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Senators wrapped up their question-and-answer portion of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, leaving the issue of whether to call witnesses as the last major issue to be resolved Saturday.
Both sides are indicating witnesses probably won’t be called. If they’re not, Democratic managers and Trump’s legal team would proceed with closing arguments, clearing the way for a final vote on whether the former president is guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
At least two thirds of the Senate – or 67 of the 100 senators – would have to vote in favor to convict the former president. After three days of hearing arguments from both sides, senators posed 28 questions as part of Friday’s session.
Some were leading. Republicans Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tim Scott of South Carolina asked Trump’s lawyers if the impeachment proceeding was simply a “show trial” since more than 200 rioters had already been arrested.
Some tried to break new ground. Democrats Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois asked Democratic managers when the president learned the Capitol was being breached on Jan. 6 and what actions he took in response.
Most of the questions were posed by senators to their own side (Democratic senators to Democratic managers, for example). But several were posed to posed both sides, such as one from Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asking about a conversation Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., had with Trump regarding the whereabouts of Vice President Mike Pence.
— Ledyard King
Senate passes legislation to award Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal
Following the conclusion of the question-and-answer portion of the Senate impeachment trial, the Senate voted to award Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman with a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award.
Goodman was in the chamber during the announcement, and received a standing ovation from the entire body. According to reporters in the room, he put his hand over his heart.
Goodman has been lauded after a video showed him leading a pro-Trump mob away from the Senate chamber during the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, potentially saving lives.
The House must also approve the award. Three members of the House introduced legislation in that chamber last month to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal.
New security footage played during the trial showed Goodman during the breach running down a hallway, where he passed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. He signaled to Romney and an aide with him to turn back around, and Romney then turned and ran.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., while asking for unanimous consent to pass legislation to award Goodman the medal, said “the world has learned about the incredible, incredible bravery of Officer Goodman on that fateful day," adding that his “courage in the line of duty, his foresight in the midst of chaos, his willingness to make himself a target of the mob rage so that others might reach safety.”
— Savannah Behrmann
"Officer Goodman—thank you."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leads round of applause in the Senate honoring Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate chamber on January 6. https://t.co/qFwSCc3VXU #impeachmenttrial pic.twitter.com/dx78oitNjm
— ABC News (@ABC) February 12, 2021
Trump's lawyers won't say if Sen. Tuberville talked with Trump about Pence safety
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA., asked both former President Donald Trump’s defense team and the House managers about a reported phone call between Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Trump on Jan. 6 that included mention of the whereabouts and safety of former Vice President Mike Pence.
Tuberville is on record saying he spoke to Trump around the time Pence was escorted to safety during the Capitol breach.
"I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to President Trump. You don’t get many words in, but .. I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go'," Tuberville has said of the phone call.
According to new video footage from Jan. 6, Pence was removed from the Senate around 2:13 p.m.. When Trump tweeted at Pence at 2:24 p.m., saying he “didn’t have the courage” to stop the certification, Trump would've known Pence was in danger, according to the time of the Tuberville phone call.
Cassidy asked whether it shows Trump was "tolerant of the intimidation of Pence?"
The question led to impassioned answers from both teams, with Trump's attorney, Michael van der Veen, calling the recounting of the call by Tuberville "hearsay."
Earlier in the question-and-answer portion, Trump’s team again claimed the former president was not aware Pence had ever been in danger.
Lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD., shot back, saying that "Rather than yelling at us and screaming about, 'we didn't have time to get all of the facts about what your client did,' bring your client up here and have him testify under oath."
House managers had invited Trump to testify, and he declined.
-- Savannah Behrmann
Raskin on Trump lawyer’s complaint: 'You should have been here Jan. 6'
At one point in the question-and-answer session, Michael van der Veen, a lawyer for Donald Trump, seemed annoyed that the legal point he was making didn’t appear to be sinking in.
“We aren’t having fun here. This about the most miserable experience I’ve had here in Washington, D.C.,” the Philadelphia lawyer told the Senate. “There’s nothing fun about it.”
About half an hour later, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead manager prosecuting the impeachment charge against the former president, said he could think of at least one day that was worse: the day of the siege at the Capitol.
