to press the political case? But this piece of evidence is relevant to that.
And, finally, I was a little bit mystified by the point about the article of impeachment, which I referred to. The dereliction of duty, the desertion of duty, is built into the incitement charge, obviously. If the president of the United States is out inciting a violent insurrection, he's obviously not doing his job at the same time, just like if a police officer is mugging you, yes, he's guilty of theft and armed robbery, whatever it might be, but he's also not doing his job as a police officer. So it's further evidence of his intent and what his conduct is.
VAN DER VEEN: First of all, it's my understanding it's been reported that Mr. McCarthy disclaims the rumors that have been the basis of this morning's antics, but really the rumors that have been the basis of this entire proceeding. This entire proceeding is based on rumor, report, innuendo. There's nothing to it, and they didn't do their work. Just like what happened with Mr. Lee two or three lights ago, some supposed conversation that happened, and they had to withdraw that. They had to back off of that because it was false. It was a false narrative. But it is one article of impeachment. Yes, they threw a lot of stuff
in it in violation of rule 23. Rule 23 says you cannot combine counts. It's a defect in their entire case. It's one of the four reasons why you can vote to acquit in this case. Jurisdiction, rule 23, due process, and the First Amendment, they all apply in this case.
Let me take my own advice and cool the temperature in the room a little bit.
It's about the incitement. It's not about what happened afterwards. That's actually the irrelevant stuff. That's the irrelevant stuff. It's not the things that were said from the election to January 6th. It's not relevant to the legal analysis of the issues that are before this body. It doesn't matter what happened after the insurgence into the Capitol Building, because that doesn't have to do with incitement.
Incitement, it's a point in time, folks. It's a point in time when the words are spoken and the words say, implicitly say, explicitly say, commit acts of violence or lawlessness. And we don't have that here. So for the house managers to say we need depositions about things that happened after, it's just not true.
But, but if he does, there are a lot of depositions that need to happen. Nancy Pelosi's deposition needs to be taken. Vice President Harris' deposition absolutely needs to be taken. And not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn't do this hearing by Zoom. These depositions should be done in person, in my office, in Philadelphia. That's where we should be done.
VAN DER VEEN: I don't know how many civil lawyers are here, but that's the way it works, folks. When you want somebody's deposition, you send a notice of deposition, and they appear at the place where the notice says. That's civil process. I don't know why you're laughing. It is civil process. That is the way lawyers do it. We send notices of deposition.
LEAHY: I would remind everybody that we will have order in the chamber during these proceedings.
VAN DER VEEN: I haven't laughed at any of you, and there's nothing laughable here. He mentioned my client coming in to testify. That is not the way it's done. If he wanted to talk to Donald Trump, he should have put a subpoena down, like I'm going to slap subpoenas on a good number of people if witnesses are what is required here for them to try to get their case back in order, which has failed miserably for four reasons. There is no jurisdiction here. There has been no due process here. They have completely violated and ignored and stepped on the Constitution of the United States. They have trampled on it like people who have no respect for it.
And if this is about nothing else, it has to be about the respect of our country, our Constitution and all of the people that make it up. And so I ask when considering or voting on this witness matter, and to be clear, this may be the time to do it, but, again, and everybody needs to know the back room politics, I'm not so much into it all, and I'm not too adept at it, neither. But there was a stipulation. They felt pretty comfortable after day two, until their case was tested on day three.
Now is the time to end this. Now is the time to hear the closing arguments. Now is the time to vote your conscience. Thank you.
LEAHY: Mr. Raskin?
RASKIN: We were involved in no discussions about a stipulation and I have no further comment. Thank you, Mr. President.
LEAHY: I would remind -- I would remind everybody, as Chief Justice Roberts noted on January 21st, 2020, citing the trial of Charles Swayne, 1905, all parties in this chamber must refrain from using language that is not conducive to civil discourse. I listened to Chief Juice Roberts say that, I agreed with him, and I thought for our colleagues I would repeat it, as I did last night.
So the question we have before us is whether there should be an order to consider and debate under the rules of impeachment any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents. The request for yeas and nays has been made. Is there a sufficient second? There appears to be. There is. The cleric will call the role
CLERK: Ms. Baldwin?
CLERK: Mr. Barrasso?
CLERK: Mr. Bennett?
CLERK: Mrs. Blackburn?
