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Trump's team rests after defending his words at impeachment trial

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Former President Trump's defense team spent barely three hours defending his actions at his impeachment trial, compared to the 11 hours Democrats spent making their case. Kris Van Cleave reports.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: We're gonna begin with breaking news. Former President Trump's lawyers wrapped up their impeachment defense tonight, telling senators the 45th president did not inside a mob of angry supporters to attack the US Capitol on January 6. In what felt at times like an attempt to rewrite history, Donald Trump's lawyers argued instead that their client had only advocated for peaceful protests and repeatedly condemned violence throughout his time in office.

They also showed selectively edited clips of Democrats, including house managers using the word "fight" in speeches and television interviews, saying their words were no different than Mr. Trump's call for his supporters to fight like hell the morning of the Capitol assault. And while they were given 16 hours to make their case, they rested after just three. And the Senate is moving on to the next phase of Mr. Trump's second impeachment trial with senators submitting questions to both sides, signaling the trial could be over as soon as this weekend.

Tonight, there's also some breaking news coming in from the CDC. New guidance about how to get tens of millions of American children back to school. So we've got a lot of new reporting for you tonight. Our team is standing by to cover it all. CBS's Kris Van Cleave is gonna lead our coverage from the Capitol. Good evening, Kris.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Good evening, Norah. House Democrats used 11 hours to argue their case, the Trump team barely three hours to defend the former president. They attacked Democrats, sometimes relied on falsehoods as they attempted to create an alternative narrative where Mr. Trump bore no blame or responsibility for the violence that happened here on January 6. Rejecting Democratic claims Mr. Trump incited the riot with his rhetoric on January 6--

DONALD TRUMP: We fight like hell.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: --his attorneys used Democrats own words about fighting as cover for Mr. Trump's remarks.

- We're gonna be in for the fight of our lives.

- This is the fight of our life.

- The fight of their lives.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: Suddenly the word "fight" is off limits? Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Trump attorney Michael Van Der Veen, who last year sued Mr. Trump for voter suppression, went on the attack.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: This case, unfortunately, is about political hatred. It has become very clear that the House Democrats hate Donald Trump.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Going back repeatedly to a selectively edited montage of Democrats comments, Mr Trump's lawyers tried to link them to violent images from last summer's Black Lives Matter protests. But those were in response to African-Americans killed by police. Mr. Trump's language at the rally, they argued, was protected First Amendment speech and his impeachment an unconstitutional sham.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: It is constitutional cancel culture.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Knowing the 45th president was watching in Florida, his legal team declared he did not incite the attack on the Capitol, arguing it was pre-planned and made no mention of Mr Trump spending months claiming a rigged election and teasing a wild day on January 6.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: There was no Insurrection.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: During this evening's question and answer period, Mr. Trump's team was unable to answer questions from Republicans about when the president learned of the violence at the Capitol and his actions to stop it.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: There's been absolutely no investigation into that.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: House Democrats offered this.

STACEY PLASKETT: Those are the questions that we have as well. And the reason this question keeps coming up is because the answer is nothing.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: His lawyers pointed to tweets from that afternoon where Mr. Trump called for peace.

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: The first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion of the Capitol began were stay peaceful.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: But that ignores this tweet sent 14 minutes earlier, taking aim at his own vice president just after he was evacuated off the Senate floor. With 17 Republicans needed to convict Mr. Trump, few have signaled they will.

RON JOHNSON: I think the president's lawyers blew the house manager case out of the water. They legally eviscerated them.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: President Biden said he had not spoken to any Republicans about how they might vote.

JOE BIDEN: I'm just anxious to see what my Republican friends do and if they stand up.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Senators submitted questions on cards like this. One of them was asking the Trump team if the president knew that Vice President Pence was in danger. They said he didn't. And that appears to not be true. We have heard from a Republican senator that he was on the phone with the former president and said Mike Pence had been evacuated from the Senate floor. Another question that was submitted-- do the Trump team believe Mr. Trump lost the election? They said that question was irrelevant. Norah.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Kris Van Cleave. Thank you.