That damning account, in a statement Friday night from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), a Republican who defended Trump during his first impeachment, momentarily threw the Senate’s impeachment trial into chaos on its final day.
Trump’s lawyers, in their slashing, largely fictitious defense, claimed that Trump was “horrified” by the violence, hadn’t known that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger and took “immediate steps” to counter the rioting.
But Herrera Beutler revealed such claims to be a lie. 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,” she wrote. McCarthy, she continued, “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 account wasn’t seriously or substantively refuted. On Saturday afternoon, senators agreed that Herrera Beutler’s statement would be entered into the trial record as evidence.
Even knowing this, most Republican senators, as long expected, voted to acquit Trump, a craven surrender to the political imperative not to cross the demagogue. But the impeachment trial was not in vain, for it revealed the ugly truth: Trump knew lawmakers’ lives were in danger from his violent supporters, and instead of helping the people’s representatives escape harm, Trump scoffed.
Republicans scrambled to limit the damage of Herrera Beutler’s revelation. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had feigned being open to conviction, abandoned the pretense and, minutes before the Senate convened Saturday, emailed his Republican colleagues that he would vote to acquit.
On the Senate floor, Trump counsel Michael van der Veen, a personal-injury lawyer by day, tried in every way to demonstrate his indignation at the late revelation. He shouted. He growled. He gesticulated madly. He pounded the lectern. He stomped. He spat out words: “Antics.” “Rumor.” “Report.” “Innuendo.” “False narrative!” He actually declared that “it doesn’t matter what happened after the insurgence into the Capitol building.” So what if Trump scoffed at McCarthy’s desperate entreaty to save lawmakers’ lives?
Sputtering like the Looney Tunes character Sylvester the Cat, van der Veen declared: “Nancy Pelosi’s deposition needs to be taken. Vice President Harris’s deposition absolutely needs to be taken. And not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn’t do this hearing by Zoom! These depositions should be done — in person, in my office, in Philly-delphia!”
Laughter broke out in the chamber.
“I don’t know why you’re laughing,” he responded. “It is civil process. … I’ll slap subpoenas on a good number of people.” He seemed to think he was arguing a slip-and-fall case in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas.
Republicans joined the theatrics.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), an always-Trumper, was seen pointing at Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and saying “blame you” in a raised voice. Romney was one of five Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in voting to allow witness testimony.
Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), another Trump ally, interrupted a presentation to complain that the House impeachment managers “said something that’s not true” — never mind that the Senate had sat in silence during hours of falsehoods from Trump’s team.
After Herrera Beutler’s revelations sparked a vote for witnesses, Senate leaders brokered a compromise to keep the impeachment trial from spiraling into endless discovery. Herrera Beutler’s statement would be admitted as evidence, but this would “not constitute a concession by either party as for the truth of the matters asserted by the other party.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, claimed that “this uncontradicted statement" provided “further decisive evidence of [Trump’s] intent to incite the insurrection.”
Van der Veen, in response, howled about due process and fairness being “violently breached” — interesting words, given what his client did.
When the yeas and nays were counted, seven Senate Republicans joined Herrera Beutler in her courageous stand, voting along with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump. The other 43 Republicans, some of whom, like McConnell, feebly denounced Trump’s conduct even as they acquitted him, now have the cowardly distinction of licking the boots of the man who left them to die.