Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers concluded their defense of the former president Friday after less than three hours – after attacking the process as a ‘witch hunt’ and calling Democratic managers who argued it hypocrites.
Three different Trump lawyers spoke Friday, going after elected Democrats who have used the word ‘fight’ in their own speeches and claiming Trump had a constitutional basis for his pre-riot speech where told supporters to go to the Capitol to take on ‘weak’ Republicans.
Wrapping up his own arguments, lawyer Bruce Castor yielded back about 13 hours of time that had been allotted, finishing with a partisan blast at the Democratic majority.
‘The majority party promised to unify and deliver more COVID relief. But instead, they did this. We will not take most of our time today, us of the defense, in the hopes that you will take back these hours and use them to get delivery of COVID relief to the American people,’ he said.
Trump’s team of impeachment lawyers summoned the furious rhetorical style of their client as they began his defense Friday against what they termed a ‘sham impeachment’ they branded a ‘witch hunt.’
With no public indications that the trial has moved enough Republican senators to convict Trump, lawyer Michael van der Veen came out swinging with legal arguments that appeared to channel the former Twitter rage of his client – calling the impeachment an ‘appalling abuse’ and even bringing up Trump targets like the Russia probe and Antifa.
He called the impeachment a ‘shameful effort’ to ‘smear, censor, and cancel’ Trump as well as his supporters.
Lawyer Michael van der Veen attacked the impeachment as a ‘sham’ process and brought up favorite targets of former President Donald Trump during the start of defense arguments on behalf of Trump Friday
He cherry-picked Trump’s political enemies, calling the impeachment a ‘witch hunt,’ and going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ‘left wing anarchists,’ and Rep. Maxine Waters for their own rhetoric.
After being on the receiving end of jarring video presentations, Trump’s lawyers strung together clips of Democrats in a style often used on evening conservative talk shows meant to throw the opposition off balance.
He began his argument in his second Senate impeachment trial with a denunciation of the charge leveled by managers that he incited a riot with his Jan. 6th speech.
Van der Veen blasted the impeachment as an ‘unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance.’ He said it only ‘further divides our nation.’
Trump’s layers say managers manipulated an image showing Rep. Jamie Raskin preparing for trial
Trump’s team accused managers of twisting his words that there were ‘good people on both sides’ at Charlottesville. Trump went on to speak at length to note some people were peacefully protesting the removal of a statute honoring confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s defense attorneys Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen arrive to begin pleading Trump’s case during the fourth day of the impeachment trial of the former president on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2021
A lengthy video had Democrats including now-Vice President Kamala Harris calling to ‘fight,’ as she did at the Human Rights Campaign
Trump’s lawyers accused Democrats of manipulating Trump’s words
Schoen accused managers of adding a ‘verified’ blue check to the Twitter account that Trump retweeted. The accounts owner says she does not have a verified account
He called the idea that Trump wanted to stir violence a ‘preposterous and monstrous lie,’ and said he was only asking his supporters to pursue legal political ends.
‘The reality is Mr. Trump was not in any way shape or form instructing these people to fight using physical violence,’ he said. ‘What he was instructing them to do was challenge their opponents in primary elections, to push for sweeping electoral reforms, to hold big tech responsible – all customary and legal ways to petition your government for redress of grievances.’
The day Trump spoke, Congress was in a special session where lawmakers to met only to count electoral votes, and debate on any other issue was not permitted.
Van der Veen said Trump’s infamous January 6th speech was not ‘in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection.’
‘The suggestion is patently absurd on its face,’ he said.
He called Trump’s call to ‘fight’ a use of ‘ordinary political rhetoric.’
Among those Democrats he singled out for their own words was ‘squad’ member Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The efforts to attack House managers and pull other Democratic lawmakers into the fray came in a process where Democrats will need to bring over 17 Senate Republicans to secure a conviction. Trump is the first president in history to face a second impeachment, and the first to face one after having left office, after being impeached in the House in the last days of his presidency. Senators would not agree to move it up when the Senate was out of session, setting up the February impeachment.
When it was over, Trump loyalist Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was seen meeting with Trump’s defense team for the second consecutive day, after joining a meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas Tuesday evening.
