As a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building last month, then-President Donald Trump rejected pleas from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—one of his top GOP allies—to call off the assault and remarked, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."
Reported by CNN late Friday and publicly confirmed by a Republican lawmaker who voted to impeach Trump last month, the details of the former president's comments during a phone call with McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack on January 6 came after Trump's attorneys presented their falsehood-riddled case against conviction on the fourth day of the Senate impeachment trial, with a verdict expected as early as Saturday.Trump's attorneys contended that the former president wanted the demonstrators who marched to the Capitol just after his now-infamous speech to peacefully protest, but observers said CNN's reporting makes that argument even less credible than it was Friday afternoon.
"The CNN scoop blows up two Trump defenses: That he wanted rioters to be peaceful (LOL), and that he wielded into action to contain the damage," tweeted the Washington Post's Greg Sargent. Trump did not publicly comment on the attack until hours after it began, releasing a video praising the insurrectionists and urging them to go home.
Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter, argued that the CNN report "should really end any doubt about whether Trump is guilty."
"Trump is guilty," Legum wrote. "Some people will vote to acquit him anyway, but that doesn't change the fact that he's guilty."
Shortly following the publication of CNN's story, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington—one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last month—confirmed the news outlet's reporting on the call in a statement posted to Twitter.
"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," Beutler said. "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.'"
Addressing the former president's aides and former Vice President Mike Pence, Beutler added, "If you have something to add here, now would be the time."
In a segment on CNN's reporting Friday night, MSNBC's Chris Hayes said if the account of Trump's comments is true, "that's sociopathic."
"That's a quote for a movie villain—not the president of the United States," said Hayes.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus whip, said the CNN reporting further confirms that "Trump wanted those storming the Capitol to keep him in power."
"There is no ifs or buts about it," Omar added.