sotu stacey plaskett
Plaskett: We didn't need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines
02:02 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Del. Stacey Plaskett on Sunday defended the Democratic House managers’ decision not to call witnesses in former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, saying a day after Trump’s acquittal that they “needed more senators with spines” in order to convict him.

“I know that people are feeling a lot of angst and believe that maybe if we had (a witness) the senators would have done what we wanted, but, listen, we didn’t need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines,” Plaskett, who represents the US Virgin Islands’ at-large congressional district and served as one of nine impeachment managers, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Plaskett and her fellow managers faced questions over their decision to reverse course and not call witnesses in the trial, a move that disappointed some who believed potential depositions could have resulted in a stronger case and led to more Republicans voting to convict the former President. But even with witnesses, Trump’s acquittal was all but guaranteed Saturday given that 17 GOP senators needed to side with Democrats to convict him – a number that appeared out of reach from the start.

The Senate’s vote to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 came after a surprise Democratic request for witnesses earlier that day that threw the trial briefly into chaos.

The Senate voted 55 to 45 to consider witnesses – with five Republican joining Democrats – after the managers said they wanted to hear from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican who had confirmed to CNN new details about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s phone call with Trump the day of the riot.

But following hours of negotiations between Senate leaders, the managers and Trump’s legal team, the congresswoman’s statement was entered into the trial record as evidence and no witnesses appeared at the trial, frustrating Democrats who wanted to depose Herrera Beutler and Republican Rep. John Katko of New York.

Plaskett said that her team heard that if they did call witnesses, they may risk losing some Republican votes – including the support of Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina – but she told Tapper that did not ultimately play into the managers’ decision.

“I think we wanted to get in what we wanted and we did. We believed that we proved the case. We proved the elements of an article of impeachment,” she said. “It’s clear that these (senators) were hardened – that they did not want to let the President be convicted or disqualified.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut echoed Plaskett’s sentiments later on the program, telling Tapper, “I don’t know that there were more than seven (Republican guilty votes), no matter what they did or how much longer the trial went.”

Murphy, who said he believes the managers got “what they wanted” in submitting Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record, argued that had Democrats moved forward with witnesses, the trial might have been dragged on for weeks due to Senate rules allowing for debate on motions for witnesses.

“They might have lost votes if they had moved forward with a week or two or three weeks of argument over witnesses,” he said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the House’s lead impeachment manager, on Sunday also defended the decision to move past calling witnesses after introducing the idea on the Senate floor during the trial, telling NBC that it wouldn’t have mattered if scores of witnesses were called because it wouldn’t have overcome Republicans’ “silly arguments.”

“We brought up the resolution right at the time that the resolutions for witnesses were called for according to the Senate resolution – there’s no other time we could have done it, that was the moment to do it, we won that vote, we were going to proceed to do it, and then the Republicans stipulated to allow the evidence to come into the record,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said.

“We could have had 1,000 witnesses, but that could not have overcome the kinds of silly arguments” waged by Republicans, he added.

Plaskett also dodged a question from Tapper about whether there was a plan for the managers to talk to prosecutors in Washington, and the Justice Department about whether Trump being liable for the deadly insurrection.

“I’ll leave that to leadership,” she said. “I’m sure leadership are going to be having those discussions and God bless the attorney general of Georgia, New York, district attorney’s office here in DC as well.”

Federal prosecutors in Washington investigating the insurrection have signaled that no one is above the law, including Trump, and have stressed that nothing is off the table when asked if they were looking at the former President’s role in inciting violence.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Lauren Fox, Daniella Diaz, Kara Scannell, Sonia Moghe and Jason Morris contributed to this report.