Van der Veen “said before ‘this has been ‘my worst experience in Washington.’ And for that I guess we’re sorry,” Raskin said. “But man, you should have been here on Jan. 6.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin refers to Trump impeachment attorney saying this had been his worst experience in Washington: "For that I guess we're sorry—but man, you should have been here on January 6." https://t.co/r7tOhMYO2U #impeachmenttrial pic.twitter.com/gZkRobmhWl
— ABC News (@ABC) February 12, 2021
— Ledyard King
Trump lawyer dodges question on whether he thinks Trump won the election
Former President Donald Trump's counsel, Michael van der Veen, briefly caused an uproar in the chamber when he refused to say whether he thought his client actually won the election as former president has falsely claimed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, asked both the House impeachment managers and the former president's counsel whether Trump was perpetrating a "big lie" when he claimed the election was stolen from him or if they thought Trump actually won.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, reiterated that Trump lost to President Joe Biden by 7 million votes – a fact that was upheld by 61 courts, Trump's own Department of Justice and in all 50 states that voted to certify the election results.
Plaskett acknowledged that losing an election is difficult, noting that she spent three days in bed after she lost her first election, but that the Electoral College had spoken.
"He told his supporters false, outlandish claims of why this election was rigged. He had no support for the claims, that wasn't the point. He did it to make his supporters frustrated and angry," she said.
Upon hearing the question, van der Veen inquired who had asked it. When Sanders responded, van der Veen said, "my judgment is irrelevant," rousing some in the chamber.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is presiding over the trial, then called for order, before van der Veen again dodged the question.
"It's irrelevant to the question before this body. What's relevant in this impeachment article is were Mr. Trump's words inciteful to the point of violence and riot," he said. "That’s the charge. That’s the question And the answer is no."
— Courtney Subramanian and Ledyard King
Democrats, Republicans rely mostly on loaded questions
Both Democratic and Republican senators mostly have stuck to loaded questions aimed at their party’s side: Democrats have asked questions to the House managers, a team made up of Democrats from the House, while Republicans have mostly sent questions to former President Donald Trump’s defense attorneys, respectively.
One question to Trump’s defense team, from Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., asked if there “Has there been a more pro-Israel president than President Trump?” in response to some allegations Trump has stoked white supremacists.
Republican Sens. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tim Scott of South Carolina asked that if “more than 200 people have been charged for their conduct” and the “justice system is working to hold the appropriate persons accountable” wouldn’t this impeachment trial be “simply a political show trial that is designed to discredit President Trump and his policies and shame the 74 million Americans who voted for him?”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Mass., asked House managers: “If a President spins a big lie to anger Americans and stokes the fury by repeating the lie at event after event and invites violent groups to DC on the day and hour necessary to interrupt the electoral college count and does nothing to stop those groups from advancing and fails to summon the National Guard to protect the Capitol, then expresses pleasure and delight that the Capitol was attacked, is the President innocent of inciting an insurrection because in a speech he says ‘be peaceful?’”
— Savannah Behrmann
C-Span: House managers spoke more than 3 times longer than Trump team
House managers spoke more than three times longer in opening arguments at the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump than the defense team, according to C-Span, the cable network that is broadcasting the trial.
The nine House managers spoke for 9 hours and 9 minutes. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., led the team with 91 minutes. Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands, was second at 79 minutes. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, was third with 72 minutes.
Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., had 66 minutes. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., had 59 minutes. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., had 50 minutes. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., had 46 minutes. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., had 44 minutes. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., had 42 minutes.
Trump’s defense team spoke for 2 hours and 31 minutes Friday. Michael van der Veen spoke for 67 minutes, David Schoen for 43 minutes and Bruce Castor Jr. for 42 minutes.
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 12, 2021
— Bart Jansen
Trump lawyer: He didn’t know Pence was evacuated when disparaged
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine asked House managers and former President Donald Trump’s if Trump knew Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated from the Senate when he sent a disparaging tweet about Pence.
As rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump’s tweet at 2:24 p.m. said, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify.”
The Secret Service had already evacuated Pence from the Senate, where he was overseeing the Electoral College vote count.
One of the House managers, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said Trump had to have known that rioters were inside the building and police were outnumbered, but that he sent no reinforcements.
