WASHINGTON – The Senate on Saturday abandoned a plan to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, clearing the way for closing arguments and a vote on whether to convict the former president.

In a surprising turn, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked that a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., be admitted into the record rather than she be subpoenaed for testimony.

Hours earlier, Democrats had said they would like to take a deposition from Herrera Beutler after she described a conversation that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had with Trump while the Jan. 6 Capitol attack was ongoing. The Senate then had voted to call witnesses.

In closing arguments, Raskin once again urged senators to convict Trump, emphasizing that the evidence that showed Trump’s culpability for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection “has only grown stronger and stronger and more detailed right up till today, right up to 10 minutes ago!”

His statement followed a chaotic morning in which Democrats had said they wanted to subpoena Herrera Beutler, who tweeted late Friday details of a conversation that McCarthy had with Trump while the Capitol attack was ongoing.

In the tweet, Herrera Beutler said Trump expressed sympathy for the mob, reportedly telling McCarthy: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

After a surprise vote in which the Senate approved calling witnesses, Democrats reversed course and said they had reached an agreement with the defense team to simply admit Herrera Beutler’s statement to the record.

House impeachment managers tried to cast the move as a victory, saying Trump’s team had initially fought to exclude Herrera Beutler’s statement.

“Now that Trump’s team has conceded to bringing this uncontradicted statement into the trial record, it can be considered by senators along with the already overwhelming evidence about President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, without the need for subpoena, deposition and other testimony,” said a senior aide on the impeachment team who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.

“The strongest evidence of Trump’s dereliction of duty during and after the attack has always been Trump’s own public statements on that day and his own deafening refusal to say ‘stop the attack.’ This conduct speaks louder than anything else,” the aide added.

Raskin said Beutler’s statement was further evidence – along with video, audio, tweets, statements and other evidence the House impeachment managers had laid out over the past four days – that Trump was guilty.

“President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people,” Raskin concluded.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., threatened Herrera Beutler on Saturday after the Senate voted to call witnesses, telling her that loyal Trump voters “are watching.” Greene wrote that Herrera Beutler was “the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats.”

“First voting to impeach innocent President Trump, then yapping to the press and throwing @GOPLeader under the bus, and now a tool as a witness for the Democrats running the circus trial,” Greene tweeted. “The Trump loyal 75 million are watching.”

Greene was apparently referring to the 74.2 million people who voted for Trump in the 2020 election. Biden won the race with 81.3 million votes.

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who also voted for Trump’s impeachment, fired back at Greene in defense of Herrera Beutler.

“She has about 40 times the honor of you,” Kinzinger tweeted. “Maybe you’re more famous though, which is all you want. Also ‘yapping to the press’ is telling truth, something you should try to your loyal Q base.”

Kinzinger was referring to Greene’s past promotion of the QAnon set of false claims that have coalesced into an extremist ideology that has radicalized its followers.

Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he will vote to acquit Trump, according to a source familiar with an email McConnell sent to his GOP colleagues.

McConnell had previously signaled that he was open to voting to convict Trump. Because McConnell is leader of the GOP caucus, his new comment will probably influence other Republican senators who might have been on the fence about their own vote.

McConnell’s message informing his caucus of his decision was first reported Saturday by Politico’s Burgess Everett.

Just before the start of Saturday’s trial proceedings, Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., said McConnell’s email was a “significant development.”

“Given that Senator McConnell made clear in public statements in part blaming President Trump for the violent riot here in the Capitol, it was assumed he was at least open to conviction, so that’s a significant development,” Coons told reporters.

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