Things got heated there for a minute.
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, who has hinted at some mild hesitation in siding with most of his GOP colleagues to acquit Trump, asked about Trump’s tweets castigating Mike Pence, even after reports that Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville told Trump that Mike Pence had been pursued by rioters and evacuated.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to know the answer to the facts of this proceeding, because the House did nothing to investigate what went on,” said Van der Veen, without directly responding to the substance of the question.
Raskin did not appreciate that line of argument. “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,” he said.
Hi there, it’s Maanvi Singh – taking over the blog.
Donald Trump’s defense would not answer a question from Bernie Sanders on whether they believe Trump won the 2020 election.
“My judgment. Who asked that? My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding,” Trump attorney Van der Veen said.
Elizabeth Warren, Democratic senator from Massachusetts, asks a question. She notes that the defense pointed out that Democrats have objected to electoral college results before, and asks if they have ever done so hours after an insurrection at the Capitol?
No one really answers it but Warren is getting a lot of fire emoji tweets on Twitter.
Democratic senator Ed Markey asks when Trump learned of the breach at the Capitol, and what he did about it. (It’s the same question Collins and Murkowski asked earlier.)
Stacey Plaskett, a House delegate from the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager, says we do not know. “The reason this question keeps coming up is because the answer is nothing.”
Mitt Romney, Republican senator and Trump foe, asks if Trump knew whether Mike Pence had been removed from the Senate when the president criticized him in a 2.24pm tweet.
Defense lawyer Van der Veen says “the answer is no, at no point was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger”. Van der Veen then criticizes the House impeachment managers for rushing the trial.
I don’t see the connection.
Republican senator Tim Scott has a question: “Isn’t this simply a political show trial that is designed to discredit President Trump […] and shame the 74m Americans who voted for him?”
Bruce Castor, for the defense: “Thats precisely what the 45th president believes this is about.”
Castor says the purpose of the trial – which is actually related to an insurrection that left five people dead – is to “embarrass” Trump.
A question for the defense team, from GOP senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski:
“Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol” and what actions did he take to bring the riot to an end?
Van der Veen, for the defense, doesn’t give a proper answer.
Collins and Murkowski are believed to be swing voters on whether to convict Trump.
Senator Lindsey Graham has a question for the defense. The question is on behalf of Graham, Senator Ted Cruz, and others – all ardent Trump defenders.
“Does a politician raising bail for rioters encourage more rioting?” the defense is asked.
One of the defense lawyers – I think it’s Castor says: “Yes.”
This is part of the Republican strategy to compare the Capitol rioters to Black Lives Matter protesters.
“Isn’t it the case that the attack [on January 6] would not have happened if not for Donald Trump?” was the first, strangely worded question. It’s posed by Democratic senators to the House impeachment managers (essentially, the prosecution.)
Rep Joaquin Castro, one of the impeachment managers, answered. Castro said – essentially – yes.
He said Trump, as far back as mid-December, directed his supporters to travel to the Capitol on January 6. Once there, Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell”, and told them “they could play by different rules”, Castro said.
The impeachment trial has restarted shortly. In the next phase, Senators will have four hours to ask the defense and the prosecution questions.
It’s not clear how late they’ll run tonight. There’s a dinner break scheduled for 5pm, but the questioning could resume after. The Senate will reconvene at 10am ET Saturday, and a final vote could take place later that day, at 3pm.
Trump’s legal team has wrapped up its defense
That was a bit of an anti-climax. Castor finished by pivoting back to the free speech argument Trump’s lawyers made earlier – that Trump’s speech to his supporters on January 6 was protected under the first amendment.
“This trial is about far more than President Trump,” Castor said. He said the trial is instead about canceling speech that “the majority does not agree with”.
“Are we going to allow canceling and silencing to be sanctioned in this body?” Castor asked.
Trump’s defense argument seems to hinge both on a) Trump’s speech on January 6 did not incite the riot (although the defense team did not address Trump’s previous statements) and b) in any case, what Trump said is protected by free speech laws.
Castor suggested that Trump’s speech on January 6 did not incite the riot
The lawyer hasn’t addressed the broader issue of whether Trump’s months-long tirade against the election result had anything to do with it.
“The January 6 speech did not cause the riots,” Castor said.
Castor then moved onto the January phone call between Trump and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. During that call Trump pressured Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” votes so that Trump could be announced the winner in Georgia.
Georgia prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry into Trump’s call.
Castor read from a transcript of the call and said Trump was expressing legitimate concern over the election result.
For some context, here is some of what Trump said in that Georgia phone call:
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
Bruce Castor continues. He says the House impeachment managers “manipulated” Trump’s words when they presented their case.
Castor then speaks Latin for a little bit and suggests House impeachment managers are “trying to fool you”.
“President Trump was immediate in his calls for calm,” Castor says. (Trump wasn’t.)
“President Trump’s words couldn’t have incited the events at the capitol,” Castor said, because people were already gathering at the Capitol before Trump gave his speech at the Ellipse, which a 15 minute walk away.
DOJ has specifically referred to the events of Jan. 6 as an insurrection. https://t.co/msWzru3fXd
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) February 12, 2021
Castor began his defense by showing a video, most of which is cribbed from the video Trump’s legal team played earlier.
It contrasts Democrats defending Black Lives Matter protesters, spliced in with selected clips of violence at some of the BLM demonstrations, with Trump talking about “law and order”. Law and order is frequently used as a racist dog whistle.
“January 6 was a terrible day for our country,” Castor conceded, but he continued: “President Trump did not incite or cause the horrific violence.”
This tactic from the defense – that Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol was bad, but it wasn’t Trump’s fault – is something we expected.
Castor added: “Political hatred has no place in the American justice system, and certainly no place in the congress of the United States.”
Donald Trump’s legal team has resumed their defense. Bruce Castor, who reportedly left Trump furious after a lackluster performance earlier this week, will handle the next section.
During the break, Democratic senators lined up to pan the defense.
“Donald Trump was told that if he didn’t stop lying about the election people would be killed,” Senator Tim Kaine told reporters, according to the Washington Post. “He wouldn’t stop, and the Capitol was attacked and seven people are dead who would be alive today.”
Senator Richard J. Blumenthal said the Trump defense team is “trying to draw a false, dangerous and distorted equivalence”, the Post reported.
“And I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump’s inviting the mob to Washington, knowing it was armed; changing the route and the timing so as to incite them to march on the Capitol; and then reveling, without remorse, without doing anything to protect his own vice president and all of us,” Blumenthal said.
“I think that the case is even more powerful after this very distorted and false argument.”