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GOP Lawmaker Tells of Trump-McCarthy Call: Impeachment Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 2/13/2021 Bloomberg News
a man wearing a suit and tie: Donald Trump © Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP Donald Trump

(Bloomberg) -- A Republican congresswoman gave an account of a conversation between then-President Donald Trump and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 riot. Trump’s second impeachment trial will resume 10 a.m. on Saturday, and is expected to end the same day -- probably without the two-thirds vote needed for a conviction in the evenly divided Senate.

The nine House impeachment managers presenting the charge against the former president argue that he betrayed his oath of office by inciting his followers to storm the Capitol. Trump’s lawyers counter that he didn’t encourage violence and simply exercised his First Amendment rights.

Key Developments:
Democrats Close Their Case Using Trump’s Words Against Him Trump Begins Defense in Impeachment Case Eyeing Acquittal Meet the Impeachment Managers of Trump’s Second Senate TrialWhat to Know About Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial: QuickTake

GOP Representative Tells of Jan. 6 Trump-McCarthy Call

A Republican congresswoman who voted to impeach Trump told of a telephone conversation that McCarthy had with Trump during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

In a statement released Friday night on Twitter, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State said McCarthy had told her that he asked Trump to call off his supporters who had invaded the building. Trump, according to Herrera Beutler’s account, first claimed that the rioters were members of the leftist movement Antifa. When McCarthy responded that they were indeed his supporters, Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Herrera Beutler said in the statement.

“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.

The conversation, the subject of a CNN report earlier Friday, could not be independently confirmed. Hours after the riot, McCarthy voted with other Republicans to reject Electoral College votes from two states that Joe Biden had won. And on Jan. 28, he visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss the 2022 elections.

But before Trump’s impeachment, McCarthy said, “the President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday night.

-- John Harney

Senate Moves to Final Action on Saturday (6:30 p.m.)

The Senate concluded its fractious impeachment debate for the day on Friday evening, ending on a note of unity.

They gave an ovation to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who was in the chamber, and passed a resolution awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal for heroic action in the face of the mob that attacked the Capitol.

For what’s expected to be the final day of proceedings on Saturday, the Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Members will first consider and vote on any motions to subpoena witnesses or documents. Trump lawyer Bruce Castor said his side doesn’t intend to call any witnesses unless the House impeachment managers do so, and they haven’t signaled that are likely to.

After that, the Senate will consider a motion to admit the House’s evidence in the case into the public record and vote on that. And then each side will get up to two hours to make closing arguments.

The Senate could deliberate behind closed doors after that. Then comes the final step, a public vote on the single article of impeachment that is widely expected to end in Trump’s acquittal. If the former president were to be convicted, there would be a second vote on whether to bar him from ever holding office. -- Laura Litvan, Steven Dennis and Billy House

Trump Didn’t Know Pence at Risk, Lawyer Says (4:50 p.m.)

Trump didn’t know that Mike Pence was in danger from the mob at the Capitol when he sent a disparaging tweet saying that the vice president “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” by refusing to certify Joe Biden as the presidential election winner, his lawyer said in response to a question.

“At no point was the president informed the vice president was in danger,” Michael van der Veen said. “The answer is ‘no.”’

Representative Joaquin Castro, one of the House impeachment managers, said Trump knew that Pence was in danger because he had been told by freshman Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville that the vice president had been evacuated.

“Our commander in chief did nothing,” Castro said.

Tuberville told Politico in a statement that on a call from Trump during the Capitol invasion he said, “Mr. President, they just took the Vice President out, I’ve got to go.” -- Daniel Flatley and Billy House

Trump Lawyers Asked What He Did to Stop Riot (4:14 p.m.)

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski -- who have said they haven’t made up their minds on impeachment -- asked Trump’s lawyers: “When did Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol? What specific actions did he take did he bring the rioting to an end? And when did he take them. Please, be as detailed as possible?”

It’s one of the biggest questions asked by critics who said Trump did nothing to intervene as the mob surged through the Capitol. But the former president’s lawyer offered no answer.

Instead, attorney Michael van der Veen said there was no time to research such questions because the impeachment was rushed. “The House managers did zero investigation,” and the American people deserve better than “hearsay on top of hearsay.” -- Laura Litvan and Billy House

Questions Posed to Bolster Each Side (4:04 p.m.)

The Senate opened the question-and-answer phase of the impeachment trial, and members of both parties used the initial inquiries to bolster their side’s case rather than press for new information.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein submitted the first written question, asking the House managers if the mob attack would have happened if not for Trump’s conduct.

