The GOP representative at center of Trump impeachment trial drama

Edward HelmoreSat, 13 February 2021, 6:39 pm

<img src="–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ni41NzY1NzY1NzY1NzY2/–~B/aD02MDA7dz05OTk7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/; alt="<span>Photograph: AP
Photograph: AP

Jaime Herrera Beutler, the congresswoman for south-west Washington state at the center of last-minute drama at Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, has been a rare Republican supporter of the Democrat-led effort to convict the former president of “inciting violence against the government of the United States”.

Herrera Beutler, who has served as a representative since 2011, made her support to impeach Trump known six days after the Capitol riot in early January. “The president of the United States incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” Herrera Beutler said then.

In the statement, Herrera Beutler described Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as “pleading with the president to go on television and call for an end to the mayhem, to no avail”.

Related: Impeachment: five Republicans join vote for witnesses in Trump Senate trial

Late on Friday, Herrera Beutler went further, saying she was told by McCarthy that Trump initially sided with supporters. She urged Republican “patriots” to come forward and share what they know about the conversation in which Trump is alleged to have told McCarthy that rioters at the Capitol were “more upset about the election” than the congressional minority leader was.

For a few tense hours it looked as if Herrera Beutler might upset the whole impeachment trial, as Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, suddenly decided she needed to be called as a witness – a move that would ensure Republicans would call witnesses too.

But amid scenes of farce, chaos and frantic negotiations, a deal was struck to merely read Herrera Beutler’s statements into the record, in lieu of personal testimony. Suddenly, the prospect of weeks of lengthy witness testimony in the impeachment trial receded again.

But the incident has focused senators to focus – even if briefly – on what Trump knew and when he knew it on the day of the riot, something that may leave a lingering impact on how the American public views the trial.

Herrera Beutler first came to national attention in 2014, when then speaker John Boehner introduced her 13-month-old daughter Abigail, who has Potter’s syndrome, a rare condition in which a child is born without kidneys, to the legislative chamber with the Johns Hopkins doctor, Jessica Bienstock, who had helped save her life.

Herrera Beutler later co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would allow children on the Medicaid program with complex medical conditions to seek specialty care outside their coverage areas.

She also drew attention as one of a growing number of women balancing motherhood and elected political life. At the time of her daughter’s birth, she was just the ninth lawmaker in history to have a baby while serving in Congress.

Now again she is a rare politician: an eloquent voice in her Trumpist-dominated party, arguing for a return of the party to its pre-Trump values and standards of political life.

In her 12 January statement on the Capitol riot, the congresswoman wrote: “I understand the argument that the best course is not to further inflame the country or alienate Republican voters. But I am also a Republican voter. I believe in our constitution, individual liberty, free markets, charity, life, justice, peace and this exceptional country. I see that my own party will be best served when those among us choose truth.”