“Why wouldn’t you do it?” Castro asked, facing Trump’s lawyers. “Our commander in chief did nothing.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has said he told Trump by phone that Pence had been evacuated. But one of Trump’s lawyers, Michael van der Veen, said Trump wasn’t aware that Pence had been evacuated.
“The answer is no,” van der Veen said. “At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.”
— Bart Jansen
Plaskett claims Trump's former rhetoric encouraged groups such as Proud Boys
Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., asked a question to the House managers regarding former President Donald Trump’s prior rhetoric surrounding groups such as the Proud Boys.
“Is there evidence Trump knew or should have known that his tolerance of hate speech combined with his rhetoric could incite the kind of violence we saw on January 6?” the question read.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., insisted, “Trump has a long history praising and encouraging violence.”
“He has refused, as you saw in the September debate ... to condemn extremists, white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys, and he has, at every opportunity, to encourage and cultivate actual violence by these groups,” she said. Plaskett continued with a dig at the prosecutors montage of Democratic lawmakers saying word fight: “Yes, he has encouraged actual violence, not just the words ‘fight.’ "
Plaskett continued to highlight previous violence by his supporters, including the Proud Boys trying to run a Biden campaign bus off the road and death threats to state officials in Georgia.
Plaskett said Trump invited the rioters on Jan. 6 and had “every reason to know that they were armed, violent and ready to actually fight. “This is months of cultivating a base of people who were violent, not potentially violent, but were violent,” she stated.
“‘Go to the Capitol.’ ‘Fight like hell.’ ‘Stop the steal.’ How else would that happen?” Plaskett asked.
— Savannah Behrmann
Plaskett: Trump knew about Capitol breach but did “nothing” to stop it
Asked about whether President Donald Trump knew about the attack on the Capitol when it was happening and what he did to stop it, Rep. Stacey Plaskett said: “Nothing.”
“This attack was on live TV on all major networks in real time. The president, as president has access to intelligence information, including reports from inside the Capitol,” the Virgin Islands Democrat said in response to a question posed by Democratic Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. “He knew the violence that was underway. He knew the severity of the threats, and most importantly, he knew the Capitol Police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and fight for their lives, against thousands of insurgents with weapons.”
“We know he knew that,” Plaskett continued. “We know that he did not send any individuals. We did not hear any tweets. We did not hear him tell those individuals to stop.”
“So what else do the president do?” she said. “We are unclear, but we believe it was a dereliction of duty. And that was because he was the one who had caused them to come to the Capitol, and they were doing what he asked them to do. So, there was no need for him to stop them from what they were engaged in.”
— Ledyard King
GOP senators: What did Trump know and when did he know it?
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who each voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Senate trial, asked former President Donald Trump’s lawyers when he learned of the breach of the Capitol and what actions he took to bring the rioting to an end.
But Trump’s lawyer, Michael van der Veen, had no information.
“With the rush to bring this impeachment, there has been absolutely no investigation into that,” van der Veen said.
Van der Veen turned the question into an opportunity to attack House managers prosecuting the case for their lack of investigation. The managers had asked Trump to testify, but he declined.
“That’s the problem with this entire proceeding,” van der Veen said. “The House managers did zero investigation. The American people deserve a lot better than coming in here with no evidence, hearsay on top of hearsay.”
— Bart Jansen
Laughs, whispers, shaking heads: Democrats react to ‘fight’ montage of their comments
Senate Democrats remained motionless as former President Donald Trump’s legal team started playing a montage of clips of them using the word “fight” in speeches over the years. But as more clips played and senators saw themselves on the pair of screens in the chamber, many started whispering, passing notes. By the end, many were laughing.
Trump’s defense team played the clips to argue Democrats were being hypocrites in impeaching Trump after he told his followers to fight before they marched to storm the U.S. Capitol last month.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, fidgeted with her pen during a lengthy compilation of her remarks, her chair turned toward the screen. She nodded slightly as more clips played.
After a clip played of Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana, quite a few Democrats started giggling. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chris Coons of Delaware started to whisper back and forth, something they continued throughout the rest of the montage.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, appeared to giggle when she appeared in the montage then continued to whisper to her seatmate, Sen. Brian Schatz, of Hawaii.
Democrats argued using their words was an absurd comparison, saying many of the clips referred to policy fights and didn’t result in an attack.
