Mitt Romney, Mike Lee submit questions for lawyers in Trump impeachment trial

Members of Utah MoveOn hold letters spelling the word
"CONVICT” as they rally outside of GOP Sen. Mitt Romney’s office at
the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City on
Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. The group demanded that Romney vote to
convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee submitted questions for the House managers and for lawyers representing former President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial Friday.

Trump's lawyers ended their defense of Trump on Friday afternoon, well under the allotted 16 hours to make their case. Senators asked questions for about three hours before adjourning for the day. The Senate will convene Saturday to hear closing arguments and vote on whether Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Romney has said he wanted to listen to both sides before making a decision. He submitted five questions for the lawyers. He is among six Republicans who joined the Democrats in voting to declare the trial constitutional.

Romney's first question was, "When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m. regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that the vice president had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?"

Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."

House impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said Trump had to know "because the whole world knew it, all of us knew it."

Live television had shown that armed insurgents were already inside the Capitol and that the police were outnumbered.

Castro said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., told Trump on the phone just after 2 p.m. that Pence had just been removed from the building.

"There were still hours of chaos and carnage and mayhem. The vice president and his family were still in danger at that point. Our commander in chief did nothing," Castro said.

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said Trump didn't know, and at no point was he informed that Pence was in any danger. Because the House rushed through the impeachment, there is nothing on that point in the record, he said.

But Trump did know there was a violent riot at the Capitol and he repeatedly called for the rioters to stop and go home via Twitter and video, van der Veen said.

Van der Veen said Romney's question is not relevant to whether Trump incited a riot.

Lee submitted a long question to Trump's lawyers about whether the framers of the Constitution intended to allow for the impeachment of former officials:

"Multiple state constitutions enacted prior to 1787, namely the constitutions of Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont, specifically provided for the impeachment of a former officer. Given that the framers of the U.S. Constitution would have been aware of these provisions, does their decision to omit language specifically authorizing the impeachment of former officials indicate that they did not intend for our Constitution to allow for the impeachment of former officials?"

"Good question, and the answer is yes, of course they left it out," van der Veen said.

The framers, he said, reviewed all the states' drafts of the Constitution and picked and chose what they wanted and discarded what they didn't want. "And what they discarded was the option for all of you to impeach a former elected official," van der Veen said.

Lee has argued that the Constitution doesn't provide for the impeachment and trial of a president who is no longer in office.

Related:

Also Friday, The Hill reported a liberal super PAC will launch an ad campaign targeting several GOP senators urging them to vote to convict Trump.

American Bridge 21st Century, through its nonprofit affiliate group Bridge Project, will send out digital ads and texts urging constituents of Republican senators to call their offices and urge them to vote to convict Trump over his alleged role inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The plans, shared only with The Hill, will target nine Republican senators, including Romney.

Democrats need 17 GOP senators to vote with them to convict Trump, an outcome widely considered unlikely.

Lee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, met with Trump's lawyers Thursday before they presented their defense of the former president, even though they're sworn to be jurors in the trial. Lee is among a majority of Republicans who signaled before the trial started that they would acquit Trump.

On Friday, the Utah Democratic Party called for Lee to recuse himself.

"If Sen. Lee ever sought to hold the trust of Utahns as an impartial juror in the impeachment trial, he has failed," said Jeff Merchant, Utah Democratic Party chairman.

Romney's other questions:

  • (Counsel to the former president): "When did President Trump first learn that the Capitol was breached and what specific actions did he personally take to defend the Capitol, Vice President Pence, and the others inside?"
  • (House managers): "Is it necessary to the House managers' case to prove that President Trump intended for the mob to enter the Capitol and cause mayhem?"
  • (Counsel to the former president): "Is it the position of counsel to the former president that President Trump's call to the Georgia secretary of state was not an attempt to have him falsify the election results?"
  • (Counsel to the former president): "Did President Trump personally approve the deployment of the National Guard to the Capitol, and if so, at what time?"

Those questions were similar to ones submitted by other senators and not read on the Senate floor.

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Dennis Romboy

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