BLACKBURN: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Blumenthal?
CLERK: Mr. Blunt?
BLUNT: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Booker?
BOOKER: I. CLERK: Mr. Boozman?
BOOZMAN: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Braun?
CLERK: Mr. Brown?
CLERK: Mr. Burr?
CLERK: Ms. Cantwell?
CLERK: Ms. Capito?
CLERK: Mr. Cardin?
CARDIN: I (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Carper?
CARPER: I (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Casey?
CLERK: Mr. Cassidy?
CLERK: Ms. Collins?
CLERK: Mr. Coons?
CLERK: Mr. Cornyn?
CORNYN: No (ph).
CLERK: Ms. Cortez Masto?
CORTEZ MASTO: I.
CLERK: Mr. Cotton?
COTTON: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Cramer?
CLERK: Mr. Crapo?
CLERK: Mr. Cruz?
CLERK: Mr. Daines?
DAINES: No (ph).
CLERK: Ms. Duckworth?
CLERK: Mr. Durbin?
CLERK: Mr. Ernst -- Ms. Ernst
CLERK: Mrs. Feinstein?
CLERK: Mrs. Fischer?
FISCHER: No (ph).
CLERK: Mrs. Gillibrand?
CLERK: Mr. Graham?
CLERK: Mr. Grassley?
CLERK: Mr. Haggerty?
CLERK: Ms. Hassan? HASSAN: I.
CLERK: Mr. Hawley?
CLERK: Mr. Heinrich?
CLERK: Mr. Hickenlooper?
CLERK: Ms. Hirono?
CLERK: Mr. Irvin (ph)?
IRVIN (ph): No.
CLERK: Mrs. Hyde-Smith?
HYDE-SMITH: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Inhofe?
CLERK: Mr. Johnson?
CLERK: Mr. Caine?
CLERK: Mr. Kelly?
CLERK: Mr. Kennedy?
CLERK: Mr. King?
CLERK: Ms. Kolbuchar?
CLERK: Mr. Lankford?
CLERK: Mr. Leahy?
CLERK: Mr. Lee?
CLERK: Mr. Lujan?
CLERK: Ms. Loomis?
CLERK: Mr. Manchin?
MANCHIN: I (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Markey?
CLERK: Mr. Marshall?
CLERK: Mr. McConnell?
CLERK: Mr. Menendez?
CLERK: Mr. Merkley?
CLERK: Mr. Moran?
CLERK: Ms. Murkowski?
CLERK: Mr. Murphy.
CLERK: Ms. Murray?
MURRAY: I. CLERK: Mr. Ossoff?
CLERK: Mr. Padilla?
CLERK: Mr. Paul?
CLERK: Mr. Peters?
CLERK: Mr. Portman?
CLERK: Mr. Reed?
CLERK: Mr. Ridge (ph)?
RIDGE (ph): No.
CLERK: Mr. Romney?
CLERK: Ms. Rosen?
CLERK: Mr. Rounds?
CLERK: Mr. Rubio?
CLERK: Mr. Sanders?
CLERK: Mr. Sasse?
CLERK: Mr. Schatz?
CLERK: Mr. Schumer?
CLERK: Mr. Scott of Florida?
CLERK: Mr. Scott of South Carolina?
CLERK: Mrs. Shaheen?
CLERK: Mr. Shelby?
CLERK: Ms. Sinema?
CLERK: Ms. Smith?
CLERK: Ms. Stabenow?
CLERK: Mr. Sullivan?
CLERK: Mr. Tester?
CLERK: Mr. Thune?
THUNE: No (ph).
CLERK: Mr. Tillis?
CLERK: Mr. Toomey?
CLERK: Mr. Tuberville?
TUBERVILLE: No. CLERK: Mr. Van Hollen?
VAN HOLLEN: I.
CLERK: Mr. Warner?
CLERK: Mr. Warnock?
CLERK: Ms. Warren?
CLERK: Mr. Whitehouse?
CLERK: Mr. Wicker:
CLERK: Mr. Wyden?
CLERK: Mr. Young?
