It's easy to get angry at Democrats today for their roller-coaster 180 on witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, and lord knows they make it easy to do so, but the problem remains that the GOP refuses to convict.
When Senate Democrats stepped onto the floor on Saturday morning, they had no idea the House impeachment managers were about to drop a political grenade in their laps.
But after a brief schism that threatened to throw Donald Trump's trial into chaos, House and Senate Democrats quickly agreed to put the pin back in. House Democratic managers and the former president's lawyers ducked the issue of witnesses nearly as soon as it was raised, and Senate Democrats approved the turnaround.
Instead of a weeks-long drama over trial witnesses that risked upending the Senate schedule, a widely known statement from one House Republican was entered into the record. Trump’s team declined to dispute it. And amazingly, both sides decided to move on.
But that speedy resolution came after several hours of utter uncertainty.
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his members had prepared for the possibility of voting on witnesses, they got no warning that the lead House prosecutor was about to force a vote that could have prolonged the trial for days or weeks. The impeachment managers spent Friday night and Saturday morning wrestling with the question themselves, according to Democratic sources.
Then Senate Democrats held a 9 a.m. Saturday conference call where members still indicated they were in the dark about House Democratic managers’ plans. The managers didn’t make the final call to force a Senate vote until minutes before the Senate gaveled in at 10 a.m., Democrats said.
“We don’t coordinate with the managers,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), adding that Democratic senators "have social conversations" with their House counterparts but "don’t talk strategy. So we did not know that they were going to request witnesses or not. And that’s how it should have been.”
Summing up the position Democratic senators decided on, Cardin said: “If the managers believe it would help their presentation, we should let them have witnesses.”
As Senate Democrats huddled on their call, their party's impeachment managers initiated outreach to at least some of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, according to multiple sources. The exact nature of those conversations remains unclear -- but what happened next shocked everyone.
The Senate quickly moved to a bipartisan 55-45 vote to consider possible witnesses. Schumer had long deferred to the managers: If they wanted to call witnesses, he said Democrats would support it. Still, the vote on witnesses personally surprised the Senate majority leader, Democrats said.
The Senate ultimately devised a fast solution to help the chamber avoid trekking down a long path of depositions that could drag the trial into March. Instead of calling witnesses, a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) that reiterated her month-old account of a call between the former president and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Jan. 6 was entered into the record. And the trial headed toward a close.
Now everyone's mad at the Democrats over witnesses, instead of being mad at the Republicans for making this a foregone conclusion weeks ago.
But that's the way the political universe works in America.
Trump acquitted 57-43, short of the 67 needed. Republican Senators Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Toomey, Murkowski, Toomey and Romney all voted guilty, along with all 50 Democrats and Independents.
It's more guilty votes than I thought he'd get, but it was still preordained.
On to the courts now for justice.