After a blockbuster scoop from CNN’s Jamie Gangel on Friday night, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) released a statement concerning the desperate phone call House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to then-President Donald Trump during the violent insurrection on Jan. 6.

The statement explained: "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. 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. (Her italics.)

Former president Donald Trump's legal team argued House managers took Trump's remarks out of context and shared misleading videos of their own. (Adriana Usero, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

That is a damning admission that Trump knew of the violence, was pleased with the mob and declined to stop it. Herrera Beutler made clear that she had previously told her story to local media, but it had not gotten national attention. She concluded her statement, “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.”

The new evidence is jarring, ABC News reports:

Rather than continue on automatic pilot, the House impeachment managers did what great trial attorneys do when thrown a curveball. They paused, considered their plan and called an audible. Lead House manager Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) called for witnesses, specifically for Herrera Beutler to testify and bring her contemporaneous notes. The former president’s counsel went into hysterics, drawing laughter at his mispronunciation of “Philadelphia.” (He seemed to think threatening to depose witnesses in his office in the City of Brotherly Love would dissuade the Senate from calling witnesses.) The Senate voted 55 to 45 to call witnesses, setting off a Republican hissy fit. We’ll call witnesses too! Well, fine. Perhaps former vice president Mike Pence?

The revelation underscores several points. First, other witnesses may exist to the McCarthy conversation. If so, their continued silence is disgraceful. They have direct evidence of mendacious conduct relevant to the impeachment yet decided to remain silent. Second, the new evidence underscores McCarthy’s cowardly, unprincipled conduct.

He had this damning information but did not share it with the House. He voted against impeachment. He allowed a groundswell of opposition to form against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for her principled vote to impeach. He went to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring of the disgraced former president and has remained quiet during a trial in which defense counsel claimed the former president had no knowledge that his vice president was in peril. In short, McCarthy withheld critical information from the House, the Senate and the country; knowing how despicably the former president had behaved, McCarthy kept him front and center as the party’s leader.

This evidence is the Perry Mason sort of gasp-inducing moment when a trial going down an established track gets derailed. This may make it much harder for Republicans determined to acquit Trump. (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell already declared his intention to acquit, claiming lack of jurisdiction, which is rich considering his own delay made it impossible to hold this trial before Jan. 20.) The damning evidence will once more leave Republicans looking like soulless zombies in the MAGA cult. In this case, it also reminds us that the House has not had, in recent memory, as weak and craven a minority (or majority) leader as McCarthy.

UPDATE: In a squirrely move indicative of Democrats’ lack of full appreciation for the educational value of live testimony and Republicans’ desperation to get the trial behind them, both sides agreed Saturday afternoon to read Herrera Butler’s statement into the record. No live testimony will be heard.

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