U.S. Rep. Jaimie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, opened Saturday’s trial proceedings and his closing arguments by citing comments from Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, saying her corroboration of a Jan. 6 phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former President Donald Trump was critical evidence.
Raskin called for Herrera Beutler to be subpoenaed, a move that succeeded in getting five Republican senators to join with the 50 Democrats. The Republicans were Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
But despite securing the needed votes, Democrats hours later abandoned the plan to call witnesses, and closing arguments began with Raskin using comments from Herrera Beutler to kick off his plea to convict Trump of inciting a riot.
In the roll call to acquit that followed, 57 senators, including seven Republicans, voted guilty and 43 voted not guilty. Conviction would have required 67 votes of guilty.
But Saturday morning began with significant questions about whether Herrera Beutler’s remarks might change minds, perhaps among the general public and even in the Senate, where acquittal had long been predicted.
News on Friday night of Herrera Beutler’s comments about the call between McCarthy and Trump changed the conversation at the trial Saturday and surrounding it, with claims of new insight into the president’s state of mind Jan. 6 as the attack on the Capitol was underway.
One of the 10 Republicans who last month voted to impeach Trump, Herrera Beutler confirmed Friday night that McCarthy told her that the former president had sided with the mob during a phone call as the Capitol siege unfolded. The account was first reported by CNN.
In her Friday statement, Herrera Beutler recounted a phone call relayed to her by McCarthy of California, in which Trump was said to have sided with the rioters, telling the top House Republican that members of the mob who had stormed the Capitol were “more upset about the election than you are.”
Herrera Beutler pleaded with witnesses to step forward and share what they knew about Trump’s actions and statements as the attack was underway.
“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,” Herrera Beutler said in the statement.
Her account of the call between McCarthy and Trump addressed a crucial question in the impeachment trial: what Trump was doing and saying privately while the Capitol was being overrun.
Herrera Beutler said McCarthy had relayed details of his phone call with Trump to her. She has been speaking publicly about it for weeks, including during a virtual town hall Monday with constituents, and confirmed it in the statement Friday.
Democratic House impeachment managers Saturday, hours after winning the vote to allow witnesses, struck a deal with Trump’s defense team to add Herrera’s statement to the trial record.
McCarthy’s response to Trump in the weeks since the attack on the Capitol has fluctuated. On the day of the House’s impeachment vote, he said Trump bore some responsibility for the attack because he had not denounced the mob, but he has since backtracked and sought to repair his relationship with the former president.
By Herrera Beutler’s account, McCarthy called Trump frantically Jan. 6 as the Capitol was being besieged by thousands of pro-Trump supporters trying to stop Congress from counting Electoral College votes that would confirm his loss.
She said McCarthy asked him “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.”
Trump replied by saying that antifa, not his supporters, was responsible. When McCarthy said that was not true, the former president was curt.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he said, according to Herrera Beutler’s account of what McCarthy told her.
Hours after the assault began, Trump tweeted a video in which he asked those ransacking the Capitol to leave. “Go home. We love you. You’re very special,” he said.
Like other House Republicans who voted last month to impeach Trump, Herrera Beutler has faced a political backlash, including rebukes from the Republican Party back home.
Nine of Washington’s 10 House members including Republicans Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, of Sunnyside, voted to impeach. They joined all seven Democratic members from the state in that vote.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, was the only “no” vote on impeachment in Washington’s congressional delegation.
In a statement she released last month about her impeachment vote, Herrera Beutler also referenced McCarthy, whom she described on Jan. 6 as “pleading with the President to go on television and call for an end to the mayhem, to no avail.”
A planned Saturday protest in Vancouver of her impeachment vote was postponed a week because of the snow.
“She voted for impeachment, so now we vote her out,” said an online notice for the event, which has been promoted by Joey Gibson, a leader of Patriot Prayer. The notice said, “This is a peaceful demonstration. All people will stay across the street from the (Herrera Beutler’s) office.”
Material from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.