Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3) took center stage last week in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump after the 3rd District Republican came forward with an account of the former president’s actions during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. She was among 10 Republican representatives to cast a "yea" vote in support of impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives last month.

On the eve of the Feb. 13 senate vote that acquitted Trump on charges that he incited an insurrection, Herrera Beutler put out a statement which recalls a conversation she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that day. McCarthy told Herrera Beutler, according to the statement, that he spoke with the president, who repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa who breached the Capitol building. When McCarthy tried to correct him, asserting that they were in fact supporters of the president, Trump allegedly told him: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

The full statement, below:

“In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he’d had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details:

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on Jan. 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’

“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.

“I told it to the Daily News of Longview on Jan. 17. I’ve shared it with local county Republican executive board members, as well as other constituents who ask me to explain my vote. I shared it with thousands of residents on my telephone town hall on Feb. 8.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: If you have something to add here, now would be the time.”

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The anecdote and subsequent statement became centerpiece to an attempt by House impeachment managers to bring in witnesses to testify at the senate trial, potentially extending the event weeks out. In a last-minute brokering between parties, the attempt fizzled out, witnesses were not called, the story was swept aside from the debate (and entered the record as evidence), and Trump was acquitted in a 57-43 vote, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict the president.

Herrera Beutler had been one of Trump’s more formidable critics from his own party during his tenure as chief executive. While having rebuked him for his style of communication and "incendiary" language and opposed the Republican Party’s 2017 health care bill, she continued to maintain support for key pillars of the Trump administration, including support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and pulling away from the Paris Climate Accords.

Locals React

Herrera Beutler’s vote to impeach the former president sent shockwaves through statewide and local Republican parties, who moved to condemn her for the vote against the former chief executive. Last month, the Washington State Republican Party’s central committee condemned the impeachment of Trump in a 111-2 vote in a resolution, which asserted “particular disappointment” in Herrera Beutler and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, who both cast their votes to impeach. In a video posted to Facebook late last month, Klickitat County Republican Party Chair Lisa Evans said that "(Herrera Beutler) was elected by us, and she was not strong. Let's find someone who is."

In a subsequent interview, Evans said Herrera Beutler’s vote to impeach Trump angered some people within the local party.

“Obviously there were a lot of voters who supported Trump. I think they are confused and hurt by (Herrera Beutler’s) decision to impeach, but let me be clear on what makes them angry. It’s not that they voted for the impeachment, because the article of impeachment itself was for inciting the riot,” said Evans. “I think a lot of people, Republicans or Democrats or Trump supporters do not feel that they were listened to in that President Trump was not allowed to speak up for his action.”

Evans said she does not feel this is a turning point for the local party or its agenda, asserting that as a local party leader: “Our job is to vet candidates, both past and potential, and see who upholds republican values the best and the most.”

“This is a political world, this is politics, and I would say that at any time, if someone is unhappy, they are more than welcome to run for that position,” said Evans.

Meanwhile, Klickitat County Democrats praised Herrera Beutler’s vote, calling it "courageous," and former opponent Carolyn Long also praised Herrera Beutler’s decision in a post on Facebook. Wrote Long: “Failing to hold Trump accountable for his part, especially and including during the actual event when he disregarded House Speaker McCarthy’s call for assistance, would set a disastrous precedent for the future. Good for her.”