Senators voting in the affirmative -- Baldwin, Bennet, Blumenthal, Booker, Brown, Cantwell, Cardin, Carper, Casey, Collins, Coons, Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Durbin, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Hassan, Heinrich, Hickenlooper, Hirono, Kaine, Kelly, King, Klobuchar, Leahy, Lujan, Manchin, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Murkowski, Murphy, Murray, Ossoff, Padilla, Peters, Reed, Romney, Rosen, Sanders, Sasse, Schatz, Schumer, Shaheen, Sinema, Smith, Stabenow, Tester, Van Hollen, Warner, Warnock, warren, Whitehouse, Wyden.
Senators voting in the negative -- Barrasso, Blackburn, Blunt, Boozman, Braun, Burr, Capito, Cassidy, Cornyn, Cotton, Cramer, Crapo, Cruz, Daines, Ernst, Fischer, Graham, Grassley, Hagerty, Hawley, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Inhofe, Johnson, Kennedy, Lankford, Lee, Lummis, Marshall, McConnell, Moran, Paul, Portman, Risch, Rounds, Rubio, Scott of Florida, Scott of South Carolina, Shelby, Sullivan, Thune, Tillis, Toomey, Tuberville, Wicker, Young.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): Mr. President? I would like to change my vote to aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Graham. Mr. Graham, aye.
SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): Mr. President?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sullivan.
SULLIVAN: Just a point of inquiry, there's a little confusion here. Was that a vote on one witness or many witnesses?
LEAHY: Debate is not allowed during the vote.
SULLIVAN: It's not debate.
LEAHY: I'll advise the senator of Alaska.
SULLIVAN: Mr. President, it's a point of inquiry of what we just voted on.
LEAHY: I would advise that is not allowed during the vote.
The point of order and debate are not allowed during the vote. That is established Senate procedure that we always follow.
On the question of whether there shall be an order to consider or debate under the rules of impeachment any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents, the motion is agreed to by vote of 55 to 45. Majority leader.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
LEAHY: Clerk will call the roll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Baldwin.
BLITZER: All right, they're going through a procedural moment right now to call a quorum. But John, this is a historic moment, 55 to 45, five Republicans going with all the Democrats, 50 Democrats, in order to support witnesses and depositions and evidence to come forward. This is going to continue this process. We heard Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, say they want to call one use congresswoman who overheard, who got a direct confirmation from the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the president was not doing what he was supposed to do to try to stop this riot that was going on up on Capitol Hill.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This is a direct result of the reporting by CNN last night, Congresswoman Beutler Herrera coming forward, saying she has contemporaneous notes of a conversation with the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy about his phone conversation with President Trump during the insurrection. Why they're having a quorum call right now, it's simply a stalling tactic to suggest the absence of a quorum. It's just so that the leaders now can figure out what to do, because this is a surprise to them. The expectation coming into the day was there most likely would not be witnesses. But the Democratic House managers deciding to at least ask for this one witness.
One unanswered question now is whether there will be more witnesses. Once you open the door to one, will there be more. What they're doing right now, as you saw Majority Leader Chuck Schumer conferring with his team, then he'll confer with the Republican leader Mitch McConnell, they're going to have to suspend the trial. They've agreed now to have witnesses. So clearly the proceedings are not going to last very long today unless there's a reconsideration.
But right now, they're comparing notes and they'll come forward with a plan. And the obvious option is they're going to have to suspend the trial and proceed with the deposition of the congresswoman.
BLITZER: And they're going to give the House impeachment managers a chance to consider what is going on right now. You saw Jamie Raskin and the other House impeachment managers walking off the Senate floor. The former president's lawyers, they've got to decide what they do. You heard Michael van der Veen. He's for all practical purposes the lead defense counsel right now, saying they're going to want 100 witnesses and a lot of depositions, and he's going to want those depositions in his Philadelphia office he said. That drew some laughter from the senators, but he said he was very, very serious.
KING: Right. And, again, he's a personal injury lawyer who is saying in his cases that's what would happen. That's not what's happening here. This is a constitutional proceeding under the United States Senate. Any depositions would be conducted, obviously, for the auspices of the Capitol Hill. Physically where he is for them, if they take several days off from the trial now, he can go back to Philadelphia if he wants. He had a unique way of pronouncing Philadelphia. I'm not even going to try.
But he obviously wants this over. The Trump legal team showed up today knowing, because Mitch McConnell said this morning, the Republican leader, he was going to vote to acquit, they came in this morning knowing they had the votes, and if this trial ended today, their client would be acquitted. We don't have any expectation that things will change dramatically, but if you have witnesses, if you prolong the trial, you certainly open the door to testimony that could change Republican votes.
