The US Senate voted to acquit Trump in a 43-57 vote – which was 10 short of the 67 votes needed to convicted him on the charges of “incitement to insurrection” levied against him.
This outcome looked probable from the outset, with Republicans largely clinging to a number of technical constitutional arguments – refuted publicly by scores of experts – to insist that the former president should not be convicted for his role in his supporters’ deadly 6th January raid on the Capitol.
But the trial briefly took an unexpected turn on Saturday, as Democratic impeachment managers moved to call in witnesses.
Notably they sought testimony from Jamie Herrera Beutler, a Republican congresswoman who voted to impeach Trump and had alleged to have knowledge of an explosive phone call between Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump on 6 January, in which McCarthy urged the 45th president to call off the rioters.
Herrera Beutler alleged that, while Trump initially claimed it was Antifa storming the Capitol, he eventually told McCarthy: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Despite senators voting 55-45 on Saturday to call witnesses, House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin eventually agreed to just have Herrera Buetler’s testimony read into the record instead – but not before Trump attorney Michael van der Veen countered the call for witnesses with a threat to give Democrats a taste of their own medicine by dragging them to his office in Philadelphia to testify too.
But van der Veen’s words failed to land quite as he intended, with his statement mostly drawing laughter from the chamber.
Warning that calling for witnesses would pave the way for Trump’s team to force Democrats to also testify, he said: “There are a lot of depositions need to be happening. Nancy Pelosi’s deposition needs to be taken. Vice president Harris’s deposition absolutely needs to be taken and not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. These depositions should be done in person, in my office, in Philadelphia. That’s where they should be done.”
Despite the laywer’s attempts at gravitas – at points banging his fist against the lectern for emphasis – this statement was met with resounding laughter – seemingly at his pronunciation of “Philadelphia” as “Phillydelphia”.
However, there’s a small chance that some found his argument humorous too.
@atrupar @maggieNYT Civil litigator here. That is definitely not the way it works. The fact that a party chooses to… https://t.co/eWcsEzQVop
Clearly unhappy about the laughter, van der Veen continued: “I don’t know how many civil lawyers are here, but that’s the way it works, folks,” he explained, adding: “I don’t know why you’re laughing. It is civil process. That is the way lawyers do it. We send notices of deposition.”
The moment of mirth then led presiding officer Patrick Leahy to intervene, saying: “I would remind everybody that we will have order in the chamber during these proceedings.”
Van der veen added: “I haven’t laughed at any of you. And there’s nothing laughable here.”