Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, said Saturday morning that his team will seek to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to testify before the Senate about her knowledge of a phone conversation between Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that took place during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"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 said in a statement late Friday. "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.'"
The Senate voted by a margin of 55-45 Saturday morning to open the door to calling witnesses. Senators will soon vote on calling specific witnesses, including Herrera Beutler; Trump's defense team has threatened to call "lots" of witnesses, but their requests must be approved by the Senate.
"The significance of this development in the impeachment trial can't be overstated. We are now going to have witnesses. Each witness can lead to other witnesses and new information. This can also prompt others with new evidence to come forward voluntarily," tweeted Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). "The focus for now is on Trump's conversation with Kevin McCarthy. That conversation goes to the critical issue of Trump's actions and state of mind after the rioters breached the Capitol."
Democratic House impeachment managers are facing growing public pressure to call witnesses to testify at Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial in the wake of bombshell reporting on the former president's conversation with Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by a right-wing mob.
Progressive watchdog groups, as Common Dreams reported earlier this week, have been urging Democrats to call witnesses since before the start of the trial, but CNN's late Friday story on Trump's conversation with McCarthy added fuel to those demands.
During the phone call, according to CNN, Trump told the California Republican, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," a comment that reportedly prompted a shouting match between the two GOP leaders as McCarthy pleaded with the then-president to speak out against the attack. Hours after the assault began, Trump finally released a video urging the insurrectionists to go home while praising them as "special."
"Trump's call with McCarthy is another powerful piece of evidence that Trump was on the side of the rioters attacking the Capitol," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted late Friday. "He utterly failed his oath to protect and defend our nation. This should seal the conviction with every senator."
While the Democratic leadership is hoping for a speedy end to the trial in order to move forward with confirmation of President Joe Biden's nominees and legislative business—including coronavirus relief—critics argued Friday night that failure to call witnesses following news of Trump's remarks to McCarthy would be a dereliction of duty.
"Democrats should call Kevin McCarthy as a witness and have him testify under oath about this call," tweeted Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter. "I know they want to wrap this up but it won't take long. The American people deserve the truth."
— Bruce Mirken (@BruceMirken) February 12, 2021
After House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), delivered their striking case in support of convicting the former president for inciting a deadly insurrection against the U.S. government, several members of the Senate Democratic caucus said Thursday that witnesses would not be necessary.
"I feel like we've heard from enough witnesses," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), referring to interviews played during House Democrats' presentation. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, "I think the case has been made. I don't know what witnesses would add."
But observers argued that the new details of Trump's phone conversation with McCarthy indicate that compelling the House Republican leader and others to testify under oath could yield important new information. Calling witnesses would require a simple-majority vote in the Senate.
"As evidence of Trump's behind-the-scenes sociopathy mounts, it becomes clearer that Dems must call witnesses," said the Washington Post's Greg Sargent.
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Others echoed that sentiment, pointing also to new reporting confirming that Trump was aware that former Vice President Mike Pence was in danger when he tweeted an attack on Pence during the mob assault.
Would like to think @RepRaskin et al are grappling *right now* with all the news that broke tonight and reconsidering the position, which they were seemingly bullied into by Dem leadership, that they shouldn’t call witnesses. What a disappointment if they proceed as planned.
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) February 13, 2021
It’s clear that the point when Trump knew Pence was in danger, and his reaction when officials called him to ask him to call off the insurrectionists, are material facts in dispute which may affect how some senators vote. The House needs to call witnesses.
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) February 13, 2021
Both things can be true:
1) the House managers led by Raskin have done a pretty amazing job of laying out the evidence and making the arguments
2) witnesses need to be called and House managers will be making a big mistake if they allow this trial to conclude without witnesses
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 13, 2021
In an appearance on MSNBC late Friday, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argued the new reporting "undermines the entire defense that the president's lawyers have put on" and said he would be open to calling witnesses to testify at the trial.
"I think [House impeachment managers] have established a slam-dunk case that the president incited violence for the purpose of overturning the election," said Van Hollen. "If they make a decision to call witnesses... obviously we would welcome that."
Joining the growing chorus, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted Saturday morning that "the House Managers should ask for witnesses to be called, including anyone who communicated with Donald Trump or [has] direct knowledge of his actions and state of mind while he was in the White House after the Capitol was breached and while the attempted coup was ongoing."
Democrats are expected to decide on whether to call witnesses at some point Saturday morning. As Politico reported, "If Democrats and Trump's team opt against calling witnesses on Saturday, the trial will move immediately to closing arguments, expected to last no more than four hours. That would set up a vote on the charge against Trump in the early afternoon."