Sen. Mike Lee threw the last few minutes of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial into momentary confusion Wednesday when he objected to quotes House managers attributed to him.
“They are not true. I never made those statements. I ask that they be stricken,” Lee demanded.
Lee was referring to the content of a phone conversation between Trump and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Lee’s cellphone during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump misdialed Tuberville and got Lee, who gave his phone to Tuberville just before the Senate chamber was evacuated.
House manager Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., cited Trump’s call to Tuberville, saying Trump “reportedly” asked Tuberville to make additional objections to the Electoral College certification process.
Lee said the statements attributed to him about the specifics of the phone conversation between Trump and Tuberville were false and said, “I’m the only witness.”
Lee’s objection caused confusion in the Senate as to how to proceed. Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., ultimately withdrew the evidence.
Raskin said Cicilline was simply reading from a media report of the call, but that the anecdote was not worth defending further.
“This is much ado about nothing because it’s not critical in any way to our case,” Raskin said.
Lee’s office issued a statement after the Senate adjourned.
“Tonight the House impeachment managers made false statements mischaracterizing Sen. Lee’s account of a phone conversation between President Trump and Sen. Tuberville. Sen. Lee objected and asked that the false statements be stricken from the record. The House managers agreed to withdraw those statements,” according to the statement.
Tuberville and Trump talked for about five to 10 minutes, Lee said, adding that he stood nearby because he didn’t want to lose his cellphone in the commotion. The two were still talking when panicked police ordered the Capitol to be evacuated because people had breached security.
As police were getting anxious for senators to leave, Lee walked over to retrieve his phone.
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. Other than that, Lee did not characterize what Trump and Tuberville might have talked about.
Cicilline also referenced Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, mistakenly calling Lee when he was trying to reach Tuberville. The contents of that call were clear as Giuliani left a voice message for Tuberville that Cicilline played at the trial.
“We don’t have to guess as to what Rudy Giuliani said in that voicemail because we have it recorded,” Cicilline said.
He then played the recording.
“Sen. Tuberville, or I should say coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down,” Giuliani said in the message.