The Senate voted Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Following the vote, defense attorney Michael van der Veen joined CBSN's Lana Zak to discuss the trial in a sometimes contentious interview.
LANA ZAK: The Senate has voted to acquit former President Trump of inciting an insurrection on January 6. The final Senate vote was 57 to 43 in favor of conviction, falling short of the 2/3 threshold needed for conviction. Seven Republican senators broke party lines in favor of voting for conviction, including senators Burr and Collins. Soon after the trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the former president bears responsibility for the deadly assault on the Capitol and that history will judge.
JAMIE RASKIN: The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled this mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.
- He wasn't furious or sad or shocked like virtually everyone else in America. He was reported by those around him as delighted. Rather than rush to our aid or demand his mob retreat, he watched the attack on TV and praised the mob to leader McCarthy as more loyal to him, more upset about the election.
- If we don't set this right and call it what it was-- the highest of constitutional crimes by the President of the United States-- the past will not be past. The past will become our future.
- The president was invited to testify. He declined. The president was invited to provide exculpatory evidence. He declined. You can't claim there's no due process when you won't participate in the process.
LANA ZAK: President Trump's defense team responded, suggesting that they have not been given due process leading up to the closing arguments. They continued to claim that the former president could not be connected to the attack directly on the Capitol. They also claim that protesters acted of their own accord and planned the attack well before Mr. Trump's speech on January 6.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: The entire team condemned and have repeatedly condemned the violence and law breaking that occurred on January 6 in the strongest possible terms. We've advocated that everybody be found, punished to the maximum extent of the law. Yet the question before us is not whether there was a violent Insurrection of the Capitol. On that point, everyone agrees. No matter how much truly horrifying footage we see of the conduct of the rioters and how much emotion has been injected into this trial, that does not change the fact that Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him.
LANA ZAK: Joining me now is former President Trump's attorney, Michael van der Veen. Thank you, sir, for joining us. Let's get right into those words that we heard from Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He ended the trial with this passionate speech about President Trump's involvement in the insurrection. During it, he said that the former president is still liable for everything he did during his period in office. Are you expecting to face more charges against Mr. Trump in the near future? And do you anticipate being part of that defense?
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: No, that's just political rhetoric. And I was hopeful that something would come out of this, that the political rhetoric would stop out of Washington D.C. But I guess apparently it hasn't.
LANA ZAK: Were you, though, surprised to hear those words coming from the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate?
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: I'm not surprised to hear a politician say anything at all, no.
LANA ZAK: Well, throughout the trial, you denied that Mr. Trump had a role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. You argued, first of all, that there was no insurrection. But during your closing arguments, you seemingly admitted that there was, in fact, an insurrection, using that word, saying that that was not up for debate. What role did the former president play--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: You didn't understand the case. I used the word insurrection in my--
LANA ZAK: I'll give you the opportunity to clarify, sir.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Sure. I used the word "insurrection" in my closing argument when quoting the charging documents. What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is absolutely horrific. But what happened at the Capitol during this trial was not too far away from that. The prosecutors in this case doctored evidence. They did not investigate this case. And when they had to come to the court of the Senate to put their case on, because they hadn't done any investigation, they doctored evidence.
It was absolutely shocking, I think, when we discovered it and we were able to expose it and put it out. I think it turned a lot of senators. The American people should not be putting up with this. They need to look at who these House managers were and look to see whether these are the folks they want representing them. It was shocking to me. Wouldn't have believed it.
LANA ZAK: Let's follow up with a point that you're making right now about the House managers, as you say, doctoring evidence. And the argument--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: They didn't-- they didn't deny it.
LANA ZAK: --to be clear for our viewers.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: They didn't deny it. I put it in front of them three times.
- To be clear for our viewers, what you're talking about now is a checkmark that's a verification on Twitter that did not exist on that particular tweet, a 2020 that should have actually read 2021, and the selective editing, you say, of the tapes. Is that--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
LANA ZAK: --is that the doctored evidence of what you're speaking?
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Wait, that's not enough for you? That's not enough for you? Wait, wait, wait. No, no, no.
LANA ZAK: Sir, I'm trying--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Listen.