“Donald Trump summoned the mob, he assembled the mob and he lit the flame,” and then he could have intervened but “he never did,” Representative Joaquin Castro, one of the House managers, responded.

Republicans asked a similarly friendly question of Trump’s lawyers.

Trump’s Lawyers Complete Their Case (3:17 p.m.)

Trump’s lawyers completed their case in little more than three hours of the 16 hours allotted for each side to present its case.

The next phase of the trial allows for as much as four hours of questions from senators to the House managers and Trump lawyers, although some senators said they doubt they’d take that long.

In closing the case for Trump, lawyer Bruce Castor said, “Our country needs to get back to work. I know that you know that. But instead we are here. The majority party promised to unify and deliver more Covid relief. But instead, they did this.”

Echoing the complaints of “cancel culture” often voiced by Trump’s supporters, Castor said, “Let us be clear: This trial is about far more than President Trump. It is about silence and banning the speech the majority does not agree with. It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters and criminalizing political viewpoints. That is what this trial is really about.”-- Billy House, Mark Niquette and Daniel Flatley

Trump Portrayed as ‘Pro-Police, Anti-Mob’ (2:45 p.m.)

Trump lawyer Bruce Castor said House impeachment managers spent long hours showing “how horrific the attack on the United States Capitol was” and “no time at all in connecting legally the attack at the Capitol to the 45th president of the United States.”

Castor called Trump “the most pro-police, anti-mob president’ in history and showed scenes of violence that erupted at some Black Lives Matter protests, suggesting Democrats excused those excesses.

Trump didn’t incite violence because he deplores “rioters and political violence,” Castor said.

He also said the attack on the Capitol didn’t meet the definition of an “insurrection” as an organized coup. “Insurrection is a term of art. It’s defined in the law,” Castor said. “It involves taking over a country, a shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some plan on what you’re going to do when you finally take power. Clearly this is not that.” -- Daniel Flatley, Jennifer Jacobs and Anna Edgerton

Senators Ready Questions for Both Sides (2:20 p.m.)

Senators are beginning to submit questions to their party leaders for a question-and-answer session with lawyers for both sides that will come after Trump’s defense lawyers complete their arguments.

Republican Mitt Romney told reporters that he’s submitted five possible questions for the session that will extend as long as four hours, and Republican Lisa Murkowski said she’s put forth several. Both declined to elaborate or say whether they definitely will pursue their questions.

Murkowski, who says she hasn’t decided how she’ll vote on impeachment, was among many critics of the Trump lawyers’ initial performance earlier in the week. By contrast, she said, “they are putting on a good defense today.”

Democrat Tim Kaine said he doesn’t expect many questions will be asked, as senators appear to be moving rapidly toward the conclusion of the trial, with Trump’s acquittal all but inevitable. “My prediction is that if there are questions, it will be a very narrow subset,” he said.

But Kaine made clear he’s not impressed with the former president’s case. “Donald Trump was warned if you don’t stop talking about the ‘stolen election,’ people will be killed. He was specifically warned that. He kept talking about it. And a violent mob attacked the Capitol. And seven people are dead who would be alive today.”-- Laura Litvan, Daniel Flatley and Billy House

Punishing Trump Speech Called ‘Dangerous Precedent’ (1:40 p.m.)

Trump’s fiery speech before the attack on the Capitol was protected by the First Amendment, and punishing it with impeachment “would set a dangerous precedent forever,” lawyer Michael van der Veen said.

The former president’s lawyer accused the House impeachment managers of “intellectual dishonesty” by glossing over “fundamental questions” of constitutional protections.

“It has become very clear that the House Democrats hate Donald Trump,” he said, and that “this hatred has led the House managers to manipulate and selectively edit Mr. Trump’s speech to make it falsely appear that he sought to incite the crowd to violently attack the Capitol. He didn’t.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, had said that “there is no First Amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors.” -- Billy House and Daniel Flatley

Trump Team Says ‘Fighting’ Isn’t Literal (1:04 p.m.)

House managers have said Trump incited the attack on the Capitol with his call at a rally beforehand for followers to “fight like hell” and his repeated references to “fight” and “fighting.”

Trump’s lawyers had an answer: It’s just an expression. They showed a video of prominent Democrats calling for a “fight” or “fighting” scores of times.

Lawyer David Schoen also cited “the hatred, the vitriol, the political opportunism that has brought us here today.” He blamed the impeachment on “hatred, animosity, division, political gain – and let’s face it, for House Democrats, President Trump is the best enemy to attack.” -- Daniel Flatley and Mark Niquette

Republican Thune Questions Defense Strategy (12:50 p.m.)

