Now, McCarthy was asking for help, begging the president to tell the mob clad in Trump gear to end the violence.
Instead, Trump blithely responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
The account of the tense call between the two political allies emerged late Friday from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who said in a statement that she had been briefed by McCarthy in detail about the call and that it had informed her vote last month to impeach Trump.
That the two men had exchanged heated words that afternoon had been previously reported. But Herrera Beutler’s vivid recounting of Trump’s callous disregard for the physical safety of his own allies briefly threatened to derail a swift end to Trump’s trial in the Senate on Saturday — and ultimately served as an emotional core of the House impeachment managers’ closing argument.
“The president . . . was essentially saying, ‘You got what you deserve,’ ” Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) told senators during his closing remarks. “At that point, he chose retaining his power over the safety of Americans. I can’t imagine more damning evidence of his state of mind.”
The Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump of a charge that he incited the mob that rampaged through the Capitol last month, fighting with police officers, rifling through congressional offices and briefly halting the final affirmation of Joe Biden’s victory; 57 senators, including seven Republicans, voted to convict, but the tally fell short of the 67 necessary to convict him.
The information from Herrera Beutler highlighted Trump’s absence in the face of the unfolding catastrophe that day. But it also illustrated questions that were not answered through the brief Senate trial and now may never be addressed, including a minute-by-minute accounting of Trump’s activities and inaction.
In response to Herrera Beutler’s statement, senators at first voted to depose new witnesses and gather new documents to try to answer some of those questions. After a delay, they backtracked, instead agreeing to introduce her statement into the congressional record and conclude the trial.
Among those who have not yet publicly said everything they know about that day: McCarthy himself. He has never described his call to Trump in detail, and he was again silent Saturday, even after Herrera Beutler’s account was made public and became central to the trial. Neither McCarthy nor Herrera Beutler responded to requests for comment.
Former Vice President Mike Pence also has said nothing publicly of what he experienced on Jan. 6, when he was hustled from the Senate chamber to a small office, then evacuated to safety with his family as Trump supporters trooped through the Capitol, some of them chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
Trump had repeatedly attacked Pence to the crowd during a speech at the White House Ellipse that morning and later tweeted his anger that his vice president was refusing to overturn the election while presiding ceremonially over the vote count.
Speaking to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday night, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows alleged that the impeachment managers had created a “false narrative” to “suggest anything other than a very deliberate and quick action on the part of President Trump.”
But Meadows also has not provided a detailed accounting of what took place in the White House that day, and his comments have been contradicted by others aware of the president’s behavior.
And, of course, Trump himself declined a request by House impeachment managers that he testify about his actions.
Before the trial, Trump’s attorneys filed a legal brief asserting that he had been “horrified” by the violence and that the White House took “immediate steps” to mobilize resources to repel the mob.
In the proceedings, they spent little time detailing Trump’s activities during the riot, except to argue that they were not relevant to the impeachment charge that he had incited the mob and to accuse the House managers of relying on hearsay and rumor to describe Trump’s actions. Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said they agreed to allow Herrera Beutler’s statement to be entered into the record but did not “stipulate to its contents for truthfulness.”
He then falsely claimed that the “proponents of that conversation, the real ones, have denied its content, its veracity” — only serving to highlight the silence from Trump and McCarthy.
Herrera Beutler said in her Friday statement that she had shared her knowledge of Trump’s call with McCarthy multiple times since voting to impeach Trump on Jan. 13. She relayed the details in a little-noticed Jan. 17 interview with a local Washington state newspaper and again to residents during a telephone town hall on Feb. 8. But the information did not become widely known until a CNN report late Friday.
Despite the unanswered questions, a timeline of the day has become clearer thanks to events that took place in public and accounts from some of Trump’s advisers and members of Congress, many of whom have spoken on the condition of anonymity to share candid details about that day.
By the time Trump began delivering a speech to a crowd of thousands just after noon, he was seething with anger at Pence, who had told him that morning that he had made a final decision not to interfere with the counting of the electoral college votes.
