President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial took a dramatic turn Saturday when lawmakers negotiated an agreement that ensures the trial does not hear from witnesses but does receive jarring testimony from GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler about a phone call Trump made to Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
Following the jolt of tension, Democrats got the evidence, which provides a window into Trump’s conduct while the Capitol riot was underway – although it was not expected to change the vote breakdown in a meaningful way or take the trial in a new direction.
House Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland stunned senators Saturday morning when he spoke on the need for hearing from Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, on what she says McCarthy told her about the call even as the MAGA mob was rampaging through the Capitol.
It was the second major development of the day, after Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell revealed he would vote to acquit the former president, while sharing his procedural reasons.
Herrera Bautler says Trump told McCarthy: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’
Democratic managers could use the statement to argue that Trump inflamed the riot rather than trying to stop it.
But Raskin’s request threatened to blow up the trial schedule, potentially dragging it out for weeks, especially after Trump’s legal team threatened to call more than 300 witnesses.
That evidently was an outcome neither side was willing to stomach, for different reasons.
After a break, both Trump’s lawyer and Raskin agreed to a ‘stipulation’ of the evidence, which Raskin then read into the trial record.
Trump lawyer Bruce Castor said Trump through his lawyers was prepared to stipulate that Rep. Herrera Beutler, were she to testify under oath, it would be consistent with her Feb. 12th statement, which Raskin then read.
The agreement then allowed the trial to move on past the witness phase – meaning none will be called.
It was a swift conclusion to the matter only hours after House managers moved to call Rep. Herrera Beutler for testimony about her stunning claims about what Trump said his supporters were ransacking the Capitol.
With the evidence in the record and in hand – and with neither side demanding more witnesses – Raskin immediately pounced on the new information, saying Trump took actions that ‘further incited the insurgents to be more inflamed and to take even more extreme selective and focused action against Vice President Mike Pence.’
Raskin read Trump’s quote from Herrera Beutler’s notes to McCarthy aloud again. ‘Think about that for a second. This uncontradicted statement that has just been stipulated as part of the evidentiary record. The president said, “Well, I guess these people” – meaning the mobsters, the insurrectionists – “are more upset about the election than you.” That conduct is obviously part of the constitutional offense that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection, that is continuing incitement to the insurrection,’ he said.
He said it provided ‘further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place.’
Another manager, Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, repeated the quote in his own arguments afterward. He said Trump ‘was essentially saying: You got what you deserve.’
‘His sole focus was stealing the election for himself,’ said Cicilline.
The earlier vote on witnesses before a deal was made prevailed on a procedural vote – with five Republicans voting to hear from the Republican lawmakers.
Among them were four Republican senators who had voted that the trial itself was constitutional – Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist who changed his vote to back the move.
For hours Saturday move threw the trial’s schedule into doubt, with some lawmakers having earlier predicted it would wrap up Saturday.
For a time, it reframed what had appeared to be the culmination of the impeachment trial, with the schedule and lawmakers plans to go home thrown into chaos and Joe Biden’s legislative agenda being caught up in the confusion. Trump advisor Jason Miller soon brandished a list of 301 witnesses ‘so far’ that the president’s team threatened to call, and a list that includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, said on the Senate floor Saturday he wanted to depose Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) as well as her contemporaneous notes about what she knows.
He said there was overwhelming evidence of Trump’s ‘dereliction of duty.’ Rep. Herrera Beutler says McCarthy told her about the contents of her tense phone conversation with Trump on Jan. 6.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland moved to be able to depose Republican Rep. Jaime Herera Beutler after she reiterated comments about what she says House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her about his conversation with President Donald Trump
Raskin said the deposition could take place on Zoom and would take only an hour.
His request drew an immediate explosive response from Trump impeachment lawyer Michael van der Veen.
‘If they want to have witnesses, I’m going to need at least 100 depositions. Not just one,’ he fumed – threatening to drag out the trial that senators were forced to view in silence for nearly a week.
Then he raised the stakes even further.
Rep. Raskin put the witness question to a vote after Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler issued a statement about her conversation with Rep. Kevin McCarthy
The move to subpoena witnesses and documents got 5 Republican votes
Michael van der Veen, attorney for former President Donald Trump, bristled at the Democratic request for witnesses. ‘Do not handcuff me by limiting the numbers of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do,’ he said
House impeachment manager Delegate Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., center, walks through the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate on the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 in Washington
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) voted for Raskin’s witness motion, then got in a clash with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
‘Nancy Pelosi’s deposition needs to be taken. Vice President Harris’ deposition, absolutely, needs to be taken. None of these depositions should be done by zoom. We didn’t’ do this hearing by Zoom,’ said Van der Veen. ‘These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That’s where they should be done!’
‘That’s where they should be done. I need to do the 911-style investigation that Nancy Pelosi called for,’ he said.
His Philadelphia comment brought audible laughter inside the chamber.
