In the hours before former President Donald Trump was acquitted of a single article of impeachment lodged against him, Democrats voted to allow witnesses in the Senate trial — and Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL) called on people with information about Trump’s alleged “incitement” of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to come forward.
“I think there’s a lot of people that know things. I don’t know who they are. They’re sitting on information, now’s the time to come forward,” Kinzinger said in an ABC News interview earlier on Saturday, according to The Hill.
What fueled Kinzinger’s request was a statement released by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) on Friday night alleging that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) told her that Trump, at first, seemed to side with the Capitol rioters when McCarthy asked him to issue a statement telling them to stop.
During a phone call between McCarthy and Trump on Jan. 6, Beutler said, Trump suggested Antifa operatives were responsible for the rioting.
Phone call details
When McCarthy told Trump that it was his supporters who were responsible, Trump reportedly shot back, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Beutler’s statement stopped there, but other sources reported to the Wall Street Journal that the conversation became heated, with McCarthy at one point saying to Trump, “Who the f*** do you think you’re talking to?”
Trump eventually addressed the rioters shortly thereafter, asking them to go home. He later denounced the rioters’ actions and said that anyone involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
But the phone call, if true, shows that Trump might have been a little more ambivalent about the actions of the rioters than he let on publicly. After all, he shared their anger and frustration with the results of the election and their desire to see the results overturned, even if he didn’t sanction violence as a means to accomplish that goal.
In the end, Kinzinger’s last-ditch effort didn’t yield any new witnesses, and Democrats eventually voted not to call any.
Even Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) acknowledged it was a long shot, The Hill reported, saying that the people who might have been privy to such knowledge, like former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, were unlikely to come forward.
“I’m not sure how much optimism we should have on that account,” Schiff said — which might be one of the most accurate statements he’s issued about either impeachment attempt.
Once the drama of Beutler and Kinzinger ended, the vote to acquit Trump of the impeachment charge came swiftly. Despite the Democrats’ allegations, most Republican senators understood that Trump didn’t ask people to be violent and clearly didn’t support those actions, even if he shared some of the sentiments that reportedly drove it.