Sen. Tommy Tuberville revealed late Wednesday that he spoke to Donald Trump on Jan. 6, just as a violent mob closed in on the the Senate, and informed the then-president directly that Vice President Mike Pence had just been evacuated from the chamber.
“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Tuberville (R-Ala.) told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, saying he cut the phone call short amid the chaos.
The existence of the phone call had been previously reported, but the detail that Tuberville informed Trump his vice president was in danger is a new and potentially significant development for House prosecutors seeking Trump’s conviction: it occurred just around the time that Trump sent a tweet attacking Pence for not having “the courage” to unilaterally stop Joe Biden’s victory. And Trump never indicated publicly that he was aware of Pence’s plight, even hours after Tuberville says he told him.
It’s long been unclear precisely when Trump learned of the danger that Congress and his vice president faced — though it was broadcast all over live television — but Tuberville’s claim would mark a specific moment Trump was notified that Pence had to be evacuated for his own safety.
Aides to the former president did not immediately return a request for comment.
The House impeached Trump last month for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and began mounting their case in the trial Wednesday, the first of two days to present their evidence. The Tuberville call was among their examples to show that Trump remained fixated on stopping Biden’s victory even as it became clear that a mob devoted to him was ransacking the Capitol. Trump, they said, did nothing to publicly call off the rioters and instead called Tuberville to continue his effort to stop the transition of power.
The phone call itself figured into the House impeachment managers’ case against Trump, detailed during Wednesday’s Senate trial arguments. The managers noted that while a mob encroached on the Senate chamber, Trump was ignoring his allies’ pleas for him to publicly call them off. Instead, Trump accidentally phoned Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) as he sought to get in touch with Tuberville to request that the Alabama senator continue objecting to the election results in order to buy time. Lee, according to reports in Utah’s Deseret News and CNN, passed his phone to the newly elected lawmaker for the brief call.
House managers say the call took place shortly after 2 p.m. Pence was evacuated from the chamber at about 2:15 p.m. and Trump sent his tweet attacking Pence at 2:24 pm. The entire Senate was cleared by about 2:30pm.
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.
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