‘I don’t know why you’re laughing,’ said van der Veen, whose Philadelphia firm touts numerous awards he has won to victims of automobile accidents. He said that’s how depositions are done in civil proceedings.
‘I haven’t laughed at any of you. And there’s nothing laughable here,’ he scolded senators. ‘Now is the time to end this,’ he argued.
After a series of angry statements by the Trump lawyer, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, presiding, cautioned senators to refrain from statements ‘non-conducive to civil discourse.’
‘Do not handcuff me by limiting the numbers of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do,’ Van der Veen fumed.
Raskin responded to information that emerged Friday night about Herrera Beutler’s claims.
She said it reinforced ‘the President’s willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as commander in chief of the United States, his state of mind and his further incitement of the insurrection on January 6.’
‘For that reason, and because this is the proper time to do so under the resolution of that the Senate adopted to set the rules for the trial, we would like the opportunity to subpoena Congresswoman Herrera regarding her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. It’s is a subpoena for contemporaneous notes that she made regarding what President Trump told Kevin McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection,’ he said.
He said the deposition would be an hour ‘or less’ just as soon as the lawmaker is available, and that managers would then proceed to the next phase of the trial, including the introduction of that testimony shortly thereafter.
But he raised the possibility of more witnesses for the prosecution.
‘Congresswoman Beutler further states that she hopes other witnesses to this part of the story, other patriots as she put it would come forward and if that happens, we would seek the opportunity to take their depositions via zoom also for less than an hour or two subpoena other relevant documents as well,’ said Raskin.
But not all senators were entirely sure what they were voting about, with Sen. Todd Young of Alaska asking in mid vote what was the substance.
After the drama on the floor, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson complained about the sudden turn – after being spotted having an angry clash with Sen. Mitt Romney inside the chamber.
‘It’s not healing it’s not, it’s not unifying it’s just like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it and I thought we were going come to a conclusion here today and it was rip the wound back open, let’s – let’s rub more salt in it,’ he complained.
He also claimed the public hearing he organized as chairman on claims of election irregularities being pushed by President Trump was done to ‘defuse’ the situation.
As senators worked to reassemble a way forward, Graham tweeted that it was better to go to a final vote but ‘if the body wants witnesses, I am going to insist we have multiple witnesses.’ He said it was best to start with Pelosi to see ‘as to whether or not there was credible evidence of pre-planned violence before President Trump spoke?’ He said it was ‘incredibly relevant’ to the incitement charge.
The drama on the floor came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told fellow Republicans that he plans to vote to acquit Donald Trump on charges incitement of insurrection – a signal that the House-led effort to convict the former president will fail.
McConnell made his position known on what could be the last day of the trial, as closing arguments were set to begin.
‘While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,’ McConnell said in the letter.
Although he had denounced Trump’s actions in an emotional Senate floor speech immediately after the Jan. 6 MAGA riot in the Capitol, McConnell also did not act to hasten the impeachment trial while Trump was still in office.
He voted along with 44 other Republicans that the post-presidency impeachment was unconstitutional – a position that did not prevail.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the US Capitol for the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump, on February 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. He told colleagues he will vote to acquit Trump
The drama unfolded after it was revealed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues he plans to vote to acquit Trump
House Democratic managers brought up numerous Trump administration officials who quit following the riot – among them McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
McConnell’s decision makes it likely that only a handful of Republicans cross over to join Democrats voting to convict. With two-thirds of the Senate required, this raises the likelihood that Trump would be impeached and acquitted twice.
There was a last minute wrinkle Friday night, however.
CNN reported Friday that Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy engaged in an expletive-laced shouting match during the riot, with the California Republican begging the president to rein in his supporters.
‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’ Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call by McCarthy.
GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for Trump’s impeachment and who spoke on the record about what McCarthy told her, pleaded with ‘patriots’ to go public with their own accounts.
‘To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,’ she said.
‘To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,’ Jaime Herrera Beutler said.
F-word call: Kevin McCarthy pleaded with Donald Trump to call off his mob on January 6, and when Trump said ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’ responded: ‘Who the f**k do you think you’re speaking to?’
‘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 recounted.
‘McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’
Other sources told CNN that McCarthy replied to Trump: ‘Who the f**k do you think you are talking to?’ and that McCarthy had phoned Trump because the MAGA mob were smashing the windows in his office.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called for the suspension of the trial in order to depose GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville and McCarthy about their conversations with the former president during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and one of the 100 jurors in the trial, issued the call in a tweet late on Friday, one day before the trial was expected to conclude in an acquittal.
‘Tomorrow just got a lot more interesting,’ Whitehouse wrote, referring to reports that McCarthy lambasted Trump in an expletive-laden diatribe telling him to call off his mob of loyalists, and following Tuberville’s admission that he told Trump that Vice President Mike Pence was being evacuated from the Senate.