Former President Donald Trump didn’t know that then-Vice President Mike Pence was in danger during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol when Mr. Trump tweeted to his followers that Mr. Pence “lacked the courage” to help him overturn the presidential election results, a Trump defense lawyer said Friday in the Senate impeachment trial.
“At no point was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger,” said Trump defense lawyer Michael van der Veen on Friday in response to a question from Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, who asked about the timing of Mr. Trump’s “disparaging” tweet.
Mr. van der Veen said, “Although the answer directly is ‘no,’ it’s not really relevant to the charges for the impeachment in this case. This is an article of impeachment for incitement. This is not an article of impeachment for anything else.”
House impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas Democrat, said Mr. Trump “had to know” that Mr. Pence was in danger, having watch TV images of the riot as it unfolded.
He noted that Mr. Trump telephoned Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Republican, shortly after 2 p.m. and was told that Mr. Pence had just been ushered out of the Senate chamber.
“The vice president and his family were still in danger,” Mr. Castro said. “The whole world knew it. At that point, our commander-in-chief did nothing.”
House impeachment managers said Mr. Pence, who was presiding over Congress’ counting of the Electoral College results, was escorted out of the Senate chamber by security agents around 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 as rioters broke into the Capitol. He and his family were taken to a hiding place nearby, where they sheltered for about 12 minutes while rioters came within 100 feet of their location.
Mr. Trump’s tweet about Mr. Pence lacking courage came at 2:24 p.m. Minutes before that, Mr. Pence’s security detail had evacuated the Pences to a safer location.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, also asked a question about Mr. Trump‘s tweet criticizing Mr. Pence, saying it “suggests that President Trump did not care that Vice President Pence was endangered or that law enforcement was overwhelmed.” Mr. Cassidy also is a possible GOP vote against Mr. Trump.
Mr. van der Veen told Mr. Cassidy, “I dispute the premise of your facts. I have a problem with the facts in question, because I have no idea.”
“Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have had a very good relationship for a long time, and I’m sure Mr. Trump very much is concerned and was concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Pence, and everybody else that was over here,” he said.
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