Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen on Friday rejected Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) claim that he spoke with Trump by phone while the Capitol was under attack, dismissing the senator’s statement as “hearsay.”
Tuberville told reporters Thursday that he had spoken with Trump on the phone shortly after Vice President Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber on Jan. 6.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took our vice president out, they’re getting ready to drag me out of here. I got to go,’ ” Tuberville said he told Trump during the brief call.
But van der Veen said Friday that “we’re not going to know” whether Tuberville’s call with Trump actually happened, because the senator confirmed the call to reporters and not as part of any formal investigation into the events surrounding last month’s attack on the Capitol.
Van der Veen made the comment in response to a question from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who asked whether Trump’s call with Tuberville at 2:15 p.m., and Trump’s tweet disparaging Pence at 2:24 p.m., meant that Trump “did not care that Vice President Pence was endangered or that law enforcement was overwhelmed.”
“Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?” Cassidy asked.
Van der Veen replied, “Directly, no. But I dispute the premise of your facts.”
He continued: “Unfortunately, we’re not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on. We’re trying to get hearsay from Mr. Tuberville. There was hearsay from Mr. [Mike] Lee, I think it was two nights ago, when we ended, where Mr. Lee was accused of making a statement that he never made.”
Confusion about the phone call could be cleared up if Lee and Tuberville both provided detailed firsthand accounts of the episode. Senators in both parties, however, said they do not expect witnesses to be called during the trial.
Van der Veen on Friday mischaracterized the nature of the senators’ remarks, declaring: “It was a report from a reporter, from a friend of somebody who had some hearsay that they heard the night before at a bar somewhere.”
Asked Friday night about van der Veen’s “hearsay” comment, Tuberville said he stands by his account of the phone call and reiterated that he told Trump “they’ve taken the vice president out” and that he had to go.
“I’m probably the only guy in the world who’s hung up on the president of the United States,” Tuberville joked. He said he doesn’t remember if Trump had any reaction “because they were dragging me; they had me by the arm.” He also told reporters he wasn’t certain about the time of the call, and that he hasn’t spoken about it with any members of Trump’s legal team.
During his remarks Friday, van der Veen also emphasized that Trump and Pence “have had a very good relationship for a long time.”
“I’m sure Mr. Trump very much is concerned and was concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Pence and everybody else that was over here,” he said.
Despite van der Veen’s assurances, Trump did not call Pence to check on his well-being on Jan. 6 — or for five days after that — and Pence’s team does not agree with the assessment that Trump was concerned about Pence’s safety.
Five days after the attack, on Jan. 11, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, approached Pence’s team and said Trump wanted to talk with the vice president for the first time.
Trump and Pence met in person in the Oval Office that day for a lengthy meeting that was officially dubbed “a good conversation” but privately described as stilted and uncomfortable, according to several people familiar with the matter.