Rep. Herrera Beutler at center of brief twist in impeachment trial

By Jennifer Haberkorn and Evan Halper

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before reversing course hours later, the Senate voted Saturday morning to depose witnesses in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, an unexpected development following reports that the former president brushed off pleas from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy amid the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to convince his supporters to stop the insurrection.

The lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked the Senate to hear from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who has said she heard McCarthy recount his dramatic conversation with Trump. Herrera Beutler — who represents Pacific and Lewis counties among her district — has reported that, according to McCarthy, the president told the minority leader the rioters “are more upset about the election than you are.”

The Senate vote was 55-45, with support from all Democrats and both independents, as well as Republicans Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also voted yes, switching his vote at the last minute.

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen objected to the request, saying that if Democrats get a witness, he would need to depose “at least over 100 witnesses. Not just one.”

The development came after Herrera Beutler issued this five paragraph statement Friday night:


“In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he’d had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details:

“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.’

“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.

“I told it to the Daily News of Longview on January 17. I’ve shared it with local county Republican executive board members, as well as other constituents who ask me to explain my vote. I shared it with thousands of residents on my telephone town hall on February 8.

“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.”

How many witnesses?

Democrats said the witness can be deposed by Zoom, but van der Veen objected, saying it should be done in his office in Philadelphia, prompting laughter from the chamber.

It is unknown how many witnesses will be allowed. Republicans threatened that if Democrats allowed a witness, they would demand many. As the vote occurred, senators were confused on whether they voted to allow one witness or an unlimited number.

The trial had been expected to wrap up on Saturday. While Trump’s acquittal is all but certain, he could face rebukes from several members of his own party, exposing the fissures he formed within the GOP during his presidency. One year ago, Romney became the first senator to ever vote to convict a president of the same party. This year, at least six Republican senators could join with Democrats to convict Trump, having broken with their party earlier this week to vote that the trial is constitutional.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his colleagues Saturday morning that he will vote to acquit, according to a source familiar with his announcement.

Another remaining question is when Trump knew Vice President Mike Pence was in danger in the Capitol. Trump’s legal team said Friday that the president did not know he was at risk when the former president sent a tweet claiming Pence lacked the “courage” to block the counting of electoral votes about an hour into the riot.

That is in contradiction to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s claim that he told Trump in a phone call on Jan. 6 that Pence had just been evacuated from the chamber, a sign his security detail sensed danger. Pence was evacuated just before 2:15 p.m. Trump sent his tweet at 2:24 p.m.

Tuberville, R-Ala., said he had been on the Senate floor when he was handed another senator’s cellphone. “It was the president. He said a few things. I said, ‘Mr President, they’ve taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go,’” Tuberville told reporters Friday. “So, probably the only guy in the world who hung up on the President of the United States.”

Despite the lingering questions, both Democrats and Republicans had appeared eager to move on. Democrats are eager to resume work on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill and approving administration appointments. And Republicans, even those who have defended Trump, are looking to put the ugly and deadly insurrection behind them.

It is unknown how many Republicans will support conviction. GOP leaders say they’re not keeping tabs on how their colleagues will vote.

The six Republican senators who voted this week that the trial is constitutional — and considered the likeliest to support conviction — are Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Sasse, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

“I’ve got three legal pads of notes,” Cassidy said Friday evening ahead of his own deliberations on how he would vote. A photo circulated Friday of Cassidy holding a written argument explaining a vote for acquittal but the senator said he had a similarly prepared release for conviction, underscoring that he was undecided.

If there are other surprises, it would likely come from one of the senators who is retiring, such as Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. Had McConnell voted to convict, it would have likely made his path to trying to retake the majority in 2022 much more difficult, given that it would likely require support from — or at least not opposition from — Trump.

— David Haerle of The Daily World contributed to this story.