In a shock twist to Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Democrats asked to call witnesses after new details of a heated call between the former president and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emerged.
However impeachment managers soon backed away from their request to call witnesses and instead agreed to read into the trial record a statement from Washington congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
But how did this happen and why is it such a surprise?
Who is Jaime Herrera Beutler?
Ms Herrera Beutler is a Republican representative for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, and one of the 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach the former president.
Following the impeachment vote, Ms Herrera Beutler faced significant political backlash from pro-Trump Republicans in her district and across the country, including rebukes from the Republican Party.
In a statement on 12 January, the representative made reference to the fact that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy had described “pleading” with Mr Trump during the riot “to go on television and call for an end to the mayhem, to no avail.”
What has happened now?
On Friday, Ms Herrera Beutler issued a new statement with more details regarding the reportedly tense phone call between Mr Trump and Mr McCarthy, saying the House leader had asked Mr Trump to “publicly call off the riot” in the exchange.
“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,” she posted on Twitter.
“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.’”
Ms Herrera Beutler called on people with knowledge of Mr Trump’s conversation with Mr McCarthy to speak out and said she has gone on the record multiple times to confirm her account of the call.
Why is this important?
The statement raised new questions with lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin calling it an “additional, critical piece of corroborating evidence further confirming the charges” and “the president’s willful dereliction of duty”.
As a result, Democrats asked to call Rep. Herrera Beutler as a single witness in the trial on Saturday, a move that could have significantly prolonged proceedings by allowing the defense to also call witnesses.
"We would like the opportunity to subpoena congresswoman Herrera regarding her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and to subpoena her contemporaneous notes,” lead impeachment manager Rep Jamie Raskin said.
House Democratic impeachment managers later backed away from their request to hear testimony from the congresswoman and instead agreed to read her statement into the record, allowing proceedings to continue as planned.
The trial will proceed to closing arguments and a final vote on whether to convict Mr Trump and appeared to be back on track to conclude imminently on Saturday.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies