'This Is Why We Fail': Democrats Accused of Caving on Trump Impeachment Trial Witnesses

Just hours after pulling together a surprise 55-45 vote in favor of calling impeachment witnesses, Democrats struck a deal with former President Donald Trump's lawyers to avoid any in-person testimony —a move widely derided by left-leaning pundits and sitting Democratic lawmakers alike.

Democratic House impeachment managers and senators are being ridiculed for "capitulating" to Republicans after they threatened to filibuster all Senate business— including COVID-19 relief—if the trial proceeded with witnesses. Some senators said witnesses were unlikely to change the minds of the 17 Republicans needed to convict, but many Trump critics accused Democrats of blowing their last chance to grill the Trump insiders and "show the world what he did on January 6," as political writer Rachael Blade remarked Saturday. Even some GOP lawmakers reacted with shock at the last-minute backtrack by Democrats, many of whom fought hard and failed to get witnesses during Trump's first impeachment trial.

It's unclear what, if anything, Democrats got in return for the no-witness deal with Trump's lawyers. Democratic Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley told NBC News it's part of a plan to move past impeachment and bring Republicans onboard with President Joe Biden's agenda. But others said it's just the latest fold by weak Democratic lawmakers.

I don't know how to talk about the Dems failure to call witnesses in a way that won't get me banned from Twitter.

Suffice to say: this is why we fail.

— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) February 13, 2021

"I don't know how to talk about the Dems failure to call witnesses in a way that won't get me banned from Twitter. Suffice to say: this is why we fail," remarked The Nation justice correspondent Elie Mystal. My god people, if "will it convince Republicans" was your standard for all of this, THEN WHY HAVE THIS TRIAL AT ALL?...If you thought there was any POINT to impeachment, then there was a point to call witnesses."

"So just so I'm clear: A President inciting an insurrection against our own government isn't a big enough deal for witnesses. Do I have that right?" remarked former GOP congressman and vocal anti-Trump critic Joe Walsh.

"It is truly madness that they did not call witnesses. It guarantees Trump walks," tweeted author Don Winslow.

The House Judiciary GOP on Saturday flipped the call for witnesses back on Democrats, accusing Representative Jamie Raskin of being afraid to hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi give testimony. Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who expressed his shock that Democrats were even able to secure witness testimony in the 55-45 vote, had warned that he would call Pelosi to testify on lax Capitol security leading up to the attacks.

Pundits and political strategists from both sides of the aisle blasted the Democrats for not allowing people like House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to testify, particularly after reports of a furious January 6 phone call between himself and Trump during the Capitol attacks. As a result of the deal between Democratic impeachment managers and Trump's attorneys, phone call information is set to be added to the official record without having to wait weeks for witnesses like McCarthy to testify. It also avoids potential grandstanding by GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul.

"Chaos at the impeachment trial. Dems had agreed to know witnesses, then House managers changed their mind this morning. [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer blindsided. Pandemonium," Cruz tweeted, going on to joke about some of the questions he would hypothetically asked Democrats had he been able to call them as witnesses.

Some Democratic figures offered support for the the move not to call witnesses, characterizing it as a means of moving past a trial where conviction is not even remotely likely to occur.

"I know I'm in the minority right now, but this is not a disaster. Nothing anyone said in Senate was going to change a vote. But with so much no unknown, the DOJ will have to investigate and provide real answers and the Justice that Trump and team deserve," tweeted former White House Press Secretary under Bill Clinton, Joe Lockhart.

Newsweek reached out to Schumer and Raskin's offices for addition remarks Saturday afternoon.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer weak
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) (D-NY) speaks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (L) (D-CA) during a ceremony presenting two United States Capitol Police with the U.S.C.P. Medal of Honor at the U.S. Capitol November 9, 2011 in Washington DC. Special agent David Bailey and special agent Crystal Griner were instrumental in responding to an active shooter firing on members the House Republican baseball team, where Rep. Steve Scalise was seriously wounded in June 14, 2017. WIN MCNAMEE / Staff/Getty Images