A conviction in the 100-member Senate – which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans – would require a two-thirds majority and appears highly unlikely.
The US Senate has reached a deal to skip witness testimony in the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, averting a prolonged trial.
The agreement cleared the way for the beginning of closing arguments in the trial, and a final vote on whether to convict Trump is now expected later on Saturday.
The Senate reconvened at 10:00 am (1500 GMT) to debate whether to allow witness testimony at the impeachment trial of the 74-year-old former Republican president.
Instead of calling witnesses, the House impeachment managers and Trump's defence team agreed to admit into the record a statement by Republican congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler about a phone call in which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy implored then-President Trump to call off the rioters.
Herrera Beutler was one of 10 Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives.
In her statement, Herrera Beutler said that Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had called Trump while the attack was ongoing and implored him to call off the rioters.
February 13, 2021
"When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol," Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
"McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters," the congresswoman said.
"That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said: 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'" she said.
End in sight
Each side will have two hours each to present their closing arguments.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on January 13 for inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters, who were seeking to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden's November 3 election victory.
But a conviction in the 100-member Senate – which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans – would require a two-thirds majority and appears unlikely after McConnell said he would vote to acquit.
Shortly before the trial reconvened on Saturday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell sent an email to his fellow Republican senators.
"While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and therefore we lack jurisdiction," McConnell said. "The Constitution makes perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office.
"Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit," McConnell said.
READ MORE: Democrats say Capitol attackers acted on Trump's 'orders'
Trump's lawyers cry "political vengeance"
Trump's defence lawyers argued on Friday that the former president bears no responsibility for the attack by his supporters on Congress and wrapped up their presentation in just three hours.
This followed two days of evidence from Democratic impeachment managers centered around harrowing video footage of the mob assault on the Capitol.
In arguments on Friday, defence lawyers called the impeachment unconstitutional and an "act of political vengeance."
READ MORE: Trump's attorneys blame Democrats for 'hatred' against ex-president
The former president's lawyers argued that Trump's rally speech near the White House that preceded the January 6 attack, when he told supporters to "fight," was merely rhetorical.
Seeking to turn the table on the Democrats' powerful use of video evidence, defence lawyers played their own compilations showing Democratic lawmakers at different times using the word "fight."
Democratic impeachment managers charge that after losing to Biden, Trump deliberately stoked national tension with a campaign of lies claiming there had been mass voter fraud.
READ MORE: Dozens leave Republican Party, calling it a 'Trump cult'
On January 6 he staged a fiery rally near the White House, calling on the crowd to march on Congress, which was in the process of certifying Biden's victory.
The mob then stormed the Capitol, disrupting the certification. Five people, including a police officer and a woman shot during the unrest, died as a result of the mayhem.