“They’re trying to draw a false, dangerous and distorted equivalence,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. said. “I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump inviting the mob to Washington, knowing it was armed.”
— Christal Hayes
Question-and-answer portion of Senate trial begin
After just a few hours of opening arguments, former President Donald Trump’s defense team rested, allowing for the question-and-answer section of the trial to begin Friday afternoon.
In this section, senators will submit written questions that are read by the presiding officer, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The House managers and the defense team will then answer the questions from the senators, respectively. The party leadership will coordinate to try and alternate partisan questions.
The question-and-answer portion can last for up to four hours.
— Savannah Behrmann
Trump's lawyer repeats false claims of election fraud
Former President Donald Trump's lawyer Bruce Castor defended his client's December call to Georgia's secretary of state, now part of a criminal investigation, as he sought to argue Trump was not to blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Castor defended the president's debunked claim of election fraud, suggesting that Trump was taken out of context in a phone call in which he is heard pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse his loss to President Joe Biden.
He repeated a false claim about Georgia's mail-in ballot rejection rate and suggested Trump's call was completely within his authority.
"There was nothing untoward with President Trump, or any candidate for that matter, speaking with a lead elections officer of a state. That's why the Georgia secretary of state took a call along with members of his team."
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, immediately shot down Castor's claim on Twitter. Raffensperger's office had reportedly received 18 attempted calls from the White House between Election Day and early January, according to reports from CBS News and CNN.
Local prosecutors in Georgia have requested that Raffensperger and other state election officials preserve their records as part of a criminal investigation into attempts to interfere in the state election.
Trump referenced his phone call with Raffensperger during the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the Capitol attack.
"In Georgia, your secretary of state ... I can’t believe this guy’s a Republican," Trump told the crowd. "He loves recording telephone conversations. You know ... I thought it was a great conversation personally. So did a lot of other. People love that conversation because it says what’s going on."
— Courtney Subramanian
Castor says Jan. 6 was not an insurrection; DOJ disagrees
Bruce Castor, one of former President Donald Trump’s defense lawyers, says the riot and breach on the Capitol was not an insurrection.
However, the United States Department of Justice has been using that exact term to describe that day: “—a violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government on January 6, 2021.”
Additionally, Webster dictionary defines an insurrection as: “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”
Castor said it is wrong to categorize the pro-Trump mob attacking the Capitol as that, instead defining an insurrection as, “Taking over a country, shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some plan on what you will do when you finally take power.”
“Clearly this is not that,” Castor said.
As House managers noted, the first three in the line of succession to the presidency were in the Capitol that day: then-Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the then-president pro tempore of the Senate, Republican Chuck Grassley.
Several of the rioters who broke into the Capitol were menacingly searching to “hang” Pence, as well as seeking to find and harm congressional leadership.
— Savannah Behrmann
Trump defense rests after less than three hours of arguments
Donald Trump’s lawyers closed their defense Friday, arguing not only that the 45th president did not incite his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, but also that Democrats have been using the same type of inflammatory – and constitutionally protected – language at the center of their impeachment case.
The three lawyers – Michael van der Veen, David Schoen and Bruce Castor – took turns painting Trump as a fierce defender of law and order opposed to violence, portraying Democrats as hypocrites for using the same combative language and challenged his victory four years ago, and that the former president’s fiery words were part of constitutionally protected political speech.
They also suggested that the Democratic managers prosecuting the case purposefully edited and manipulated videos of Trump’s words to project a false impression that he was provoking thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House that day to go and storm the Capitol.
While he told supporters to “fight like hell,” the Democratic managers conveniently left out another portion of the president’s speech, Castor told senators as he played a longer clip from that speech where he encouraged supports to “peacefully” head to the Capitol.
“The president said, “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” and the House managers took from that ‘go down to the capitol and riot’,” he told the Senate. “So, you are supposed to put yourselves in the heads of the people who hear (the president’s words) and conclude that those words do not mean what the president said.”
For nearly three hours, Trump’s defense team tried to bat down the charge that Trump provoked the assault by spreading “the big lie” for months even before the Nov. 3 election that states had rigged the votes so Biden would win.
They could have gone longer. Both sides were entitled to make 16 hours of defense, but chose to use fewer than four. Democrats used about 10 hours over two days.
