Donald Trump’s impeachment trial was thrown into confusion after Democrats tried to introduce a witness who claimed to have overheard a key phone call with the former president.
Republican congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler said she had 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.
This contradicts the defence’s claim that the former president was horrified by the attack and moved to try to stop it immediately.
Proceedings were halted for over an hour while senators worked out the next steps. Eventually, her statement was read to to the trial.
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.
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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 was 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 an “unjust, unconstitutional witch-hunt”.
They say Mr Trump was not to blame and that he had told his supporters to protest peacefully.
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They argued his speech at the rally that preceded the Capitol riot last month was “ordinary political rhetoric” and was constitutionally protected free speech.
Prominent Republican Ted Cruz described the move to allow the new witness, as the Democrats’ “last hail Mary” and said their “anger” against Mr Trump was behind it.
He said the House Managers (Democratic “prosecutors”) have the burden of proof in an impeachment trial and they “haven’t proved the case”.
He added: “The reason you are seeing this Hail Mary is that everybody knows the outcome of this proceedings, which is that president Trump is going to be acquitted.
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“Those on the extreme far-left are angry right now – and today is a reflection of that anger.”
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.
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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.