The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump descended into chaos on Wednesday night after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) objected to remarks by the House impeachment managers about an accidental phone call from then-President Donald Trump.
As the House managers announced they were wrapping up for the day, Lee stood at his desk on the Senate floor and asked that the characterization of the call be stricken from the record, contending that it was inaccurate. The objection plunged the Senate chamber into confusion.
Trump called Lee on Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol insurrection, but had meant to call Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). Lee recounted to the Deseret News last month the call from Trump and said he had passed off the phone to Tuberville when he realized Trump had dialed him by mistake. Trump‘s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also left a voicemail meant for Tuberville that day to corral support for Trump‘s election disputes, but he‘d also accidentally dialed Lee.
House impeachment managers cited the Deseret News account during their presentation on Wednesday, casting it as another piece of evidence that Trump tried to undermine the election. But Lee said the characterization of that phone call was untrue.
The chamber grew tense as Lee and Democratic leadership began heatedly arguing over the nature of Lee’s request and how to proceed according to Senate rules.
“Statements were attributed to me moments ago by the House impeachment managers. Statements relating to the content of conversations between a phone call involving President Trump and Sen. Tuberville were not made by me. They’re not accurate, and they’re contrary to fact. I move pursuant to Rule 16 that they be stricken from the record,” Lee said.
Lee appeared to be referencing statements made by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who, while giving part of the House managers’ presentation, said former President Trump tried to call Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on Jan. 6 and instead called Lee.
Lee previously told the Deseret News, in an article published January 7, that Trump called him on Jan. 6 thinking he was calling Tuberville. Lee, according to the article, also said that he stood by while they were speaking so that he didn’t lose his phone.
“Sen. Lee described it. He had just ended a prayer with his colleagues here in the Senate chamber, and the phone rang. It was Donald Trump. Sen. Lee explains that the phone call goes something like this. ‘Hey, Tommy,’ Trump asks. Sen. Lee says, ‘This isn’t Tommy.’ He hands the phone to Sen. Tuberville,” Cicilline said.
“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,” he continued.
Even before he stood up to make his motion, Lee appeared visibly angry by the remarks. He was spotted at his desk ripping off a sheet of paper from a legal pad and writing, “This is not what happened.” He handed the paper to David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is presiding over the trial, appeared to disagree with Lee’s request once he made the objection based on information he got from Senate staff.
The kerfuffle quickly sparked widespread confusion, with senators trying to figure out what Lee was saying wasn’t accurate and what Lee was forcing a vote on. The situation was complicated by Leahy’s mic appearing faulty at times.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked Leahy what senators would be voting on. When Leahy repeated himself, Lee jumped in again to argue that they weren’t addressing his request that statements made by the House impeachment managers be stricken from the official record.
“That is not my motion. … What I asked was — statements were attributed to me repeatedly, as to which I have personal knowledge because I am the source. They are not true,” Lee said.
Republicans could be overheard yelling, “Hear! Hear!” after Lee finished speaking. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also jumped in at that point, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) could be overheard on a hot mic asking, “Who is talking? Joe? What is he doing?”
As Leahy appeared to move toward a vote, Manchin cut in again.
“Let him explain. Please let him explain. … Why was it false?” Manchin said.
Lee indicated he would be willing to answer Manchin’s question. Leahy said the debate was not in order, but senators yelled that they couldn’t hear him.
Schumer cut in to try to get clarification on what was being voted on. Amid more confusion, he hit pause on the trial “while we work this out.”
When the Senate reconvened, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, announced that they were agreeing to Lee’s request to strike the record.
Lee, however, appeared unsatisfied, shooting back, “You’re not the one being cited as a witness, sir.”
— and the livin's easy (@madamyez) February 11, 2021