The second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump was heading for a quick ending Saturday.Then Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., arrived on the sc
The second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump was heading for a quick ending Saturday.
Then Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., arrived on the scene, transforming what seemed like a fait accompli into a potentially weeks-long parade of witnesses that might result in the first conviction of an American president.
Instead, senators brokered a last-minute deal to accept a statement from the six-term congresswoman from Washington state but no witnesses. While that compromise put the trial back on track for a Saturday conclusion, her claim about the president’s indifference as a violent horde burst into the Capitol added another layer of drama to an already emotional chapter of the impeachment trial.
In recent tweets and a statement, Herrera Beutler said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke with Trump as a mob of his supporters was storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the president not only seemed unconcerned about the riot but refused to do anything to stop siege.
Democratic lawmakers acting as managers, or prosecutors, in the impeachment trial initially wanted Herrera Beutler to testify, arguing her claim that Trump didn’t want the assault to stop – a claim his legal team disputes – proves his guilt on the charge that he incited the riot.
Managers have argued the former president incited the insurrection first with the stream of baseless claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen from him and then when he told thousands of supporters at Jan. 6 rally to head to the Capitol and support him. Evidence that he did nothing to stop it – especially when he knew Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in danger – would be, they hope, the final nail in their case to convict him.
“Needless to say, this is an additional critical piece of evidence,” lead manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said on the Senate floor as he made the motion to call Herrera Beutler as a witness.
The Senate voted 55-45 to go ahead with witnesses, extending a trial that seemed likely to wrap up with Trump’s acquittal Saturday. Senate Republicans supporting Trump said they planned to call their own witnesses to refute the charge that Trump incited the mob. Later, they backtracked, reaching a compromise where only her statement was added to the record.
Herrera Beutler, 42, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment on a charge of inciting the attack, said in a statement that McCarthy had told her that when he reached Trump by phone as the Capitol was breached, McCarthy “asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.”
According to the six-term congresswoman, Trump initially tried to blame the attack on leftist members of antifa. When McCarthy insisted the mob was comprised of the president supporters, Trump told the top House Republican, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
While news of her comments took on national importance late Friday night following a CNN report about them, Herrera Beutler said she’s been sharing her story since Jan. 17 – four days after the impeachment vote – with local Republicans and constituents. She repeated the story to thousands of residents during a town hall Feb. 8.
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Herrera Beutler had previously cited McCarthy’s unheeded appeal to Trump in a Jan. 12 statement explaining her decision to vote for impeachment. She linked to a Jan. 17 article in The Daily News in which she related the same account to the Longview, Washington, newspaper.
In that interview, she said McCarthy pleaded with the president, telling him, “You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.”
Herrera Beutler said the president replied, “Kevin, they’re not my people.”
“Yes, they are,” McCarthy told Trump. “They just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off.”
At that point, she said Trump told McCarthy, “Well I guess these people are just more angry about the election and upset than you are.”
McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Herrera Beutler has said she is not afraid of losing her seat in Congress over her vote to impeach Trump.
Washington’s 3rd Congressional District spans a large portion of southwest Washington and has jumped back and forth between Republican and Democratic control going back decades. Herrera Beutler won the seat by 6 points in 2010 and has held it since.
The largest city in the district is Vancouver, Washington, located across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, and home to more liberal voters. But outside of Vancouver, the district is largely conservative.
Herrera Beutler explained that phone call, as well as the death of U.S. Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick, were the primary reasons for her vote to impeach the president.
“A president who sees an attack happening like this has an oath by his office to do what he can to stop it, and he didn’t,” she said.
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In her statement on Friday, she appealed to “the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening.”
“If you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said.
Herrera Beutler’s revelation led House impeachment managers to request witnesses in the trial, a move they had previously indicated they would not make.
Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Sheldon Whitehouse both indicated their support for calling witnesses in response to Herrera Beutler’s statement.
Whitehouse said the conversation between Trump and McCarthy showed Trump’s lawyers were either mistaken or dishonest in their arguments Friday, in which they said Trump had tried to call off the attackers and did not know that Vice President Mike Pence had been in danger.
“One way to clear it up? Suspend trial to depose McCarthy and Tuberville under oath and get facts,” Whitehouse said in a tweet, referring to Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
“Senator Whitehouse nailed it,” Merkley tweeted in support of the idea.
Contributing: Annah Aschbrenner