After Democrats aired their own jarring video of violence at the Capitol, Trump’s team had a video of their own, this time showing Democrats objecting to certain electoral votes back in 2016. After playing the ten minute video once, the team played a portion of it a second time.
In addition to Democrats, it showed Madonna and actor Johnny Depp using militant language.
The first person van der Veen mentioned was House lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was seen claiming Florida’s voters were not ‘lawfully certified.’
A video stitched together remarks by a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer calling to reap the ‘whirlwind.’ It was backed by a soundtrack with beating drums.
Another video showed Democrat after Democrat calling to ‘fight’ – with notable appearances by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and House impeachment managers.
‘That’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong,’ Schoen told the seated senators. ‘It’s a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy.’
Schoen defended Trump’s remarks to the MAGA rally near the White House that preceded the riot.
‘One of the House manager’s made much of the president’s supposedly ominous words, ‘you have to get your people to fight,’ but you knew what the president really meant. He meant that the crowd should demand action from members of Congress and support primary challenges to those who don’t do what he considered right,’ he siad.
‘Support primary challenges, not violent action. I know what he meant because I watched the full video. And so did the impeachment managers. But they manipulated his words,’ he added.
Due process claims – Democrats motivated by ‘hatred’
Returning to the floor after his Tuesday appearance, lawyer David Schoen accused the House managers of having skipped ‘the basic elements of due process.’
He accused them of acting out of ‘hatred’ for the president.
Schoen blasted Democrats for their rush to bring forward the impeachment, although his team has also argued that the impeachment is not constitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
He complained Trump never had ‘any opportunity ever to test the integrity of the evidence’ against him.
He ridiculed the managers for repeatedly saying ‘reportedly’ in their presentation, and played tape of a skein of managers using the term – having skipped the hearing process and electing not to call witnesses who could provide official testimony.
He called the word ‘reportedly’ a code for ‘I have no real evidence.’
He said he had ‘reason to believe’ that House managers ‘manipulated evidence’ and ‘selectively edited footage.’
He played a clip of Trump’s speech to the rally until House managers cut it off, then ran a longer clip where Trump asked people to act peacefully. Democratic managers also played that portion of the speech at another point, arguing that calls for peaceful protest were outnumbered by calls to ‘fight.’
He blasted Democrats for dropping dramatic security footage that the public had not yet seen during their presentation. It showed Mike Pence being hustled out of a secure location along with the nuclear ‘football’ just steps from where rioters were located. They also showed images of then Minority Leader Charles Schumer running along with his security team.
‘Let me ask you this? Why was this footage never seen before?’ asked Schoen. ‘Shouldn’t the American people have seen this footage as soon as it was available? For what possible reason did the House managers withhold it form the American people?’ he asked.
Trump’s lawyers appeared in the chamber after House managers concluded their own two-day presentation, after airing graphic videos of the mob that stormed the Capitol as well as internal security footage showing Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers being rushed to safety as a violent mob approached.
Friday’s trial featured two new lawyers on Trump’s team, Michael van der Veen and William Brennan, following stumbles by Bruce Castor in his opening presentation Tuesday. Brennan is a veteran criminal defense attorney from Philadelphia. Castor joined Van der Veen’s firm in December.
Chaplain Berry Black issued an opening prayer seeking the ‘spirit of non-partisan patriotism.’
Once again, senators and others present were commanded to keep silent ‘on pain of imprisonment’ during the trial.
First Amendment – defends Trump’s words and attacks constitutional lawyers
Van der Veen accused Democrats of minimizing Supreme Court precedents speaking to ‘elected officials’ core first amendment rights.
He used personal language to deride the opposing counsel, accusing them of ‘intellectual dishonesty.’
‘Hatred is a dangerous thing. We all have to work to overcome it. Hatred should have no place in this chamber in these proceedings,’ he said.
‘They cite zero case law. They made it up.’
He took time to tell the elected lawmakers that rhetoric generally has gotten ‘over the top,’ and called for applying the First Amendment ‘evenly.’
‘Do you want to create a precedent where the Senate will be tasked with sitting in judgement as to the meaning and implied intent of a president’s words,’ he asked.
Van der Veen accused Democrats of making ‘sideways analogies’ when they compared Trump to a fire chief who starts a fire and the fans the flames while dissecting his comments to the crowd on the day of the counting of the electoral votes. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland had said Trump is different from a random person at a bar who shouts out his views, given his enormous power as president.