So, the Trump team wanted this to end today because the math was in their favor. Now we go into the unpredictability of having at least one witness, and we'll go from there.
BLITZER: And we'll see if they approve witnesses that the defense lawyers, that the Trump lawyers want to come forward as well, including the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You heard those names mentioned by Michael van der Veen.
Jamie Gangel who broke the story, Jamie, you're at least partially responsible for the fact that the House impeachment managers now want these witnesses, this one witness, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, to come forward, do a one-hour deposition on Zoom that they want to do. You heard Jamie Raskin say that, and then get her contemporaneous notes at the same time. So, this is going to continue, this trial, for some time now, because then they're going to have to decide if the defense attorneys for Trump, if they can call witnesses as well.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. So, yes, we reported the story, and I'm glad that we did. But Jaime Herrera Beutler and the other Republican members of the House that I spoke to are very much responsible for this change today.
A couple of things to keep in mind, Wolf. You can be sure that the House managers, that Jamie Raskin, they are now going to be reaching out to other people who might be willing to voluntarily testify. Is there anyone in the Trump inner circle who resigned who might want to speak? Is there -- we know that Vice President Pence, we have reporting that he is not happy and his staff is not happy about the way he was treated, the fact that the president did not immediately come to his rescue. I'm not saying it will happen, but you can never tell. This has opened the door.
The other day we were talking about trial magic. And to John King's point, now that this has happened, even though I would say the numbers to convict, getting to 17 Republicans, is still a heavy lift. We don't know what's going to come out of this testimony. We don't know who else might want to be a witness. And let's remember, at the same time that the impeachment trial continues, the Justice Department, the FBI, they are continuing their investigations, their criminal investigations. So, there may be things that come out from the FBI's investigation. They may be knocking on people's doors to do interviews with them that will become pertinent now that the Senate trial is continuing a little longer, Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's important, that final statement in the public statement she put out today, Jaime Herrera Beutler, the congresswoman, she said to the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president, if you have something to add here, now would be the time. She clearly wants to go public and be a witness in this trial.
Stand by. Jeff Zeleny is up on Capitol Hill. You were watching all of this unfold. You were watching what's happening on the Senate floor with the House impeachment managers, the former president's defense counsel. Tell us what you saw.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there clearly is confusion among senators, as you could hear there. Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, was asking what are we voting on, what is this vote specifically on? Is it for one witness? Is it the idea of calling all witnesses? So essentially there is confusion.
But Senator Leahy, who is presiding over this trial, said this is not the time to ask questions, this is only the time to vote. So right now, there are five Republican senators joining all Democrats in voting for the idea of calling witnesses. But there is essentially a break going on, a quorum call, it's called, for senators basically to get their act together and try and figure out how to proceed.
But Wolf, we cannot understate how that has thrown a wrench into all of this. There was a high expectation from Republicans and Democrats, and indeed the White House, that this impeachment proceeding was going to be over this afternoon. There would be a vote and senators would leave for the week. That has all changed dramatically now at the idea of calling witnesses. So, we are going to have to watch as all this unfolds in real time.
And you also heard Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the president's closest allies, changing his vote to add to his vote for witnesses. So, we don't know what kind of a door this has opened in terms of how many witnesses there would be. We heard Jamie Raskin, the House impeachment manager, saying that he would do a Zoom deposition. But that, of course, would have to be agreed upon, both sides would agree.
So, we do not know where this is going from here. We're going to have to watch it. But the Senate floor right now, there is a bit of confusion over what the next steps are going to be. So this is going to be a bit of a Schoolhouse Rock moment, a C-SPAN moment, if you will. We'll watch the Senate floor and see what the next moves are here. But this has changed dramatically the timing of this, not necessarily the outcome, but certainly the expectation that senators were on the cusp of acquitting President Trump.
So, I just want to be precise, Jeff. Were they voting for all witnesses to be allowed to appear and testify before this trial, or simply that one witness that the House impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, was calling for, the congresswoman?
ZELENY: Wolf, that is a good question. It appeared to me that they were voting for that one witness. But that is a bit of the confusion that is going on on the Senate floor. So, we are trying to get clarification on that as well. We do know that senators have to vote, a majority vote for witnesses, for individual witnesses, not just the overall concept of witnesses. So, it appears to us that it was for that one witness, the congresswoman.
