Senators, impeachment teams scramble to cut deal on witnesses

Top senators, lawyers for former President Trump and the House impeachment managers are scrambling to try to cut a deal on witnesses, after a surprise vote to pave the way for calling them in the trial.

The Senate voted 55-45 to allow for witnesses — a move that caught Trump world and senators off guard with both expecting that the impeachment trial would wrap up on Saturday.

The vote threw the Senate into chaos and now senators say there is a behind-the-scramble to try to work out an agreement.

"Well they're right now they're just trying to work out some agreement. And if it doesn't work out, then we can have several amendments to the underlying resolution on other witnesses so that's really the mechanics of what they're going through now, I suspect they'll work something out but we won't know for probably an hour, hour and a half," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), the No. 4 Democratic senator, both confirmed that there were talks underway to try to get a deal.

"I know the attorneys are working together," Stabenow said. "At this point they're trying to work the whole thing out."

Senators and leadership teams are trying to craft a resolution that would outline how the Senate proceeds on witnesses, including details on how many individuals can be called.

Stabenow predicted that the Senate would vote on the resolution on Saturday.

The decision to call witnesses has upended the timeline for the impeachment trial, which was expected to come to a close on Saturday afternoon.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) injected the uncertainty into the path forward when he announced on the Senate floor on Saturday that House impeachment managers wanted to call on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who released a statement on Friday night recalling a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told her he had with Trump on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Republicans are hoping to convince Democrats to drop their demand to interview Herrera Beutler in exchange for letting news articles about the phone call or her statement to be added to the trial record.

"I think most of us would prefer if they could simply stipulate Jamie Herrera's statement into the record and call it good. I think that would be a very gracious office," Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told reporters.

Meanwhile, Jason Miller, a senior advisor for Trump, showed reporters a list of 301 witnesses they were preparing to call. Democrats would reject such a move but it appeared to be a signal of the headache awaiting House managers.

The push for witnesses appeared to catch Senate Democrats off guard, with several members describing themselves as in the dark about the next steps.

"I just work here," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told reporters.

Asked if he understood what was happening, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) replied, "I know that there are some discussions trying to resolve this issue. That's literally all I know."

But senators are warning that the trial could be dragged out for weeks in order to call witnesses. 

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, warned that calling witnesses would delay the final vote for four to six weeks.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who says Democrats didn’t know Raskin would request witnesses, also floated that the trial could be delayed for weeks.

If leadership can get a deal “we would break for probably up to two weeks,” he said. 

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