Donald Trump acquitted in second impeachment trial

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2306 GMT (0706 HKT) February 13, 2021
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12:55 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

The witness who House managers want to call took "copious notes"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

At the start of today's trial, impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin announced that House managers were seeking to subpoena Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler.

This followed a report by CNN's Jamie Gangel last night that former President Trump had an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on the day of the Capitol riot, in which Trump refused to call off the rioters.

Gangel discussed her reporting and said Herrera Beutler kept “copious notes” about the call.

“What Congresswoman Herrera Beutler told me yesterday was that actually since the insurrection, and through the impeachment, she started keeping copious notes. She has a spiral notebook,” Gangel reported. “And she was keeping the notes all along because she was trying to come to a decision whether or not to vote for impeachment.”

“So when she was talking to Kevin McCarthy, they had a phone call. And he told her directly about what President Trump had said. She had that notebook, and she took copious, careful, realtime notes,” Gangel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

A comment from Trump about the would-be insurrectionists caring more about the election results than McCarthy was confirmed to CNN by Herrera Beutler and other Republicans briefed on the conversation.

“I think it's important to note it wasn't just that she was taking notes on that particular phone call. She had really been memorializing everything that she knew about the insurrection. And to help her make a decision about how to vote on impeachment,” Gangel said. 

Hear more from CNN's Jamie Gangel:

12:31 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Intense talks are underway about next steps, but nothing has been resolved

From CNN's Manu Raju

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to multiple sources involved directly in talks to resolve the issue of witnesses, there are intense discussions involving all parties right now: Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, along with former president Trump's team and the House impeachment managers. 

They're all having different discussions and proposing different ideas. There's talk about crafting a resolution that will draft rules for how to handle witness testimony. And there's talk about having specific vote on a motion for testimony. 

As CNN reported there are also discussions ongoing about avoiding witness testimony at all and dropping it directly in the record.

12:23 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Trump's legal team was hanging by a thread before this witness drama

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

In the backdrop of the unfolding confusion over whether witnesses will be called is the already tenuous status of former President Trump's defense team. They had been essentially hanging by a thread for the last several days, according to multiple people, who described internal deliberations as chaotic, disorganized and strained. 

The attorneys and advisers have been arguing constantly over disagreements about how to move forward for days.

They were irritated by Trump's criticism and unprepared for how to deal with his outbursts. He has mainly been angry about their performance, though he liked Michael van der Veen and praised him last night. The attorneys have argued with each other and were annoyed by GOP senators telling them what to do do on the floor. 

And now that there's the threat of witnesses, they are trying to figure out how much longer they will be doing this job they believed was coming to an end.

12:28 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Here's how the White House is reacting to the call for witnesses

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jasmine Wright

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

One Biden administration official is downplaying the prospects of an extended impeachment trial impeding President Biden’s legislative agenda — suggesting the trial itself wouldn’t continue on the Senate floor as witnesses are deposed, which would allow for legislative business like the Covid-19 relief package to progress through as hoped. 

The official said they remain hopeful for passage of Covid-19 relief by mid-March, when unemployment benefits are set to expire. And they continue to believe the Senate can both conduct an impeachment trial and consider legislation at the same time. 

Still, the prolonging of the trial will mean former President Trump remains the center of attention for a while longer at a moment at least some White House aides had hoped he would be placed in the rear view mirror. Officials had said they hoped for a quick trial in order to put a final end to the Trump era. 

At the very least, the continued fixation on Trump and his actions will crowd out what had been Biden’s planned debut trips into the country to advance his agenda next week, including his CNN town hall on Tuesday and a tour of the Pfizer plant in Michigan on Thursday. 

CNN also reached out to Vice President Kamala Harris's office for reaction, and an official said, "The Vice President’s office referred all questions to the Senate, as this is a senate procedural question on witnesses and timing." 

12:41 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Negotiations underway about putting CNN's reporting in the trial record instead of witnesses, source says

From CNN's Dana Bash

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Sipa USA/AP
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Sipa USA/AP

CNN's Dana Bash is told by one of the sources involved in these discussions that there are bipartisan talks about putting Jamie Gangel’s article in the trial record, instead of calling the witnesses. 

Last night, Gangel reported:

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did. 
"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.  

You can read the full article here.

12:20 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Republicans say Trump team should get one witness for every one called by the other side

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in May 2020 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in May 2020 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Senate Republicans are demanding that former President Trump's defense team gets at least one witness for every witness called by the House impeachment managers, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.

She would not say if her mind could be changed but she thinks this trial is unconstitutional.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said the push for witnesses will “further inflame the situation”

There are talks ongoing between Senate leaders and the managers about the structure of the next motion that will be voted on by the full chamber, per senators

12:46 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

"Absurd" some senators seemed not to know what they were voting for, CNN legal analyst says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Senate TV
Senate TV

CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates said it was “absurd” that some senators seemed to be unaware of what exactly they were voting on during the witness vote. 

“We have to just underscore this point: How absurd it is that there were senators who voted and had no idea what they were voting for?" Coates said.

Shortly before the vote was finalized, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked to switch his vote in favor of calling witnesses

“There's a little confusion here,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, said to presiding Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. “Was that a vote on one witness or many witnesses?”

Leahy responded that debate was not allowed on the Senate floor. 

“These are the senators of the United States government and this tells you just how much … this was a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Coates said. 

“Can you imagine in a trial, where you in the middle of it — you've already done the procedural issue of constitutionality at the beginning — now in the middle, you're going to decide the procedure of an impeachment trial?” she said. 


12:07 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Even aides to impeachment managers were surprised by the call for witnesses

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The House Sergeant of Arms (front) walks with House impeachment managers to the Senate floor as they arrive for the start of the trial of former US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on February 9, 2021.
The House Sergeant of Arms (front) walks with House impeachment managers to the Senate floor as they arrive for the start of the trial of former US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on February 9, 2021. Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

The fluidity of the situation in the Senate impeachment of former President Trump right now cannot be underestimated.

Sources on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle told CNN that anyone who pretends to know exactly how this ends is not being truthful about how fast this is moving and how much is up in the air. 

Just to speak to how closely held this was, aides to impeachment managers were surprised by House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin’s call for witnesses this morning when it happened on the floor. 

Meanwhile, in the Senate, lawmakers on both sides are just trying to find a way forward. A source close to the talks on the Senate side told CNN it’s just “TBD” right now and there is a litany of options. 

Could, for example, lawmakers agree to enter certain information into the record without formally calling specific witnesses? Would that satisfy Democrats? Ultimately, this is Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s call. Votes on specific witnesses take 51 votes. 

And, as we saw from the vote earlier, some Republicans have been willing to support witnesses so votes are not falling cleanly along party lines. 

11:56 a.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Trump's lawyers claim they have a list of 300 witnesses they'd like to call

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Manu Raju

Former President Trump's defense team claims they have a list of 300 witnesses prepared, a source says.

Remember: Of course, the Senate will not call all of those. It is not up to the defense team to determine what witnesses will ultimately be called. According to the rules of the trial agreed to by the Senate, each witness that each side requests will need to be approved by a simple majority vote.