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Tuberville defends account of Trump call during Capitol riot

GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) is doubling down on his claim that he spoke with then-President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE on the afternoon of Jan. 6 — a narrative that was challenged hours earlier by Trump's defense team.

Tuberville first revealed the call Wednesday, saying Trump mistakenly called Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Utah) in an attempt to reach the first-term Alabamian.

"[Lee] brought me the phone," Tuberville repeated Friday evening, after the Senate impeachment trial had wrapped up for the day. "It said 'White House' on it. I didn't know who it was. Answered it, it was the president. He said a few things. I said, 'Mr. president, they've taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.' "

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Tuberville added that he's "probably the only guy in the world who hung up on the president of the United States."

His account of the Jan. 6 call was challenged just hours earlier by Michael van der Veen, one of Trump's defense attorneys, who dismissed the call as "hearsay" that shouldn't count as evidence in the impeachment trial.

Van der Veen's remarks came in response to a question from Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 MORE (R-La.), who had asked if Trump's tweet attacking Pence at 2:24 p.m. on Jan. 6 — after Capitol security was breached and Pence was evacuated from the Senate floor — was an indication that Trump "was tolerant of the intimidation" of his vice president.

“Directly, no. But I dispute the premise of your facts,” van der Veen responded. He then shifted the blame on Democrats for moving quickly on impeachment, arguing that the speedy timeline had prevented the defense team from learning all the details of the case.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on," he said. "We’re trying to get hearsay from Mr. Tuberville. There was hearsay from Mr. Lee, I think it was two nights ago, when we ended, where Mr. Lee was accused of making a statement that he never made.”

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Democrats have rejected those criticisms, noting that they had sought Trump's testimony to learn such details, but were rebuffed by the former president.

On Friday, Tuberville said he doesn't know precisely what time Trump called on Jan. 6. He said he also didn't know if Trump knew of the threat to Pence, nor does he remember how Trump responded when informed that Pence had been evacuated.

"I don't remember, because they were dragging me. They had me by the arm," Tuberville said.

The senator also indicated that Trump's defense team never approached him about the call ahead of the trial.

"I didn't talk to anybody," he said.