But, again, there is some confusion on the Senate floor, which means there's confusion for those of us watching on the Senate floor. Even some senators were not sure what we were voting on. So, it's a bit murky. Certainly, it was not expected by virtually anyone. There was a sense, as our Manu Raju was reporting all morning, Democrats were split on the idea of calling witnesses. But he was hearing really a few hours ago before the proceedings began that there was an idea here of calling witnesses. So definitely that is going to happen. So, again, this has delayed the proceedings. So, we will have to see where it goes from here, Wolf.
BLITZER: And they'll continue the so-called quorum call for the time being as they try to get their act together in the U.S. Senate. And it's interesting, Dana, I just want to point out to our viewers right now, the five Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in saying there should be witnesses, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney, and then Lindsey Graham changed his vote from no to yes.
Lindsey graham saying yes, there should be witnesses. And I suspect, Dana, and you've covered the Congress for a long time, when he changed his vote, he was -- I assume he was under the belief that all the witnesses, the witnesses that the House impeachment managers want, the witnesses that the former president's defense counsel want, they will be available to testify. But we don't know that. We haven't heard from him directly.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We haven't, and I'm sure we will soon, Wolf. And that's an interesting point, and it speaks to the rather chaotic nature of what we just saw on the Senate floor. These senators, it's not as if it is regular business. This is a trial. And this, even though it seems as though it happens a lot because it's happened three times in our lifetime, it doesn't happen a lot, and there are specific rules that govern it. And it's not rote how they deal with these issues that come up, which is why they're in what's known as a quorum call right now.
And just to translate that into English, it's basically a pause button so they can figure out what the heck is going on, and not only what they're going to do next, but unfortunately, what they actually voted on. It doesn't really make sense, which it seems to me in reading what happened is why Lindsey Graham changed his vote to try to either -- to try to make the point that they want to bring witnesses as well.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. And I think that either way you look at it, whether this was just a vote for the Democratic witnesses or a vote for both, Lindsey Graham is in a very unique position as someone who is sort of acting as a proxy for former President Trump within the chamber of making the case that Trump would want to also call their own witnesses.
The problem, though, is that, as you can see from the former president's attorneys who seem to be incredibly ill-prepared for this moment, they don't really know who they want to call. He threw out Vice President Harris, he threw out Nancy Pelosi, almost in a joking fashion saying he wants to do it in his office in Philadelphia, prompting laughter. But the reality is it underlies that the strategy outside the kind of poking at Democrats is not clear for them. Who would they really call who would help them? Because if you do call Nancy Pelosi, maybe you might score a point or two, but Nancy Pelosi is going to prosecute the Democrats' case when she's sitting in that chair in a deposition.
BASH: Hold that thought. I want to bring in Manu Raju, who is working the hallways up on Capitol Hill who has some information, Manu, about what's next. These senators went home at the end of the trial yesterday thinking that today would be a wrap-up and a preordained vote to likely acquit former President Trump, and because of Jamie's reporting, that is not happening now. What are you hearing about how they're trying to sort out, frankly, what is the chaos on the Senate floor?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is chaotic because they did expect this to be done by 3:00 this afternoon, and I have been told that last night they engaged in a debate about whether to bring forward witnesses. It went through the course of this morning. The House Democrats didn't even tell Senate Democrats, including the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, as early as 9:00 a.m. when they had a conference call among Senate Democrats, about what is next. But they are making the surprise move now. And now the question is what is next. How does this actually take
place. Now that the Senate has voted on a majority basis to bring forward witnesses if the senators want to, then they're going to have to move forward with specific votes on subpoenaing specific witnesses. So according to the rules set out for the trial, essentially it would go like this. If the Democrats want to bring forward Jaime Herrera Beutler, for instance, as they're indicating that they do want to, the congresswoman from Washington, they will put forward a motion to subpoena Jaime Herrera Beutler. And there would need to be 51 votes in the Senate to move forward with a subpoena for her.
Now, if that were to move forward and get approved, which it appears very likely that they will have the votes to do that, that could slow down this process dramatically, because at that point they're going to have to probably recess this trial, find out a time to depose her and then have a deposition. And then once the deposition is in, then they'll have to figure out a new set of ground rules that the Senate would have to use to take the evidence derived from that testimony and submit it into the record.
