How the Question of Trump’s Behavior During the Capitol Assault Shook Up the Impeachment Trial writes Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker. The former President’s tweets and reports of his calls to Republican congressmen during the riot became a key part of the case against him. Following are excerpts.
In the days leading up to the January 6th assault, Trump had pounded home the message that he expected Pence, who was set to preside over the joint session of Congress that day, to sabotage and disrupt the electoral-vote certification. Under the Constitution, Pence did not have the power to do that, as he and many others explained to Trump. No matter: Trump drew his supporters into his effort to pressure Pence to act lawlessly. At the rally before the assault, Trump built up the expectation that Pence might still come through. “All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become President, and you are the happiest people,” he said, and added, “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us.” When people in the mob realized that Pence had not done so, they shouted that he was a traitor and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” They began searching for him inside the Capitol; at about 2:13 p.m., Secret Service agents took him out of the Senate chamber, to a room where he took shelter with his family, before being moved again.
Trump throws Pence under the bus
As Pence hid, the mob heard from Trump. The 2:38 p.m. tweet was not his first since the breach of the Capitol. At 2:24 p.m., Trump posted this: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution … USA demands the truth!” Romney and Collins asked whether, when Trump sent that “disparaging tweet,” he was “aware that the Vice-President had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety.” Joaquin Castro, one of the House managers, replied that the assault itself was being reported live. People, he said, “couldn’t consume any media or probably take any phone calls or anything else without hearing about this, and also hearing about the Vice-President.” Castro also noted that Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, had confirmed that he had been on a phone call with Trump, which ended when he told him, “Mr. President, they just took the Vice-President out. I’ve got to go.”
It would be good to know more about that call to Tuberville—on Saturday, Mike Lee, whose phone Tuberville had used, said his call log indicated that the call had begun at 2:26 p.m., right after the tweet—but the focus soon shifted to another one, between Trump and Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader. On Friday evening, after the trial had adjourned for the day, CNN reported new details of the “expletive-laced” call between Trump and McCarthy, citing several Republicans who had heard the Minority Leader’s account of it. Trump did not seem interested in ending the violence. According to some who spoke with McCarthy, Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” suggesting that McCarthy could learn from their devotion. (Three weeks later, McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, to reconcile with Trump.) Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Washington—one of only ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump—had spoken publicly in January about McCarthy’s account of the call. On Friday, she put out a statement in which she told any “patriots” who had heard Trump’s side of his conversations that day that “if you have something to add here, now would be the time.” In other words, witnesses are welcome. When the trial convened on Saturday morning, Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, said that he wanted to subpoena Herrera Beutler, offering to depose her via Zoom. Van der Veen responded with an angry tirade, in which he said that any witnesses—he mentioned Vice-President Kamala Harris—would have to come to his Philadelphia office. (That is a fantasy.) The Senate voted 55–45 to allow witnesses—and then, after closed-door negotiations, the lawyers and House managers agreed to enter Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record instead.
Herrera Beutler had also suggested that Mike Pence might have something to say. For example, he might add something to van der Veen’s reply to Romney and Collins’s question. “The answer is no,” van der Veen said. “At no point was the President informed the Vice-President was in any danger.” This is an absurd answer. Even putting aside the particularities of Pence’s situation—that it was the Secret Service, for example, that led him out of the chamber—Trump certainly knew that his Vice-President was in a dangerous setting. If, before sending the tweet, he had bothered to find out whether Pence was safe, he would certainly have been given an even more troubling report. Pence was not safe: the managers’ presentation made clear that the mob had come even closer to him and his family than had previously been understood. At that moment, Trump not only abandoned Pence—he targeted him. To put it another way, the incitement did not end when the first window was broken.
GOP minority blocks conviction
Ari Berman @AriBerman tweeted:
Insane stat via @atausanovitch: 34 GOP senators representing just 14.5% of population can block conviction of president who tried to violently overthrow American democracy. US Senate & American politics deeply broken.