‘Mr. Trump actually has enhanced free speech rights because he is an elected official,’ countered Van der Veen. He called it ‘total intellectual dishonesty.’
He also ripped a letter released by 144 constitutional scholars, calling them ‘partisan law professors’ and labeling it an ‘outrageous attempt to intimidate Mr. Trump’s lawyers.’
Then he described the issue as affecting his own pocketbook. ‘This letter is a direct threat to my law license, my career and my family’s financial well-being. These law professors should be ashamed of themselves and so should the House managers,’ he said.
Cites trial record and uses the term ‘Negro’ explaining the case was ‘in the 60s’
At one poing Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen used the word ‘negro’ during his presentation to the Senate Friday.
van der Veen was walking senators through several Supreme Court cases he thought were relevant to the ex-president’s defense, including the 1962 case Wood v. Georgia.
‘In Wood v. Georgia the Supreme Court addressed a case involving a sitting sheriff, whose re-election was being investigated by a grand jury impaneled by a judge, based on allegations of irregular negro bloc voting – it was in the 60s,’ van der Veen said.
He looked to be reading something when he used the term – and then quickly gave an explanation for its use.
In the case, Sheriff James Woods publicly went after the investigation and was charged with and convicted of contempt of court and obstruction of the grand jury.
‘The sheriff spoke publicly in multiple press releases calling the grand jury investigation racist, illegitimate and an attempt to intimidate voters,’ van der Veen said. ‘The sheriff viewed the grand jury as challenging the legitimacy of his election.’
The Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions.
‘The court held that the First Amendment protected an elected public official’s speech because the voting controversy directed affected the sheriff’s political career,’ van der Veen said.
‘Wood, thus, stands for the proposition that a difference in political opinion expressed in the speech on an issue of voting irregularity cannot be punishable, when all that was done was to encourage investigation and peaceful political speech – just like Mr. Trump has done here,’ he explained.
In the case, the Supreme Court said the judge’s words would have to present a clear and present danger for the lower court’s punishment to stick.
Law and Order
Back on the floor after his shaky debut, lawyer Bruce Castor played another video – this one with Trump over and over again calling for ‘law and order,’ a main theme of his campaign.
‘We know the president did not incite the riots because of his plain words that day,’ said Castor. ‘We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur because his longstanding hatred for violent protests and his love for law and order is on display, worn on his sleeve, every single day that he served in the White House,’ he said.
Castor said Trump had ‘disdain’ for political violence, after House managers played clips of him going back to campaign rallies discussing violence toward protesters.
‘House managers manipulated President Trump’s words,’ Castor said, blasting them for saying Trump urged the crowd on to the Capitol to ‘fight.’ He said Trump wanted them to primary Republicans who weren’t fighting for him, rather than ‘sending them to Capitol Hill go and breach the building and trash the very sacred halls of Congress.’
Castor pointed to Trump’s 2:38 pm tweet urging people to ‘stay peaceful,’ although Trump’s speech ended at 1:11 pm.
He said that tweet went out ‘by the time word reached the president that there was a problem down there’ – although the protests and intrusion at the Capitol were carried live on television and making global news. There is footage of Trump watching TV coverage after the end of his speech along with Donald Trump. Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle while the song ‘Gloria’ can be heard at the rally.
The Capitol was breached at 2:11 pm.
Castor also addressed Trump’s infamous call to Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger. ‘How can a request for signature verifications to be done in public be a basis for a charge for inciting a riot,’ he said.
Managers had brought up Trump’s demand that the official ‘find’ 11,780 votes while describing his efforts to discredit the election that preceded the Jan. 6 electoral count.
Castor then argued that Trump had used the word ‘find’ at other times than when he asked for one vote more than would be required to secure victory.
‘Mr. Trump continued to use the word ‘find’ throughout the conversation,’ he said.
‘I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do. If they stand up,’ he told reporters at the White House when he made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn to see a Valentine’s Day message from Jill Biden.
Biden said he didn’t plan to call Republicans to urge them to convict his predecessor. House Democrats wrapped up their impeachment argument on Thursday. Trump’s defense makes their case Friday with a vote expected as early as Saturday. Trump is likely to be acquitted.