LANA ZAK: I am not a juror in this trial.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: That's all--
LANA ZAK: What I am trying to be clear for our viewers is what you're referring to--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: We found-- no, no, no.
LANA ZAK: --because not everybody has been following--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: It's not OK--
LANA ZAK: Not everybody-- sir, respectfully--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: --to doctor a little bit of evidence--
LANA ZAK: Respectfully.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: --respectfully. It's not your question--
LANA ZAK: I have not said it is OK.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Ma'am, your question is turned--
LANA ZAK: I want to be clear for our viewers.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Listen, what has to happen is the media has to start--
LANA ZAK: I want to be clear for our viewers about what exactly you're saying when you say "doctored evidence."
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: The media has to start telling the right story in this country. The media is trying to divide this country. You are bloodthirsty for ratings. And as such, you're asking questions now that are already set up with a fact pattern. I can't believe you would ask me a question indicating that it's all right just to doctor a little bit of evidence. There's more stuff that we uncovered that they doctored, to be frank with you. And perhaps that will come out one day.
But we won this case. And I'm not a sore loser. But what happened-- or a sore winner, I should say. But what should happen is somebody should look at the conduct of these House managers. It's unconscionable, aside from all of the due process violations that my client had. And the media should be looking that at a square, straight way, a straight way. When I watch the news, I watch one station and it's raining. I watch another station at the same time and it's sunny.
Your coverage is so slanted. It's got to stop. You guys have to stop and start reporting more like PBS does rather than a TV news show that doesn't have any journalistic integrity at all. What I'm telling you is that they doctored evidence. And I believe your question says, well, it's only a Twitter check and changing a year of a date here. They switched the date of a Twitter a year to try to connect it to this case. That's not a small thing, ma'am.
The other thing they did is they put a checkmark on something to make it look like it was a validated account when it wasn't. And when they were caught, they didn't say anything about it. They didn't even try to come up with an excuse about it. And that's not the way our prosecutors or our government officials should be conducting themselves. And the media shouldn't letting them get away with it, either.
I'm tired of the biased media-- on both sides, left and right. What this country wants, what this country needs, is this country to come together, to take the left and the right and find a middle ground and start responsibly being our public officials, our elected officials. And one of the reasons why they do it is because of the media, because the media wants to tell their narrative rather than just telling it like it is.
And frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm not a media-- I'm not in front of your cameras all the time. But what I've been subjected--
LANA ZAK: Sir, I understand--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: --to this last week--
LANA ZAK: I understand--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Yeah.
LANA ZAK: --and I've give you the opportunity.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: You don't want to hear the truth. Yep. OK.
LANA ZAK: I've given you the opportunity. I will remind you that what I said was that for our viewers who have not been following--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: We heard what you said.
LANA ZAK: --all of the hours of this trial to be clear about what you are speaking about. And I understand that you seem very upset--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: I'm speaking about the House managers' failure to prove their case. That's what I'm telling you.
LANA ZAK: And you have won--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: They weren't able to prove their case.
LANA ZAK: --the acquittal-- you have won the acquittal of your client.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Yes, I did.
LANA ZAK: And if you'd like to continue to talk about this conversation, we can have that discussion.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: I don't need to.
LANA ZAK: But for me to ask a question-- but for me to ask a question to clarify for our viewers--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: A slanted question.
LANA ZAK: --what you're talking about is a fair question.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: A slanted question that was set up to say, it's OK for them to cheat. That was your question.
LANA ZAK: I didn't say that.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Isn't it OK for them to cheat?
LANA ZAK: I didn't say that.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: It's just a little bit.
LANA ZAK: No.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: You said, to be fair, it was--
LANA ZAK: It's fine. I understand--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: --only a check on the Twitter. That's what you said. You've got to live by your words. That's the problem. The media has to start living by the truth and not--
LANA ZAK: All right.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: --try to create a narrative.
LANA ZAK: Michael van der Veen.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Yep.
LANA ZAK: Thank you for--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Citizen.
LANA ZAK: --joining us. I do appreciate--
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Yep.
LANA ZAK: OK, I see you taking off your microphone now. That was President Trump's defense attorney, Michael van der Veen.