In a series of unexpected twists Saturday morning, the Senate decided against delaying a verdict in the impeachment trial so that they could call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, as a witness.
Herrera Beutler’s written statement was instead accepted into the trial record.
The decision came after Herrera Beutler described secondhand a phone call that took place on Jan. 6, as a mob stormed the Capitol to try and stop the certification of the presidential election results. According to Herrera Beutler, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House GOP leader, had called then-President Donald Trump to try and convince him to call the rioters off.
“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well Kevin, I guess they’re more upset about the election than you are,’” Herrera Beutler recounted.
Herrera Beutler also issued a plea to her colleagues to come forward if they know something about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riots.
“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,” Herrera Beutler said.
Early Saturday, the Senate voted 55-45 to delay a verdict so that they could call Herrera Beutler as a witness. They abruptly reversed that decision after a brief recess, electing instead to admit her description of that Jan. 6 phone call into the trial record and move forward with a verdict.
The Senate would ultimately vote for impeachment 57-43 Saturday afternoon, falling short of the supermajority needed to convict.
Herrera Beutler’s bombshell was originally reported by local media on Jan. 17, tucked into a lengthy interview with the Longview Daily News. She reiterated the recollection of the McCarthy phone call in a Feb. 8 telephone town hall that was ostensibly to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccinations.
“The president was basically saying ‘nah, I’m OK with this,’” Herrera Beutler said at the remote forum, as reported by the Daily Chronicle in Lewis County. “Did he send anyone in to help? No. But he did place calls to senators while they were in lockdown. And you know what he said? He said, ‘Can you do something to further delay the electoral counting?’”
The revelation catapulted the typically low-profile congresswoman into a national spotlight for the second time in a month. The first time came on Jan. 12, when she became the fifth of 10 Republicans to publicly announce that she’d vote to advance an article of impeachment to the Senate.
Her stand on impeachment earned her accolades from many constituents in her moderate district, and political scholars have suggested that it will actually help rather than hurt her 2022 re-election prospects.
The chorus included former congressional challenger and Democrat Carolyn Long, who took to social media on Saturday to praise Herrera Beutler for speaking up during the trial.
“Failing to hold Trump accountable for his part, especially and including during the actual event when he disregarded House Speaker McCarthy’s call for assistance, would set a disastrous precedent for the future,” Long wrote. “Good for her.”
The Clark County Republican Party, however, had condemned Herrera Beutler for her initial impeachment vote. CCRP Chair Joel Mattila said Saturday that the group will likely double down on its censure of the congresswoman at the next central committee meeting on Feb. 23.
“The precinct committee officers will have their voice then and I expect this will only strengthen their resolve to pass a resolution condemning her impeachment vote and now her becoming a star witness for the Democrats in their un-Constitutional impeachment charade,” Mattila said in a text message to The Columbian.
Trump, he added, “did more in his four short years in the presidency to advance conservative values than Representative Herrera Beutler has done in her more than twelve years in Congress. She is in lonely political waters now.”
Herrera Beutler was re-elected to represent Washington’s 3rd Congressional District for a sixth term in November. She won the district by 13 percentage points against Long, fairing far better than Trump, who won the district by 3 points.