So there is a complicated process that would take place that would slow things down to bring individual witnesses in, which is one reason why a lot of Democrats did not want to have witnesses, because it will bog down the Senate even longer, definitely for several days, and could derail efforts to confirm Joe Biden's nominees, deal with the COVID relief package and such. And the question is, will there be any additional witnesses that they may seek. That is still a question as well.
We heard from the Trump team that they want to bring forward a number of -- try to get a number of witnesses, but they also need a simple majority vote to get people like Nancy Pelosi, who they say they want to have come testify, Muriel Bowser, I'm told, that they also want to bring in, the D.C. mayor. That would need 51 votes in the Senate. Would Democrats vote for that? I doubt that. So most likely we're at least expecting the subpoena to go forward for Jaime Herrera Beutler sometime today, and then at that point they'll have to figure out when to actually depose her, get her testimony, and submit that to the Senate, Dana.
BASH: So it sounds like what I'm hearing you say, Manu, and I don't want to put you on the spot, but it sounds like what I'm hearing you say is that the vote they just took where five Republicans crossed party lines was just on the overarching question of whether there will be witnesses, and then going forward there will be individual votes on each witness. Is that correct?
RAJU: That's our understanding based on the trial rules that were adopted by Senate. They were going to have to agree on specific witnesses one after another going forward. So Jaime Herrera Beutler will be one. If they decide they want to bring someone else, they'll have another motion to the Senate and get the senators to approve that on a simple majority basis. So each vote, we'll have to see if these same five Republican senators who broke ranks, will they vote with the Democrats again to subpoena Jaime Herrera Beutler. It seems like that seems likely at least for four of them.
Then will they subpoena anybody else, because a 50-50 vote dies in the Senate. This fails, so they will need at least 51 senators to go forward. And that right now we expect at least one. So a lot of uncertainty here about how the final days of this trial now will play out.
BASH: And before I let you go, Manu, I just want to touch on one of the things that you said at the beginning of your report, which I think is really critical, which is you were hearing -- I know I was hearing from Democratic senators about the fact that, yes, there was a debate within their caucus, but that for the most part they sort of said I don't think -- they don't think that they really needed the witnesses, but that they would defer to the House managers. That is what they did. So this was a House manager, meaning the prosecution decided to do this, kind of on their own. Is that fair?
RAJU: Yes, absolutely that's fair. They did not tell the senators one way or the other. There was a conference call this morning, 9:00 a.m., the Senate Democrats came out saying they don't know. They said that Chuck Schumer told him he does not know if they're going to ask for witnesses. But, you're right, they had indicated they didn't think they want or need witnesses. They said the case has been made, let's move forward. That was the overarching view among Senate Democrats. But they said we'll see what the Democrats in the House decide they want and ultimately settled on this question.
They just dropped this in the Senate, really surprised senators, and ultimately sided with the party on the Democratic side, throwing this into flux.
BASH: Imagine that, Manu, something unscripted in the United States Senate. It is happening. We'll get back to you as you get more information. Thank you.
And back here to Abby and David. It's really fascinating because everybody thought that they were going through the motions. That's not to say that at the end of the trial, whenever that is now, things will be quite different, but it certainly opens a possibility to that.
PHILLIP: Yes. It opens -- well, first of all, I think the one thing that this seems to assure is that this is going to go on for some time. Whether time is in the best interest of Democrats or Republicans, it's not entirely clear to me, frankly. I'm not sure that Republicans are going to get more amenable to this. But it creates the possibility that some people, like, for example -- I think Tommy Tuberville's behavior over the last 48 hours has been interesting. I don't necessarily think he's on the fence, but it's been interesting to see how he's been willing to say pretty point blank Trump knew that Pence was in danger and called me anyway about elongating the electoral count. And so there are some people there who I think are expressing concern about Trump's behavior during the riot who may have some questions that want to be answered and may be answered by this elongation of the process.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I would venture to say I don't think time is a friend to either Republicans or Democrats in this scenario politically. But, Dana, we're in a whole new ballgame now. I don't mean for the outcome of the trial. I mean in the process that we're going to see. Remember, a year ago in the Trump impeachment number one, there were no witnesses, right. So now, you are talking about how they don't know procedure, and there's no muscle memory of how to deal with witnesses. You have to go back to the Clinton impeachment in 99.
