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Neguse says witnesses "would not have made a difference" in Trump impeachment trial

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Congressman Joe Neguse, who was an impeachment manager in the former president's Senate trial, says calling witnesses would not have convinced enough GOP senators needed to convict.

Video Transcript

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MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." The headlines this morning are similar to what they were almost exactly a day, a week, and a year ago after being acquitted in the foreign interference impeachment case. Now former President Donald Trump has been acquitted again. This time, for incitement of insurrection following the events of January 6 But this time, seven Republican senators broke with their party, that was still 10 votes short of conviction.

We want to begin this morning with one of the impeachment managers Colorado Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse. He's in Washington. Good morning, Congressman.

JOE NEGUSE: Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You close your argument yesterday by saying extremist groups may be emboldened, and the violence on the 6th may just be the beginning. Are you saying Republicans are complicit in that? And if so, how do you work across the aisle with them now?

JOE NEGUSE: Well, look, what I was saying Margaret-- and it's very heartfelt on my behalf and on behalf of all the managers-- is a real fear that I think many Americans have after witnessing the terrible violence that happened on January 6 in the insurrection took place on our nation's account-- our nation's Capitol, but without accountability that many of these groups could very well become more emboldened and perhaps engage in more violence.

I had hoped that more senators would ultimately honor their oath by convicting the president. But make no mistake, I mean, the big difference between this year and the headline that you referenced last year is just how historic this vote was. It was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of our Republic.

57 senators, including seven Republicans that you mentioned, chose country over party, looked at our facts objectively that we presented to them, considered the evidence, and reached the same conclusion we did, which was that the president incited insurrection. And we shouldn't lose sight of that. I want to salute and commend those seven Republicans, people like Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney, really profile in courage in my view in terms of the vote that they took.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did you back off the request for witnesses?

JOE NEGUSE: That's a fair question. I don't know that I would characterize it that way. Look, I know a lot of folks who are wondering--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you asked for them. The Senator said yes. And then the House managers said they didn't require them. That's backing off.

JOE NEGUSE: Well, no. So here's what I would say, and I'm happy to answer the question. So lead manager Raskin touched on this yesterday. He proceeded with a request for one witness, not multiple witnesses. The request was for that video testimony, a deposition testimony, which is how that's been done in prior impeachments, for example, during the Clinton impeachment in 1999 of Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, given what we had learned about her statements just the night before and the full extent of her remarks, rather the conversation she had with minority Leader McCarthy that she had with President Trump.

And clearly that conversation went directly to the president's state of mind in our view and in the view of clearly 57 senators supported our theory of the case. So we proceeded, and lead manager Raskin, rather, proceeded with that request. It became very clear to us the president's counsel was willing to stipulate to allow that statement to come into evidence and be considered by the Senate.

And that was an important stipulation. Ultimately, lead manager Raskin read out that statement both to the United States Senate and to the broader American public. But I'll just also say, Margaret, look, I think it's pretty clear. And lead manager Raskin touched on this.

Whether it was five more witnesses or 5,000 witnesses, it is very clear that the senators who voted to acquit on a technicality, which was the jurisdictional argument, that we had successfully defended early in the trial and actually had convinced a majority of the Senate, including Republicans, that the Senate did have presidential jurisdiction to move forward, it would not have made a difference to those senators. And you heard that from Mitch McConnell himself who conceded that the president was morally responsible for provoking the events of January 6.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there do seem to have been some key items that came up at the last minute or were frankly, you know, overlooked until the last minute. You mentioned Congresswoman Herrera Butler's comments, but she said she first made those public back in January. I also want to play for you these comments from Republican Leader McCarthy that were on "CBS" coverage during the siege.

- I'm giving you the opportunity right now that your precious and beloved United States Capitol and our democracy is witnessing this. Call a spade a spade.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: I was very clear with the president when I called him. This has to stop, and he has to-- he's got to go to the American public and tell them to stop this. This is not who we are. This is not who his supporters are.

This is more than politics. This is the foundation of this nation. This is the democracy that we are supposed to be the torch for the rest of the world. This is not the view we should see. And nobody should encourage it, and nobody should be a part of it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's the Republican leader saying on live television he personally asked the president multiple times to call off his mob. Why leave key moments like that on the table?

JOE NEGUSE: I disagree with the premise of that question, Margaret. Yes, that statement that you just mentioned certainly we're aware of. I think-- and again, I defer to leave manger Raskin on the separate entry point.

But the full extent of the conversation that Leader McCarthy had with the president is what we and the country learned about just in the last 48 hours. The president's response to leader McCarthy that those rioters, those insurrectionists cared more about the election results than he did. That was new information. And so it was important for the Senate to consider that. But again-- the leader--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But wouldn't you wanted to have to ask for McCarthy yourself these questions? I mean, they're-- I'm sure you've seen reports and comments from Democratic senators like Chris Coons that, you know, this just would have taken too long. If the stakes were as high as you're saying, why not hear from these witnesses?

JOE NEGUSE: I-- I'd say a couple of things. First, it was very clear. And again, I defer this to leader manager Raskin. Buy my understanding that witnesses that were not friendly to the prosecution were not going to comply voluntarily, which meant that we would be mitigating subpoenas for months and potentially years. And I know you know this, Margaret. You've covered this extensively.

During the first impeachment, we are still litigating the subpoena Don McGhan that the Judiciary Committee issued two years ago. So look, at the end of the day, Leader McConnell himself yesterday acknowledged the president's disgraceful dereliction of duty.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you think that--

JOE NEGUSE: It is very-- and then nonetheless--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You looked-- you looked-- very quickly, though. You looked right at Leader McConnell in part of your remarks. Did you ever think you were going to persuade him to convict?

JOE NEGUSE: I was hopeful. You know, look, I care a great deal about this country, as the son of immigrants and someone who's been given so many freedoms and opportunities here in the United States. I was hopeful that every Senator would ultimately vote to do the right thing. And I'm glad I'm grateful that seven of them on the Republican side did that. Obviously, history will [INAUDIBLE] much of the rest.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for your time this morning.

JOE NEGUSE: Thank you.