During his speech, Trump told the crowd, “After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” adding later, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Trump was still speaking when the joint session of Congress opened at 1 p.m., concluding his speech 10 minutes later by telling the crowd, “So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue!”
Trump instead returned to the White House, where people familiar with his actions say he monitored the congressional action on television. Rioters began clashing with police outside the building around 12:45 p.m., quickly overwhelming metal barriers outside and heading toward the building.
An hour later, Trump offered his first public comment on the events of the day: At 1:49 p.m., he tweeted a video of his own rally speech. He said nothing about the swirling crowd.
By 2:11 p.m., video footage shows that rioters had broken into the building, entering through a window smashed with a piece of lumber. At the time, members of Congress had objected to electoral college votes from the state of Arizona, and the House and Senate had retired to their respective chambers to debate the challenge.
At 2:13 p.m., Pence — presiding over the Senate — was hustled from the rostrum by his security detail and the chamber went into recess, as video showed rioters swarming around, looking for a way in. House action was halted moments later.
The abrupt stop in congressional action was covered live on television. Still, Trump’s next tweet at 2:24 p.m. again said nothing to calm the crowd. Instead he attacked Pence, writing that his own vice president lacked “courage,” adding, “USA demands the truth.”
Moments later, Trump placed a phone call to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), apparently believing he was calling the phone of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who had been leading efforts to object to slates of electors that confirmed Biden’s victory. A phone record turned over Saturday by Lee to impeachment managers and to Trump’s defense showed the call came in at 2:26 p.m. and lasted for four minutes.
Tuberville told reporters Friday that during the brief call, he informed Trump that Pence had just been evacuated from the Senate floor. “I said: Mr. President, they’ve taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go,” he said.
Despite the personal warning about the danger to Pence, Trump did not amend or expand on his tweet attacking his loyal second-in-command, nor did he reach out to him privately.
Finally, at 2:38 p.m. — more than 90 minutes after the violent siege had begun — Trump tweeted: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
One person familiar with discussions about the tweet said Trump had resisted adding the final phrase: “Stay peaceful.”
It was another 35 minutes before Trump tweeted again — during which time a rioter was shot and killed outside the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor and other rioters took over the Senate chamber. At 3:13 p.m., Trump wrote: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
Around 3:30 p.m., McCarthy appeared on CBS News and said — as Herrera Beutler would later describe — that he had implored Trump to intercede with his supporters.
“I’ve spoken to the president. I asked him to talk to the nation, to tell them to stop this,” McCarthy said.
“I know he had put a tweet out there,” he continued. “I told him he needed to talk to the nation. I told him what was happening right then. I mean, from what I watched in the Capitol, from the way you had to move within the Capitol, the rush that had come in, the windows that were being broken. . . . I was very clear with the president when I called him: This has to stop and he’s got to go to the American public and tell them to stop this.”
Shortly before 4 p.m., former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, another close Trump ally, appeared on ABC News with a similar message, complaining that he had been trying to reach Trump without success for 25 minutes. “The president caused this protest to occur; he’s the only one who can make it stop,” Christie said.
A close Trump adviser has said that rather than appearing appalled by the unfolding violence, Trump was transfixed by the spectacle on television and was buoyed to see his supporters fighting for him.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) likewise told conservative radio broadcaster Hugh Hewitt two days after the riot that he had learned from “senior White House officials” that Trump was “walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s aides were fielding panicked calls from a string of Republicans. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, called Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who had arrived at the White House to assist shortly after the riot began. McCarthy, concerned his message to Trump had not been understood, followed up his call with Trump with a call to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
At 4:17 p.m., more than two hours after the mob had overrun the Capitol, Trump tweeted a video of himself, in which he told the crowd to “go home” but added that there had “never been a time like this when such a thing happened when they could take it away from all of us.”
“We love you. You’re very special,” he told the rioters.
Finally, after law enforcement had regained control of the building, at 6:01 p.m., Trump tweeted again, repeating the falsehood that had fueled his supporters: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
“Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” he concluded.
Paul Kane, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and JR Rieger contributed to this report.