Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, invoked an impeachment rule that allows senators to raise questions during the trial.Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
An emotional second day of the trial ended in procedural chaos as a Republican senator objected to testimony that cited him as a source for a conversation former President Donald J. Trump had during the Capitol attack that is at the heart of the case.
In the final hour of arguments on Wednesday, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and one of the impeachment managers, spoke of Mr. Trump mistakenly calling Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, in an effort to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. In describing the call, which was detailed in news reports, Mr. Cicilline asserted that Mr. Lee had stood by as Mr. Trump asked Mr. Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification of President Biden’s electoral votes.
As Mr. Cicilline spoke, Mr. Lee could be seen writing furiously on a notepad in large letters: “This is not what happened.” When Democrats concluded their arguments for the day, Mr. Lee invoked an impeachment rule that allows senators to raise questions during the trial, including about the admissibility of evidence, and asked that the statements about him be struck as false.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the presiding officer for the impeachment trial, ruled the request as out of order. Mr. Leahy, who consulted with the Senate parliamentarian, pointed to a rule specific to this impeachment trial that allows the House managers to include elements in their oral arguments that were not in their original pretrial submissions.
A visibly outraged Mr. Lee demanded an appeal.
“My point was to strike them because they were false,” he said.
As some lawmakers, including Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, demanded that Mr. Lee explain why the description was false, the murmuring and confusion among senators and staff temporarily derailed the final moments of the day’s proceedings.
After a series of intense huddles on the floor, where Mr. Lee could be heard insisting that he did not make those statements, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, agreed to take back the words. But he reserved the ability to bring the issue up again and litigate it later in the trial.
“We’re going to withdraw it this evening and without any prejudice to the ability to resubmit it, if possible,” Mr. Raskin said. “We can debate it if we need it. But it’s not — this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in any way to our case.”
As Mr. Raskin spoke, Mr. Lee could be heard across the Senate chamber making a snide retort: “You’re not the one being cited as a witness, sir.”