Sat, 13 February 2021, 3:26 pm
Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has been temporarily suspended after a last-minute witness was unearthed claiming to have overheard a key phone call with the former president.
Jaime Herrera Beutler claims she has contemporaneous notes of a call that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had with Mr Trump – the contents of which, she says, proves the former president did not try to stop the Capitol riots.
Mr Trump is charged with “incitement of insurrection” over last month’s violence when the US Capitol was stormed by his supporters as Congress was attempting to ratify the 2020 election result.
Five people died in the chaos and its aftermath.
All this week, Democrats in the Senate have been trying to prove that the riot on 6 January as a result of incitement by Mr Trump, telling them to do it at a rally on the National Mall just hours beforehand.
But Mr Trump’s lawyers launched a blistering attack on the Democratic-led hearing, describing it as a “unjust, unconstitutional witch-hunt”.
They say Mr Trump was not to blame and that he had told his supporters to protest peacefully.
It is the first time in history that a US president has been impeached twice.
The first attempt to convict Mr Trump in January 2020, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, saw him acquitted by a majority of 52 votes to 48 for one charge and 53-47 for the second. Only one Republican voted against him on one of the charges.
If convicted this time round, Mr Trump would be barred from running for federal office again.
However, Democrats face a difficult task in securing a conviction.
If every senator votes, then at least 17 Republicans would need to turn against their former president to reach the required 67-vote (two-thirds) threshold for impeachment to be successful.