Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Feb. 1 warned his Democratic colleagues against calling witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, threatening to call on the FBI to testify in what may become a prolonged trial.
“If you open that can of worms, we’ll want the FBI to come in and tell us about how people pre-planned this attack and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol. You open up Pandora’s Box if you call one witness,” Graham told Fox News on Monday.
The Senate trial is expected to begin on Feb. 9. Forty-five Republican Senators had voted in favor of a resolution calling the trial unconstitutional because Trump is now a private citizen. Democrats in the House alleged that Trump incited the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump is due to file a response to the impeachment charge on Tuesday but replaced his lead legal counsel over the weekend. His new team, led by lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor, will have just over a week to get ready before the trial begins Feb. 9.
Democrats seeking his conviction on one count of “incitement of insurrection” face an uphill climb. They must convince at least 17 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans that Trump is guilty of inciting the mob that breached the Capitol. In a speech delivered in a different part of Washington on the day of the breach, Trump told supporters to make their voices heard peacefully. The Democrats’ impeachment document picked selective quotations from a different part of his speech and ignored the president’s multiple calls for peaceful behavior.
As Trump left office on Jan. 20, a vote to convict would have little practical impact, but it could clear the way for a vote to prevent him from holding public office in the future.
House Democrats, who will be prosecuting the case in the Senate, will submit a pre-trial brief laying out their case against Trump. They are also due to indicate as soon as Tuesday whether they plan to call witnesses—a flashpoint in last year’s impeachment trial.
Most Republican senators now are lining up against conviction. While few defend his actions, many argue that Congress does not have the power to impeach a former president. They also have maintained that another trial will hurt efforts to unify the country in the post-Trump era.
Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
Graham had also shot down a request by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to hold a Feb. 8 confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general. In a letter to Durbin, Graham wrote that a one-day confirmation hearing a day before the impeachment trial would not be sufficient.
“When the Senate’s focus is required to consider whether to bar a former president from being reelected, other business must stop. Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required,” Graham wrote.
Reuters contributed to this report.