The Bidens made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn early Friday morning, coffee cups in hand and dogs Champ and Major at their side, to see a Valentine’s Day message the first lady had installed overnight.
Giant heart-shaped signs in red, white and pink with messages of ‘unity,’ ‘hope,’ ‘healing’ were placed on the lawn. ‘Love Jill’ was written on one of them.
President Joe Biden and Jill Biden visited the North Lawn Friday morning to see a Valentine’s Day message the first lady had installed over night
Jill Biden’s office said the message was a Valentine’s Day gift for the country.
‘The First Lady is known for her sense of humor, love of surprises and celebrating traditions, especially with her family. Valentine’s Day has always been one of her favorite holidays. Sending messages of healing, unity, hope and compassion, this is her Valentine to the country,’ the East Wing said.
Biden, wearing jeans, an aviator jacket and face mask, checked out the display with the first lady, who wore a magenta coat and face mask.
‘Press is going to think it’s for them,’ the president joked.
The display was centered on the lawn behind the area known as pebble beach, which is where TV reporters do their live shots from the White House.
The president had a friendly back-and-forth with members of the media as he checked out the messages.
One reporter was heard calling him ‘Joe’ and telling him ‘those are nice dogs.’
‘Thank you,’ the president responded.
Another reporter joked the Bidens should have brought coffee for everyone. The president walked over and gave her his cup.
‘Promised I haven’t tasted it,’ he told her.
Joe Biden said Valentine’s Day is Jill’s favorite holiday but he refused to say what he got her
Biden refused to divulge what he got his wife for the upcoming holiday.
‘It’s not Valentine’s Day yet. I’m not going to tell,’ he said. ‘Valentine’s Day is Jill’s favorite day for real.’
The first lady said she did the display as she wanted to give the country some ‘joy.’
‘I just wanted some joy. With the pandemic, just everybody’s feeling a little down. So, it’s just a little joy. A little hope. That’s all,’ she said.
President Biden, asked his Valentine’s Day message to the nation, said: ‘There’s hope. There is hope. You just have to stay strong.’
The Bidens are scheduled to fly to Camp David on Friday afternoon, where they will spend the weekend.
Biden said at the presidential retreat they will ‘just hang out with the family.’
What to expect on Friday’s impeachment hearing as Donald Trump’s lawyers begin their defense, ahead of a final vote that could come as soon as Saturday
Donald Trump‘s lawyers will begin his defense against charges of insurrection on Friday, in an argument they plan to present in a concise and simple format taking only a few hours.
David Schoen and Bruce Castor, the two impeachment lawyers heading up Trump’s case, have 16 hours from midday on Friday to convince the Senate to acquit him.
But they are expected to take only two to three hours to lay out their arguments, believing their succinct case requires no lengthy explanation.
A vote could come as soon as Saturday, following four hours of questions from senators, after an agreement was reached to continue the sessions throughout the weekend.
David Schoen, Trump’s impeachment lawyer, is seen leaving the Capitol on Thursday night
Bruce Castor, pictured on Thursday, will also present Trump’s defense on Friday
The Senate on Tuesday voted 56:44 to proceed with his impeachment trial
Trump’s defense team had initially requested the Senate pause the proceedings from Friday at 5pm until Sunday morning. But on Wednesday, Trump’s defense withdrew the request to break on Saturday, allowing the trial to continue without a break into the weekend.
On Thursday night the pair of lawyers representing the former president met with Republican senators including Ted Cruz, who will serve as the jury in a final vote.
The Republican team plan to make four key points on Friday, Axios reported on Thursday night.
They will argue that impeachment of a former president is unconstitutional, because punishment is removal from office, and Trump is no longer in office.
They will claim there was no due process when he was impeached by the House on January 13, because no witnesses were called and there were no lawyers representing Trump.
Schoen and Castor will argue thirdly that Trump was exercising his First Amendment rights, and that impeaching him for that is unlawful.
And finally, Axios said, they will argue that impeaching Trump will not unify the country, as Joe Biden pledged.
The pair have repeatedly condemned the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and will not, Axios said, focus on Trump’s words at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally he held shortly before the unrest.
