An “expletive-laced” call between Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made during the Capitol riot shows the former president refused to call off rioters after McCarthy begged him to intervene.
This is a very dramatic news story reported by dozens of media outlets. But is it true?
What’s being reported is that Trump and McCarthy talked while the riot was in full swing and McCarthy begged the president to put an end to it. Trump is reported to have said to McCarthy, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
The call was confirmed by numerous Republican representatives. But only a couple of congressmen have gone on record. Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a pro-impeachment Republican, first revealed the substance of the call during a town hall meeting earlier this week.
Speaking to the President from inside the besieged Capitol, McCarthy pressed Trump to call off his supporters and engaged in a heated disagreement about who comprised the crowd. Trump’s comment about the would-be insurrectionists caring more about the election results than McCarthy did was first mentioned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, in a town hall earlier this week, and was confirmed to CNN by Herrera Beutler and other Republicans briefed on the conversation.
“You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at,” Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted last month to impeach Trump, told CNN. “That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn’t care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry.”
“We should never stand for that, for any reason, under any party flag,” she added, voicing her extreme frustration: “I’m trying really hard not to say the F-word.”
If this is such a damning bit of evidence, why wasn’t it presented by House Democratic impeachment managers during the trial? Why don’t they call McCarthy as a witness? Why not call the “multiple” GOP House members to testify who confirmed the substance of the call?
No one should be surprised that Trump didn’t try and hold back his supporters. And his crack to McCarthy about the rioters caring more about the election rings true. But beyond that, the perceptions of all the actors in this little drama are colored by how they view Donald Trump. Only pro-impeachment Republican congressmen have the guts to go on record and risk angering the former president by placing that call in the worst possible light.
Of course, it’s ludicrous to think that anyone — the president or not — could have had any influence whatsoever on a mob run amok. Even if Trump had made a statement urging calm, do you really think it would have had any effect on the mob at all? The definition of a “mob” is people acting without thinking, acting instinctively. It seems highly improbable Trump could have done anything to stop the violence.
Another congressman talks about the president’s “mindset” during the riot.
“I think it speaks to the former President’s mindset,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, an Ohio Republican who also voted to impeach Trump last month. “He was not sorry to see his unyieldingly loyal vice president or the Congress under attack by the mob he inspired. In fact, it seems he was happy about it or at the least enjoyed the scenes that were horrifying to most Americans across the country.”
Trump’s lawyers argued during the trial that the president urged the rioters to remain “peaceful.”
At Trump’s impeachment trial Friday, his lawyers argued that Trump did in fact try to calm the rioters with a series of tweets while the attack unfolded. But his lawyers cherry-picked his tweets, focusing on his request for supporters to “remain peaceful” without mentioning that he also attacked then-Vice President Mike Pence and waited hours to explicitly urge rioters to leave the Capitol.
A source close to Pence said Trump’s legal team was not telling the truth when attorney Michael van der Veen said at the trial that “at no point” did the then-President know his vice president was in danger.
Trump may not have “incited” the riot — certainly not by any definition of the statute I’ve read — but is it impeachable to not mind the Capitol being attacked and members of Congress being in danger? Is it impeachable to not care?
Senators will probably decide that today.