— Ledyard King
Biden, 'like many Americans, is watching' for impeachment verdict
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden's comments Friday that he was "anxious" to see if his Republican friends "stand up" in his predecessor's impeachment trial meant he wants the Senate to take their role seriously.
"He means that the Senate should take the responsibility seriously in how they view and pay attention to the trial this week," she told reporters at a White House press briefing.
Psaki said she spoke to the president about the harrowing footage recounting the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 showed earlier this week at the second impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump.
House prosecutors, who charged Trump with inciting the riot, wrapped up their arguments on Thursday while Trump's legal team is arguing the former president's defense Friday.
Biden told reporters Friday morning he was "anxious to see what my Republican friends do – if they stand up." The president, who spent 36 years in the Senate, had earlier said that he was not watching the trial and instead focusing on his administration's priorities, including passing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Asked earlier what Americans could learn from footage presented at the impeachment trial, Psaki said: "They certainly saw some, some powerful footage. That was a reminder of the shocking events that happened on January 6.
"I think they saw, as the President has said, that that day was an assault on our democracy," she added.
– Courtney Subramanian
Trump lawyers employ Democrats’ own words, actions to defend former president
In their opening argument at former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Friday, Trump's lawyers used Democrats' own words and actions to defend the former president, who is charged with inciting violence at the Capitol Jan. 6.
They replayed footage of Democrats objecting to Trump’s 2016 election victory. They aired Democratic lawmakers’ frequent comments over the past four years about how they wanted to impeach Trump. And the lawyers put together a montage of Democratic lawmakers and liberal celebrities saying they would like to “punch” Trump. Or worse.
Even President Joe Biden make an appearance via a campaign clip where he shared his animus for Trump.
“If I were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” Biden says in the clip.
Before playing one montage, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said both sides have made combative statements, all of which is constitutional no matter how offensive it might seem to some.
“I’m not showing you this video as some excuse for Mr. Trump’s speech,” he told senators after playing one montage. “This is not whataboutism. I’m showing you this to make the point that all political speech must be protected.”
– Ledyard King and Savannah Behrmann
Trump lawyer: First Amendment protects Trump’s speech
Michael van der Veen, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, argued the former president's speech Jan. 6 before a mob ransacked the Capitol is protected under the First Amendment, saying House managers prosecuting the impeachment trial want senators to ignore Trump's right to free speech.
Van der Veen argued that Trump’s speech hadn’t violated any law. The lawyer cited James Wilson, one of the first Supreme Court justices and an expert on impeachment, who said lawful and constitutional conduct may not be used as an impeachable offense. Van der Veen blasted a letter from 140 legal scholars who called the First Amendment defense frivolous.
“I know these First Amendment arguments are not anywhere close to frivolous,” van der Veen said. “They are completely meritorious.”
The House impeached Trump by charging him with inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. House prosecutors argued that his speech spurred violence in the riot and isn’t protected as free speech.
But Trump’s lawyers said he can’t be blamed for the mob’s actions. Trump’s language urging supporters to “fight” was common political language, and that he challenged election results through legal channels, according to the lawyers. Van der Veen said adopting the House argument would erode hundreds of years of free-speech doctrine.
– Bart Jansen
'Fight': Lawyers show edited video of Democrats saying the word fight - over and over
Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers, after arguing House prosecutors had manipulated Trump’s words by showing edited videos of him speaking, simultaneously showed a montage of edited and spliced videos of dozens of Democratic lawmakers saying the word “fight”.
Trump’s lawyers were attempting to show a parallel between Trump telling his supporters on Jan. 6 before the Capitol attack to “fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore," to Democratic lawmakers using the same language. Almost none of the clips provided context.
The lawmakers and politicians spanned from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Democratic nominee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Rachel Cohen, communications director Sen. Mark Warner, who was featured in the video, tweeted that the clip showed Warner "vowing on the Senate floor to ‘fight’ for HEALTH CARE FOR RETIRED MINE WORKERS.”
Trump was not impeached for using the word “fight”, specifically but rather that after his speech, his supporters breached and attacked the Capitol.
