At the end of its first day of argument, the Senate impeachment trial was thrown into chaos when a “juror” stood up like a scene out of Perry Mason to contest the veracity statements made by “prosecutors.”
That moment came as the Senate was preparing to end for the day. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, jumped to his feet to object that a quote by House manager Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., was false. Lee should know. They were purportedly his words.
After a frenzy on the floor and a delay of proceedings, lead House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., announced that they would withdraw Cicilline’s statements and that “this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in anyway to our case.”
In reality, it had much to do about the manager’s case and highlights a glaring problem in it.
The House has elected to try this case of incitement of insurrection largely on circumstantial evidence and using media reports rather than witness testimony. It is trial by innuendo and implication rather than direct evidence of what former President Donald Trump knew and intended on Jan. 6.
Raskin added, “So we’re happy to withdraw it on the grounds that it is not true and we are going to withdraw it this evening without any prejudice to the ability to resubmit if possible and then we could debate it if we need it.” It is not clear if the House will contest Lee’s point further on the second day of argument.
Lee was aggrieved by Cicilline quoting him as to what Trump said in a cellphone conversation with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Jan. 6. Trump mistakenly called Lee, who handed over the phone to his colleague.
Here is what Cicilline said in part: “Sen. Lee described it … Sen. Lee then confirmed that he stood by as Sen. Tuberville and President Trump spoke on the phone. And on that call, Donald Trump reportedly asked Sen. Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification process.”
That does not appear to true if the suggestion is that Lee confirmed the content of the call in the article.
The source for the House managers was a story in Deseret News that only describes the miscall and awkward moment before Lee grabbed back his phone. Tuberville stated that he did not remember much of the brief call, but the article also states that Lee told the newspaper that when “Lee said when he later asked Tuberville about the conversation, he got the impression that Trump didn’t know about the chaos going on in the Senate chamber.”
The House managers left out that part, which directly contradicts its narrative that Trump knew about the riot and was relishing it as he was calling to further delay the electoral certification. If true, the House’s timeline argument would lose coherence, if not collapse entirely.
The House repeatedly argued that Trump wanted the riot and then used it to delay the proceedings. Yet, this call occurred “shortly after 2 p.m.” and, according to Lee, Trump did not appear to the senator to be aware of the extent of the chaos. A few minutes later, at 2:38, Trump tweets, “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
The main problem with the Lee objection, however, is that it highlights what is missing in the House case: witness testimony.