Former President Trump’s legal team was shocked by the Senate vote to call witnesses in his impeachment trial, an 11th-hour twist at a trial they believed would wrap up Saturday with a vote to acquit.
One source in touch with the legal team said that at least one aide assisting the defense had to scrap vacation plans scheduled to begin on Sunday, as Washington grappled with the new reality that the trial could drag on for days or weeks.
“No one expected this on our side, people are universally stunned,” said the source. “Everyone was expecting to be done this afternoon.”
House Democratic impeachment managers on Saturday morning said they wanted to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), whose claims that Trump privately dismissed pleas to squash the Jan. 6 riots shook Washington on Friday night.
"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," House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said.
Trump’s attorney Michael Van Der Veen fumed, saying that if Democrats stopped the trial to investigate new claims, he’d try to depose scores of his own witnesses, including Vice President Harris, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
“The only thing I ask if you vote for witnesses, do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses I can have,” Van Der Veen said. “I need a thorough investigation … I need the 9/11 style investigation that Nancy Pelosi called for. It should have been done already, it’s a dereliction of the House managers' duty. Now at the last minute, after a stipulation had been worked out, they want to go back on that. We should close this case out today."
Trump’s attorneys have been eager to bring the trial to a swift end, believing the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The defense only used about three-and-a-half hours of its allotted 16 hours before resting.
There is speculation that the introduction of new witnesses could drag the impeachment trial into next week or beyond.
Trump’s allies are uncertain about whether the witnesses are a net positive or a net negative for the former president’s case.
Democrats could block the witnesses the Trump team hopes to bring, including Pelosi and Harris. But the GOP source said that would make it look like they have something to hide.
At the moment, it appears Senate Republicans are on track to acquit Trump, although Herrera Beutler’s testimony could be severely damaging for him.
“I don’t know if it’s a net positive, but it will turn this into even more of a circus,” the source said. “It will also stop a lot of work in the Senate on COVID relief, so when people aren’t getting checks, they’re going to be f------ pissed. Then then White House nominations for agencies will slow down to a snail’s pace. So the government will come to a standstill and it will be a circus, and I don’t think the public has any appetite for this to drag on or turn this into a circus.”