– Savannah Behrmann
Trump lawyer: Democratic managers are manipulating Trumps words, context
Former President Donald Trump's attorney David Schoen accused the Democratic House members prosecuting the former president’s impeachment of selectively editing footage of Trump and his words to distort his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
Schoen pointed to what he called mislabeled tweets and short, out-of-context snippets of Trump speaking as examples that managers were more interested in portraying Trump as an inciter of violence rather than someone who was engaged in normal, political speech.
In one instance, Schoen pointed to a clip of the president’s speech at the Jan. 6 rally near the White House where he told the crowd of supporters: “After this we’re going to walk down – and I’ll be there with you – we’re going to walk down to the Capitol.”
Schoen continued to play the clip where Trump at one point said: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching to the Capitol Building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Schoen said the Democratic prosecutors have been deceitful.
“There is significant reason to doubt the evidence the House managers have put before us,” Schoen said. “If they did this in a court of law, they would face sanctions from the judge."
– Ledyard King
Trump lawyer: Democrats tried to overturn Trump victory 4 years ago
During his defense in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the former president's lawyer Michael van der Veen showed footage from four years ago when several Democratic lawmakers objected to the electoral count of certain states such as Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina, that affirmed Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.
Among those objecting was Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is now heading the team prosecuting Trump during this week’s impeachment trial.
Van der Veen was trying to make a point: Democrats had no problem trying to overturn an election when their candidate lost but took issue when Trump tried to exercise his right to challenge the 2020 election. While Democrats challenged the results, Trump baselessly claimed the election was stolen from him by falsely claiming voter fraud.
“As recently as 2016, the Clinton campaign brought multiple post-election court cases, demanded recounts and ridiculously declared the election was stolen by Russia,” van der Veen told the Senate Friday. “Many Democrats even attempted to persuade the Electoral College delegates overturn the 2016 results. House manager Raskin objected to the certification of President Trump’s victory along with many of his colleagues. You’ll remember it was Joe Biden who had to gavel them down.”
None of the objections in 2016 were granted.
– Ledyard King
Republican senators say they have questions for Democratic lawmakers and Trump’s lawyers
Several Republican senators previewed questions for the Democratic impeachment managers and former President Donald Trump’s lawyers Friday morning as the chamber prepared to move into a question-and-answer session as soon as Friday evening after Trump’s lawyers finished their arguments at the Senate impeachment trial.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said he wanted to ask for clarification about the timeline surrounding Trump’s call to Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Jan. 6 as Trump tried to pressure more senators to object to the counting of electoral votes. Tuberville had told the president that Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated from the Senate chamber, but Trump still tweeted an attack on Pence as he faced the threat of rioters inside the Capitol.
“The president clearly had knowledge at that point. And then the tweet went out,” Cassidy said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a potential swing vote on conviction, told reporters she had “several” questions, though she declined to elaborate.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who voted to convict Trump on one impeachment charge last year, said he’d submitted five questions for the managers and Trump’s lawyers.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who said he was likely to acquit Trump, was still working on drafting questions but wanted to know more about what the standard for “incitement in a criminal case” would be compared to what it would be an impeachment trial.
– Nicholas Wu
Trump lawyer: Ex-president did not encourage 'unlawful activity of any kind'
Former President Donald Trump’s defense lawyer opened his argument in the Senate impeachment trial with a fiery denunciation of the House charge he incited insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“The article of impeachment now before the Senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance,” said Michael van der Veen, one of the lawyers defending Trump. “Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people.”
In Trump’s speech to supporters Jan. 6 before the crowd laid siege to the Capitol, he called for legislative remedies to his complaints about the election, including better voter identification, requiring proof of citizenship to vote, van der Veen said.
“Nothing in the text could ever be construed as encouraging, condoning or enticing unlawful activity of any kind,” van der Veen said.
The House charged that Trump incited the insurrection through months of challenging election results that culminated in the speech and then a lack of response when the mob stormed through the Capitol. Five people died in the attack.
But Trump’s lawyers have said he can’t be held responsible for the mob’s actions. Van der Veen said the entire text of Trump’s speech called for lawful responses to his proposals.
“The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it,” van der Veen said. “These are not the words of someone inciting a violent insurrection.”
– Bart Jansen
Trump lawyer falsely claims ANTIFA involved in Jan. 6
Michael van der Veen, one of former President Donald Trump’s attorneys at his impeachment trial, falsely suggested that Antifa was, in part, responsible for the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
The FBI has said there is "no indication" Antifa took part in the violence. Several outlets, including USA TODAY, have fact checked this claim several times.