I've been trying to quickly brush up on history here, where there were three witnesses there, Monica Lewinsky and Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal. But how did it get conducted? They were videotaped depositions, two senators, one Republican and one Democrat, served as sort of the presiding officers over the deposition.
Defense and House managers were allowed to be in the room to ask questions, obviously, and have staff. Guess who was one of the Democratic senators presiding over the deposition of one of the witnesses? Patrick Leahy, the only one who is still in the Senate.
BASH: So he has muscle memory.
CHALIAN: So he does have a little bit of muscle memory of how this has worked, at least in the 99 Clinton impeachment trial. But there were a whole set of votes that then leaders Lott and Daschle had to work out on the Senate floor of how this will actually work. So we're just in an entirely new, unpredicted, and unexpected phase of this trial. And as you noted with Lindsey Graham's vote, the idea that they're not going to battle the Republicans to have more Trump defense-friendly witnesses, that seems nuts to me. I would imagine they're going to make a really hard case, if the House managers get to call witnesses, they're going to make sure that Donald Trump's defense can.
BASH: Lindsey Graham, if we're going to back to the future, who was a House manager prosecuting the case against Bill Clinton during that impeachment trial. My memory, and David, tell me if I'm wrong, because you're refreshing your memory, but that was one of the first things I really covered on Capitol Hill, that trial. And my memory is that, much like this trial, they went in not knowing if there would be witnesses, and it was decided in the middle of the trial. So they adjourned, they took about a week or so, and conducted the depositions that you just described, David, and then they went back.
So that's not to say that the Senate can't do other business while they're making that happen. Although it takes all 100 senators to agree to that, so if Republicans want to say, OK, you want to have your trial, we're going to do this and nothing else, we're not going to confirm the rest of your cabinet, your nominees, President Biden, we're not going to do real work on the COVID relief bill. They could play hardball if they want to.
PHILLIP: And I think we should expect that that's what's going to happen because they signaled even before the start of the beginning of this trial that several Republican senators made it very clear they did not want to do other business until this was dealt with. That's a completely -- for those watching at home, that's a completely political decision. It is entirely possible, if the Senate is not dealing with impeachment business, to deal with other things.
I do think right now the onus is, and the spotlight is on the Trump team. Where do they go from here? I do not think that they have given real legal thought to who they want to call and why. You don't just call witnesses to create a spot for Tucker Carlson in prime time. You call witnesses that won't hurt your case, that will advance your side of the story, and I am not sure that they've really thought that through.
CHALIAN: Clearly. He was laughed at by the jury of senators. He actually -- the Trump lawyer was mocked.
BASH: For saying that he wanted to do it in Philly.
CHALIAN: For talking about just throwing stuff against the wall of how he's going to conduct witnesses and depositions. To Abby's point, I think it shows he hasn't given a single thought to actually how they want to improve their case.
PHILLIP: It's a real problem. Let's put it this way. If there is exculpatory evidence, as the impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett put it yesterday, there are a lot of people in Trump's orbit who knew what he was up to that day. They could bring those people forward. Will they? Probably not.
BASH: Wolf, I'm guessing the answer to that is no, because it's unclear that they really have that exculpatory evidence. And the other question, Wolf, is about witnesses. I heard our colleague, Laura Coates, say yesterday, as a former prosecutor, they cut both ways. Once you get a witness on the stand, it's open season.
BLITZER: It certainly is. And this has thrown a real, real monkey wrench into what was supposed to be a day, day five of this trial, where they were wrapping things up, doing their closing arguments, no witnesses, moving on. And then all of a sudden this has happened. They were supposed to have a final vote on acquittal or conviction by around 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, Dana, as you know. That's clearly now not going to happen. They're now, for all practical purposes, in a sort of recess, although they're calling it a parliamentary quorum call, where they can try to figure out what's going on.
Jeff Zeleny is watching all of this very closely. He's up on Capitol Hill. Jeff, so the working assumption is, yes, they've approved witnesses, but then they're going to have to vote separately on who the witnesses should be.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Wolf, and that was some of the confusion, indeed, on the floor among some senators who were voting on this. But it is clear that they have voted for the idea. They've opened the door, if you'll say, if you will, to the idea of witnesses. Now they must have a simple majority vote on every witness. So, there will be another vote, if this proceeds as we're going forward.
And we should say, there is no playbook for this. There is no rule of order here. We're going to have to watch this unfold.