Senator John Thune, the No. 2 GOP leader, said he questions whether the Trump defense team’s strategy of countering the House managers’ videos with earlier videos of Democrats using politically inflammatory language would be effective.

The South Dakota lawmaker told reporters, “I’m not sure it bears of lot on this case,” even though he said it does draw out double standards.

Thune said Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 and the Capitol attack must be examined and the defense team faces a challenge to show some type of “equivalence.”

“I think that the events that happened here have to be evaluated in the light of what that meant,” he said.

Thune, who is up for re-election in 2022, said he’s still undecided on whether he will vote to convict or acquit Trump. -- Laura Litvan

Trump Lawyer Calls Democrats’ Claims Misleading (12:40 p.m.)

Trump attorney David Schoen echoed House impeachment managers calling on senators -- the jurors -- to focus on the facts. But Schoen suggested they had jumped to conclusions, pointing out that House Democrats have called for fact-finding commissions to understand what happened on Jan. 6 and what motivated the mob that attacked the Capitol.

“How can these same Democrats have the certainty needed to bring articles of impeachment and blame President Trump?” Schoen asked.

The defense team presented a video of House impeachment managers citing reports about Jan. 6 and Trump’s conduct. Their use of the word “reportedly,” Schoen said, is “a euphemism for ‘I have no evidence’.”

“You get more due process than this when you fight a parking ticket,” Schoen said.

Schoen also accused the House managers of doctoring images of tweets and the video of Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. -- Anna Edgerton

Trump’s Lawyer Shows Video of Democrats (12:16 p.m.)

Trump’s team countered the House managers’ presentation of vivid videos with some of their own.

Scenes showed Democrats objecting to Electoral College votes in 2017, and then-Vice President Joe Biden gaveling down their complaints in a joint session of Congress.

Other images showed Democrats including Biden, Representative Maxine Waters and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer using inflammatory language against a background of dramatic music, juxtaposed with clips of Trump vowing “law and order.”

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said Trump’s “fight like hell” vow at the rally before the mob attack on the Capitol was “ordinary political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been use by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years.”

Trump has been clear that the criminals who attacked the Capitol must be prosecuted, and he can’t be blamed for inciting an insurrection that others planned, he said.“You can’t incite what was already going to happen,” van der Veen said.

Rejecting what he called “constitutional cancel culure,” van der Veen also said Trump simply pursued all legal and civic avenues to assure the integrity of the 2020 election that he decried as fraudulent. -- Daniel Flatley and Mark Niquette

Trump’s Lawyer Cites ‘Appalling Abuse’ (12:10 p.m.)

“The article of impeachment now before the Senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said in opening Trump’s case. “This appalling abuse of the constitution only further divides our nation when we should be trying to come together around shared priorities.” -- Mark Niquette

Trump’s Lawyers Open Their Case (12:04 p.m.)

Trump’s legal team, led by attorneys David Schoen and Bruce Castor, began to lay out the defense argument that’s expected to last less than four hours.

The defense’s case will be followed by questions from senators, which could happen later Friday, setting the trial on track to conclude with a final vote as soon as Saturday.

Although even some GOP senators praised the prosecution’s argument, it will be difficult for the impeachment managers to win a conviction: At least 17 Republicans would have to join with all Democrats to find Trump guilty of the House’s charge that he incited the insurrection.

Three Senators Meet with Trump Lawyers (8:30 a.m.)

Republican Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina met with Trump’s attorneys on Thursday as the former president’s team gears up to make its case against convicting him on an impeachment charge of inciting a deadly riot at the Capitol, Trump adviser Jason Miller told Newsmax on Friday.

“I would say most of the points that the senators were raising, we have in our presentations and we have in our arguments, so that was good reinforcement for us that we’re thinking about this in the same direction,” Miller said.

Miller made it clear they were working with Trump’s lawyers on strategy. As senators, all three men are also jurors in the case and will be voting on the charge.

“These are some smart guys with some very good ideas, and I think President Trump is going to get the absolute best defense today, and it was a real honor to have those senators come in and give us some additional ideas so we’re appreciative for that.”

Miller said he expected the defense presentation to take about four hours and then move into questions and answers and toward a vote Saturday.

“Today is the day of truth. Today is the day that we actually put the Democrats on trial, and you’re going to see a full and complete picture of what really happened,” he said. -- Jennifer Jacobs

Where to Watch:

You can catch the proceedings live on the Bloomberg Terminal or streaming on the web at Cable news networks CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are likely to show significant portions of the trial. C-SPAN 2, which covers Senate floor proceedings, will broadcast it on cable and online.

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