Van der Veen also repeatedly compared the Jan. 6 insurrection, which was in protest to Trump losing the election, to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in the summer following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans, at the hands of police officers.
“Many Democrat politicians endorsed and encouraged the riots that destroyed vast swaths of American cities last summer,” Van der Veen stated, showing numerous clips of the protests alongside several Democratic lawmakers talking about them.
– Savannah Behrmann
Trump’s lawyers begin opening arguments as trial resumes
The fourth day of former President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial has begun, with Trump’s defense team beginning its opening arguments before the Senate.
They’re afforded 16 hours of arguments over two days, but David Schoen, one of Trump’s defense lawyers, said their side will only speak for three to four hours.
House managers concluded their opening arguments Thursday, and insisted Trump be held accountable for his rhetoric to his supporters in the months and years leading up to the Capitol riots Jan. 6, as well as his inaction and lack of remorse on the day of the violence.
"We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of, because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again?" Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., one of the House prosecutors asked Senators Wednesday evening.
Trump’s defense team, led by Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr., will argue Trump can’t be held responsible for the mob’s actions on Jan. 6 that led to the Capitol being breached.
- Savannah Behrmann
House managers ready Friday for Senate questions if Trump team finishes briskly
House managers will be prepared to answer any questions from senators in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, but the timing of questions remains uncertain heading into the closing hours of the proceedings, according to senior aides to the managers.
Schoen has said defense lawyers will speak for three to four hours. If they finish that quickly, senators could potentially move Friday to a question-and-answer period of up to four hours for senators to submit written questions to both sides, according to aides.
Trump’s defense team led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen begin opening arguments Friday, after two days of arguments from managers. Trump is charged with inciting the insurrection in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, but his defense lawyers contend he can’t be held responsible for the mob’s actions that left five dead and the building sacked.
Senators filled the entire 16 hours of questions during Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when he was acquitted.
After questions, managers or defense lawyers could request witnesses, with two hours of debate. Members of both sides have suggested they don’t need to call witnesses, which could prolong the trial by weeks or months, but no formal decisions have been announced.
If no witnesses are called, the managers and defense team will each have two hours for closing arguments, probably on Saturday. The Senate provided for a return Sunday at 2 p.m. if there has not yet been a vote to convict or acquit Trump by then.
– Bart Jansen
Biden wonders if GOP senators will ‘stand up’
President Joe Biden weighed in Friday on the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, saying he wondered if Republican senators would “stand up.”
“I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do – if they stand up,” Biden said.
Biden has said he wasn’t watching the trial because he was working on administration priorities. But he said Thursday that he thought House managers who are prosecuting the case could change some minds.
The House charged Trump with inciting insurrection in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. But his defense team, which will begin their opening opening arguments Friday, contends he can’t be blamed for the mob’s actions.
A two-thirds majority of the evenly divided Senate is required for conviction. Many Republicans have said they weren’t persuaded by the House case.
Biden, a former 36-year senator, offered his perspective while visiting with reporters outside the White House.
– Bart Jansen
Trump legal team to try to distance Trump from Capitol attack
Donald Trump’s lawyers will argue there's no link between the former president's fiery rhetoric and the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riots and appeal to senators' free speech rights when they begin their opening arguments Friday in Trump's impeachment trial.
Trump’s defense team led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen have said the actions at the Capitol were repugnant, but contend House prosecutors failed to adequately prove Trump's tweets and words urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, break in and ransack the nation's seat of government.
“They haven’t in any way tied it to Donald Trump,” Schoen said.
Their arguments, which begin at noon, follow two days of arguments by Democratic House impeachment managers prosecuting the case. The nine managers, using at times chilling security footage of the violence, argued Trump whipped his followers into a frenzy over his election loss, called them to Washington, D.C., and encouraged the violence that resulted at the Capitol. And then, as the mob made its way through the building, prosecutors said Trump failed to act and showed no remorse.
Will witnesses be at trial?: Democratic senators say there's no need for witnesses in Trump impeachment trial
The managers played videos of Trump encouraging supporters at rallies and on Twitter. And managers quoted rioters defending their actions by saying Trump invited them. But his lawyers disagreed.