Donald Trump has spent his impeachment trial playing golf near Mar-a-Lago in Florida
Trump’s lawyers argue his January 6 speech is protected under the First Amendment
Schoen and Castor argue Trump cannot be held responsible for the riot of January 6
Five people died in the Capitol chaos and its aftermath, a domestic attack unparalleled in US history.
Democrats have argued that his rhetoric riled up the rabble and drove them to attack the Capitol on his behalf.
As they wrapped up their case, Democrats beseeched their Congressional colleagues to vote to convict him.
‘We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,’ said Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives.
‘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?’
Democrats argued Trump has lit the fuse on violence for years: ‘January 6th was a culmination of the president’s actions, not an aberration from them,’ Lead House Impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said
The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol.
Prosecutors used the rioters’ own videos from that day to pin responsibility on Trump.
‘We were invited here,’ said one.
‘Trump sent us,’ said another. ‘He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.’
Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render ‘impartial justice.’
‘Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,’ Raskin said, noting that Trump stood by doing nothing for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.
‘Why did president Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?’ Raskin asked.
‘As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?’
Raskin and his colleagues argued that Trump had been stoking tensions long before January 6.
‘This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,’ Raskin said. ‘This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.’
Earlier, Joe Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change ‘some minds.’
Democratic House impeachment managers showed the break-in from two angles
Schoen said on Thursday that the Democrats’ presentation was ‘offensive’ and that they ‘haven’t tied it in any way to Trump.’
He told reporters on Thursday at the Capitol that he believed Democrats were making the public relive the tragedy in a way that ‘tears at the American people’ and impedes efforts at unity in the country.
Despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.
It would take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats.
The proceedings could finish with a vote this weekend by the senators who are sitting as impeachment jurors.
THE IMPEACHMENT LEGAL TEAMS
THE HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGERS
Who’s who in the prosecution (from left): Jamie Raskin, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Diana DeGette, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse
Lead impeachment manager: Jamie Raskin. Constitutional law professor who lectured at American University, in Washington D.C., before moving into politics as a Maryland state senator then House member. Fierce critic of Trump who called for his impeachment after the Mueller report.
David Cicilline: One-time public defender and mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, which is now in his district. Lead author of the article of impeachment.
Joaquin Castro: Texas rep whose twin brother Julian ran for president. Lawyer and member of Texas Legislature before joining Congress.
Diana DeGette: Longest-serving member of Congress in the team with 13 terms for her Colorado district. A civil rights attorney before she went into public office.
Eric Swalwell: California prosecutor turned rep who is the only member of the impeachment managers who was also involved in the first trial. Target of Republican ire for his admitted relationship with a Chinese spy called Fang Fang which he ended when the FBI warned him she was a spy
Stacey Plaskett: Represents the Virgin Islands and therefore has no vote but was an assistant district attorney in the Bronx before entering Congress.
Joe Neguse: Private practice lawyer who is now a two-term Colorado congressman.
Ted Lieu (not in photo): Former Air Force officer who is a reserve colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The California rep is another bitter public critic of Trump.
Madeleine Dean (not in photo): Pennsylvania attorney turned English professor and member of its house of representatives whose Pennsylvania district is also home of Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s defense team.
David Schoen: Alabama-based criminal defense attorney who has previously represented Roger Stone, and met with Jeffrey Epstein just before his death – then suggested he did not believe it was suicide. Observant Jewish attorney said he would not work on the Sabbath, leading to impeachment trial being scheduled not to sit from 5pm on Friday, but later said he was not needed that day, allowing it to go on.
Bruce Castor: Castor was Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney when he decided not to prosecute Bill Cosby on rape charges which his successor went ahead with, leading to the comedian being convicted and imprisoned. Castor settled a defamation case with victim Andrea Costand. Later became acting attorney general of Pennsylvania, and is now in private practice.
Michael van der Veen: Added to the roster of attorneys on the eve of the trial. Philadelphia personal injury attorney who is close to Castor – Castor joined his firm in December – and has also been a criminal defense attorney. A former client said he called Trump a ‘f***ing crook’ in summer 2020.
William Brennan: Veteran Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who appears to have joined on the first day of the trial. Has represented pro-Trump figures but also a college student charged with trying to steal Trump’s tax returns.