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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1:04 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Senators settle on admitting a witness statement into Trump's trial record instead of calling witnesses

House managers and Trump's defense team agreed to enter a statement from Rep. Herrera Beutler describing a phone call between former President Trump and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy into the record.

House impeachment managers had asked the Senate this morning to call witnesses in former President Trump's second impeachment trial. Instead, Senate and trial lawyers instead agreed hours later to insert the statement into the trial record, moving the trial toward a final vote later Saturday.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin read the statement from Herrera Beutler of Washington state into the trial record when the Senate resumed session on Saturday, admitting the statement into the trial evidence. The managers and Trump’s team then moved onto closing arguments without making any more calls for witnesses.

More on this: Herrera Beutler revealed details about an expletive-laced phone conversation between McCarthy and Trump on Jan. 6 as the Capitol riot was underway. In the call Trump is reported to have said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.

Watch:

12:50 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Sen. Ted Cruz says negotiations "going on right now" to still end the trial today

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images
Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, confirmed that there are discussions underway in which the impeachment trial still wraps up today, even as the Senate just voted to call witnesses in the impeachment trial.  

“We may see a resolution. There are negotiations going on right now that we could see this thing resolved and ended today,” Cruz told reporters.

He made clear that Republicans will not accept Democrats being able to call witnesses without Republicans getting the same opportunity. 

In what John King described as "bluster and bullying" by some GOP senators, Cruz told reporters that it is very likely Trump’s team calls House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because they want her to testify about when she knew there was a threat at the Capitol and whether she was involved in a decision to not beef up security prior to Jan. 6. Cruz said he did not think Trump should be forced to testify.

However, rules agreed to by both parties ahead of the trial mandate that, in order for a witness to be called, the Senate would need a simple majority of votes. With Democrats holding a one-vote advantage, it is unlikely that Pelosi would ultimately be called. 

“I think if the Democrats want to open this Pandora's box, I don't think it's going to work out well for them,” Cruz said.

Cruz described the House Managers call for witnesses a “hail Mary” and said the only reason the managers are making the call for witnesses is because of “leftist Twitter.”

“I think what happened is leftist Twitter got really upset last night that they weren't calling witnesses, and I think that this is a political theater. And I think the House managers were feeling heat on their left flank and so they decided they surprised Schumer and the Democrats by saying they wanted witnesses. At this point nobody knows what is going to happen.”

Cruz described the change of course from unanimous consent of not calling witnesses to the last minute move by the House managers to call witnesses as “chaos.” 

He outlined that even if witnesses are called, it will not change the outcome of the trial. He said it is most likely only 55 senators will vote to convict, “plus or minus 2,” which is not near the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. 

Cruz said the prospect of this trial lasting until March is not good for Democrats who just took control of committees and have a lot to do in terms of passing legislation around their agenda, a prospect he believes Schumer is trying to avoid.

“I just came from the Republican cloakroom. There are a lot of Republican senators that are saying all right fine if you want to drag this out every day we're in this trial is a day that the Democratic majorities are not destroying the country are not passing policies that are killing jobs and putting people out of work and keeping kids out of school. I think Schumer is trying desperately to get out of this dam, into which they've driven themselves” Cruz said. 

“I don't think Joe Biden wanted to go down the road of impeachment. I don't think Schumer and most of the Democratic senators wanted to go down the road of impeachment,” he added.

Cruz said GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler’s account that spurred the House managers wanting to call witnesses is based on “hearsay” or “double hearsay” which would not hold up in the court of law.

12:51 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

The Senate is back in session

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate has just reconvened after taking a break.

The break followed a period of confusion on the Senate floor after a vote to call witnesses passed.

Lawmakers had been expecting to vote as soon as this afternoon on whether to convict Trump for inciting the insurrection at the US Capitol last month, but the vote to allow witnesses means the trial is likely to extend – though senators must vote to approve any witnesses or subpoenas.

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