"I don't believe that's what happened, no,” Castor said.
Trump is charged with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol, where five people died, including a police officer and a woman shot by police. The violence interrupted Congress' electoral vote count of President Joe Biden’s victory.
House managers face a high hurdle for conviction because a two-thirds vote is required in the Senate, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats to convict Trump. But more than a third of the chamber – all Republicans – have twice voted that the trial is unconstitutional, suggesting Trump will be acquitted.
Schoen estimated they'll need just three to four hours to make their opening arguments Friday, far less than the 16 hours over two days they've been afforded. House impeachment prosecutors used about 10 of their 16 hours over Wednesday and Thursday.
'Brings tears to your eyes': What we learned from previously unseen riot footage at the impeachment trial
The trial could potentially end Saturday with a vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. When the defense is done, senators will have up to four hours to ask questions and then each side will have two hours for closing arguments.
– Bart Jansen
Trump’s lawyers to lay out free speech argument
Former President Donald Trump’s legal team plans to make their case Friday personal to senators, arguing that if Trump's remarks aren’t protected by the First Amendment then their comments might not be, either.
Trump’s legal team had already made clear the three central arguments of their case: The trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, the House rushed the impeachment process and Trump’s remarks are protected by the First Amendment.
“I don't think there should be any surprises,” David Schoen, one of Trump's attorneys, said of their presentation. “It's all out there in the public domain.”
“I thought that the argument we heard today from Congressman Raskin about what he understands the law to be was dangerous,” Schoen said. “I think it puts at risk every – every – senator in that chamber and every politician who wishes to speak, passionate political speech.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead House prosecutor, argued Thursday the First Amendment is not a defense to impeachment.
Schoen noted there is much about the Jan. 6 attack that remains unclear, including all the planning ahead of the riot.
“We don't know the facts of what happened here,” Schoen said. “So why on Earth would you have something you call a trial without having the facts when you say it's fact-intensive.”
Schoen’s remarks followed a meeting with three GOP senators – who are jurors in the case but also fierce allies of Trump. Schoen said Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah did not offer advice in the trial, but talked about procedures and took the legal team through how the question-and-answer period would operate once their presentation had concluded.
Cruz appeared to offer a slightly different account of the meeting, telling reporters they’d been “discussing their legal strategy and sharing our thoughts."
He said Trump's lawyers had to make the case that the House managers had not met the burden of proof to show Trump's "conduct satisfied the legal standard of high crimes and misdemeanors."
– Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu
Republican senators hope for more focused presentation from Trump’s lawyers
Senators will start hearing from former President Donald Trump’s lawyers for the second time on Friday, and after two days of hearing the evidence against Trump, Republican senators are hoping for a focused presentation from Trump’s team.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a potential swing vote on convicting Trump, said she hoped the former president’s lawyers would be as “specific” as the House lawmakers.
The lawyers had taken criticism from Republican lawmakers after their presentation on the trial’s constitutionality Tuesday. One of the attorneys, Bruce Castor, was criticized by Republican senators as unfocused. Collins said Tuesday Castor “did not seem to make any arguments at all."
Republicans said they wanted Trump’s attorneys to focus on the broader context of Trump’s remarks ahead of the Capitol riots, which Democrats said incited the violence, and to address whether the trial is constitutional since Trump is no longer in office.
Trump's Jan. 6 timeline: A minute-by-minute timeline of Trump's day as the Capitol siege unfolded on Jan. 6
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told reporters he wanted Trump’s lawyers to “walk through the rest of the story” and explain more of what was happening beyond what he called Democrats’ “selective messages” from Trump on Jan. 6.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of Senate Republican leadership, said he’d made up his mind to acquit Trump and “I can't imagine that the president's lawyers will manage to talk me out of that.”
He said he wanted to hear some “context” from Trump’s lawyers.
“There's a difference in reckless behavior and intentional motivation to do something as terrible as incitement,” he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters he wanted a “good presentation” from Trump’s lawyers that would “hopefully focus more on the issues.” He hoped they would address more of the issues on the constitutionality and jurisdiction of the case.
Trump's lawyers contended Tuesday the case was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. But the Senate voted that the trial was constitutional.
– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment trial: Q&A portion begins after defense rests