After a last-minute decision that requested witnesses, House Democrats ultimately decided to close a deal due to the unpredictability of how it would turn out and fear doing so could backfire and undermine their case, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Democrats did not make a decision to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to testify until shortly before proceedings began Saturday morning, sources said. Ultimately, they decided to send their statement to the record as long as former President Trump’s attorney made a public statement agreeing to present it as evidence.
The reason: They believed that going forward with their testimony would add little beyond their statement and could cost them the support of the Republican Party, while further dragging out the procedure.
Sources told CNN that Democrats weren’t sure what Herrera Beutler’s testimony would look like after she was cross-examined, with some concerns that she could undermine their case if there were holes in her account.
Also, if they called other witnesses, it could also backfire. For example, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy could provide testimony defending Trump, undermining what they believe to be a strong case that Trump incited the Jan.6 uprising on Capitol Hill, said the sources.
Furthermore, witnesses would not ultimately change the minds of Republican senators, they concluded, while listening to witnesses could bog down the Senate for weeks and jeopardize President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Angus King of Maine, who are two centrist members of the Democratic Senate caucus, told CNN that there must be an equal number of witnesses on both sides, meaning the trial could be delayed for an indefinite period, perhaps weeks.
And with a delay of weeks, it could threaten the ability of Democrats to advance Biden’s agenda, as they need the consent of the Republicans to schedule votes on nominees and other issues. Without consent, the Senate could be deadlocked because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would be forced to take procedural steps to overcome an objection, a process that takes days for each objection.
Additionally, Democrats are pushing hard for a massive Covid-19 relief package to be completed in a few weeks, and a trial could distract attention from that effort.
Ultimately, the team decided that if they went ahead with the witnesses, it could alienate Republicans from the Senate, causing them to lose some support, rather than win more supporters for the conviction.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism