President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial took a dramatic turn Saturday morning when House managers moved to call GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for testimony about her stunning claims about what Trump said his supporters were ransacking the Capitol.
The move prevailed on a procedural vote – with five Republicans voting to hear from the Republican lawmakers.
Among them were four Republican senators who had voted that the trial itself was constitutional – Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist who changed his vote to back the move.
The move immediately threw the trial’s schedule into doubt, with some lawmakers predicting it would wrap up Saturday.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, said he wanted to depose Rep. Herrera Beutler as well as her contemporaneous notes about what she knows.
He said there was overwhelming evidence of Trump’s ‘dereliction of duty.’ Rep. Herrera Beutler says McCarthy told her about the contents of her tense phone conversation with Trump on Jan. 6.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland moved to be able to depose Republican Rep. Jaime Herera Beutler after she reiterated comments about what she says House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her about his conversation with President Donald Trump
Raskin said the deposition could take place on Zoom and would take only an hour.
His request drew an immediate explosive response from Trump impeachment lawyer Michael van der Veen.
‘If they want to have witnesses, I’m going to need at least 100 depositions. Not just one,’ he fumed – threatening to drag out the trial that senators were forced to view in silence for nearly a week.
Then he raised the stakes even further.
Rep. Raskin put the witness question to a vote after Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler issued a statement about her conversation with Rep. Kevin McCarthy
The move to subpoena witnesses and documents got 5 Republican votes
Michael van der Veen, attorney for former President Donald Trump, bristled at the Democratic request for witnesses. ‘Do not handcuff me by limiting the numbers of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do,’ he said
House impeachment manager Delegate Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., center, walks through the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate on the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 in Washington
‘Nancy Pelosi’s deposition needs to be taken. Vice President Harris’ deposition, absolutely, needs to be taken. None of these depositions should be done by zoom. We didn’t’ do this hearing by Zoom,’ said Van der Veen. ‘These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That’s where they should be done!’
‘That’s where they should be done. I need to do the 911-style investigation that Nancy Pelosi called for,’ he said.
His Philadelphia comment brought audible laughter inside the chamber.
‘I don’t know why you’re laughing,’ said van der Veen, whose Philadelphia firm touts numerous awards he has won to victims of automobile accidents. He said that’s how depositions are done in civil proceedings.
‘I haven’t laughed at any of you. And there’s nothing laughable here,’ he scolded senators. ‘Now is the time to end this,’ he argued.
After a series of angry statements by the Trump lawyer, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, presiding, cautioned senators to refrain from statements ‘non-conducive to civil discourse.’
‘Do not handcuff me by limiting the numbers of witnesses that I can have. I need to do a thorough investigation that they did not do,’ Van der Veen fumed.
Raskin responded to information that emerged Friday night about Herrera Beutler’s claims.
She said it reinforced ‘the President’s willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as commander in chief of the United States, his state of mind and his further incitement of the insurrection on January 6.’
‘For that reason, and because this is the proper time to do so under the resolution of that the Senate adopted to set the rules for the trial, we would like the opportunity to subpoena Congresswoman Herrera regarding her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. It’s is a subpoena for contemporaneous notes that she made regarding what President Trump told Kevin McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection,’ he said.
He said the deposition would be an hour ‘or less’ just as soon as the lawmaker is available, and that managers would then proceed to the next phase of the trial, including the introduction of that testimony shortly thereafter.
But he raised the possibility of more witnesses for the prosecution.
‘Congresswoman Beutler further states that she hopes other witnesses to this part of the story, other patriots as she put it would come forward and if that happens, we would seek the opportunity to take their depositions via zoom also for less than an hour or two subpoena other relevant documents as well,’ said Raskin.
But not all senators were entirely sure what they were voting about, with Sen. Todd Young of Alaska asking in mid vote what was the substance.
After the drama on the floor, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson complained about the sudden turn – after being spotted having an angry clash with Sen. Mitt Romney inside the chamber.
‘It’s not healing it’s not, it’s not unifying it’s just like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it and I thought we were going come to a conclusion here today and it was rip the wound back open, let’s – let’s rub more salt in it,’ he complained.
He also claimed the public hearing he organized as chairman on claims of election irregularities being pushed by President Trump was done to ‘defuse’ the situation.
The drama on the floor came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told fellow Republicans that he plans to vote to acquit Donald Trump on charges incitement of insurrection – a signal that the House-led effort to convict the former president will fail.
McConnell made his position known on what could be the last day of the trial, as closing arguments were set to begin.
‘While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,’ McConnell said in the letter.
Although he had denounced Trump’s actions in an emotional Senate floor speech immediately after the Jan. 6 MAGA riot in the Capitol, McConnell also did not act to hasten the impeachment trial while Trump was still in office.
He voted along with 44 other Republicans that the post-presidency impeachment was unconstitutional – a position that did not prevail.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the US Capitol for the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump, on February 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. He told colleagues he will vote to acquit Trump
The drama unfolded after it was revealed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues he plans to vote to acquit Trump
House Democratic managers brought up numerous Trump administration officials who quit following the riot – among them McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
McConnell’s decision makes it likely that only a handful of Republicans cross over to join Democrats voting to convict. With two-thirds of the Senate required, this raises the likelihood that Trump would be impeached and acquitted twice.
There was a last minute wrinkle Friday night, however.
CNN reported Friday that Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy engaged in an expletive-laced shouting match during the riot, with the California Republican begging the president to rein in his supporters.
‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’ Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call by McCarthy.
GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for Trump’s impeachment and who spoke on the record about what McCarthy told her, pleaded with ‘patriots’ to go public with their own accounts.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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,’ Jaime Herrera Beutler said.
F-word call: Kevin McCarthy pleaded with Donald Trump to call off his mob on January 6, and when Trump said ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’ responded: ‘Who the f**k do you think you’re speaking to?’
‘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,’ Herrera Beutler recounted.
‘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.’
Other sources told CNN that McCarthy replied to Trump: ‘Who the f**k do you think you are talking to?’ and that McCarthy had phoned Trump because the MAGA mob were smashing the windows in his office.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called for the suspension of the trial in order to depose GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville and McCarthy about their conversations with the former president during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and one of the 100 jurors in the trial, issued the call in a tweet late on Friday, one day before the trial was expected to conclude in an acquittal.
‘Tomorrow just got a lot more interesting,’ Whitehouse wrote, referring to reports that McCarthy lambasted Trump in an expletive-laden diatribe telling him to call off his mob of loyalists, and following Tuberville’s admission that he told Trump that Vice President Mike Pence was being evacuated from the Senate.