DONALD TRUMP

Trump Defense Dodges Question on What He Did to Stop Capitol Attack, Says There Was No Insurrection

U.S. Senate TV | Reuters

This coverage has ended.

After House impeachment managers spent two days presenting harrowing evidence including shocking video footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, former President Donald Trump's lawyers took to the floor of the Senate on Friday to defend him in his trial.

Trump's legal team, cobbled together less than a week before the trial was set to begin, accused Democrats of threatening free speech and trying to disqualify their political competition by pushing to convict the former president on the charge of inciting insurrection.

The defense claimed the charge was baseless, arguing there was no insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, calling it a violent riot instead. Five people died as a result of the mob attack, which sought to prevent Congress from confirming President Joe Biden's election victory. Dozens who took part in the riots, including members of militia groups, have been arrested.

Trump's lawyers concluded their arguments in under four hours, far less time than the prosecution. A question-and-answer session followed in which senators challenged the defense and prosecution on the merits of their cases.

The defense team's opening appearance was widely panned on Tuesday after attorney Bruce Castor offered a rambling and at times incoherent argument on why the trial itself was unconstitutional. The effort failed, with 56 senators voting to proceed.

However, the defense team seemed to have hit their marks on Friday. Even Trump critics such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, praised the performance of the former president's lawyers today.

Though some Republican senators have also called the evidence presented by House managers earlier this week "compelling," it remains unlikely that two-thirds of the Senate, which is evenly split between parties, will vote to convict Trump.

Trump impeachment trial ends for night, set to resume Saturday morning

The Senate impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump ended its fourth day early Friday evening, with vote on the verdict set for Saturday.

Friday's session saw closing arguments by Trump's defense team, who argued that senators should acquit him because the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that he is accused of inciting was actually premeditated by a disaparate group of agitators weeks before he hosted a rally that day outside the White House.

The Senate's 48 Democrats and two independent members, who caucus with Democrats, are expected to all vote to convict Trump.

For the former president to be convicted, 17 of his fellow Republicans would need find him guilty. That outcome is considered to be a longshot, as 44 GOP senators earlier had voted in favor of blocking the trial on the argument that a president cannot be tried for an impeachment after leaving office.

Dan Mangan

Senate awards former Capitol Police officer Goodman congressional gold medal

The Senate unanimously awarded former Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for directing the mob that overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 away from senators.

The chamber bestowed the highest civilian award it can give to Goodman, the acting deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms, at the conclusion of the question-and-answer period of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Senators, House impeachment managers and Trump's lawyers gave Goodman a standing ovation as he stood in the back of the chamber.

"I think we can all agree that Eugene Goodman deserves the highest honor Congress can bestow," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. He added that Goodman showed "calmness under pressure" and "willingness to make himself a target of the mob's rage so that others might reach safety."

Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., thanked Goodman and others in the Capitol Police force for preventing the pro-Trump mob from reaching former Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress.

"If not for the bravery and quick thinking of Officer Eugene Goodman, in particular, people in this chamber may not have escaped that day unharmed," McConnell said.

A widely shared video taken on Jan. 6 showed Goodman alone directing rioters up a staircase and away from an open path toward the Senate chamber. Footage unveiled during the trial this week showed Goodman passing Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in a hallway and directing him away from the mob.

— Jacob Pramuk

Senate Q&A concludes

Senators have concluded asking questions of Trump's defense team and the Democratic prosecutors.

Trump trial is about 'preserving the republic,' Raskin says

U.S. House lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) answers a question submitted by Senators to the impeachment managers 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, February 12, 2021.
U.S. Senate TV via Reuters
U.S. House lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) answers a question submitted by Senators to the impeachment managers 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, February 12, 2021.

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin grew agitated after Donald Trump's lawyers repeatedly declined to answer questions about what the former president knew and when during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Trump's defense team and the impeachment managers were asked if the former president tolerated threats against former Vice President Mike Pence. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., cited a comment from Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., saying he had told Trump that Pence was evacuated from the Senate before Trump sent a tweet criticizing Pence.

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen disputed the premise of Tuberville's comment and again did not specify what Trump knew before he sent the tweet about Pence. Raskin grew exasperated when he answered the same question.

He noted that the impeachment trial "is not a criminal proceeding" and does not give the former president the protection against self-incrimination. He added that "this is about preserving the republic."

Rasking said: "Rather than yelling at us and screaming about how 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 about why he was sending out tweets denouncing the vice president of the United States while the vice president was being hunted down by a mob that wanted to hang him and was chanting, in this building, 'Hang Mike Pence!'"

— Jacob Pramuk

Trump did 'nothing' to stop violence during Capitol riot, Democrat says

Then-President Donald Trump did "nothing" for hours to stop the violence during the Capitol riot, a House impeachment manager said at his Senate impeachment trial.

Stacey Plaskett's scathing dismissal of Trump came in response to Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who noted that the ex-president's lawyers had failed to answer the question about when Trump learned of the breach of the Capitol, and what specific actions he took to stop the attack.

"This attack was on live TV, on all major networks, in real time, said Plaskett, who serves in the House as a non-voting delegate from the Virgin Islands.

"The president as president has access to intelligence, including reports from inside the Capitol. He knew the violence that was underway, he knew the severity of that and most importantly he knew Capitol police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and in a fight for their lives against thousands of insurgents with weapons."

"We know that he knew that," Plaskett said. "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, this is wrong, you must go back.' We did not hear that."

"So what else did the president do? We are unclear," she said. "But we believe it was a dereliction of his duty and that was because he was the one who caused them to come to the Capitol, and they were doing what he asked them to do, so there was no need to stop them from what they were engaged in."

Plaskett noted that her fellow impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., had asked during the trial why Trump did not condemn the violence and ask his supporters to leave the Capitol as soon as he heard of the riot, and why he did not send reinforcements to the complex to help police there.

She also pointed to video shown during trial from an officer's body camera, which showed him "still fighting" rioters at 4:29 p.m. — hours after the mob invaded the Capitol. But even by that point, Trump still had not sent help.

"The reason this question keeps coming up" — what did Trump do to stop the attack — "is because the answer is: 'Nothing,'" Plaskett said.

—Dan Mangan

Plaskett suggests Trump defense team videos of Democrats had racist undertones

U.S. House impeachment manager and Delegate from the Virgin Islands Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) answers a question submitted by Senators to the impeachment managers 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, February 12, 2021.
U.S. Senate TV via Reuters
U.S. House impeachment manager and Delegate from the Virgin Islands Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) answers a question submitted by Senators to the impeachment managers 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, February 12, 2021.

House impeachment manager Rep. Stacey Plaskett suggested Donald Trump's lawyers leveraged racism in defending the former president against charges of inciting an insurrection.

During their presentation, Trump's attorneys repeatedly showed videos of Black Democrats including Vice President Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Cory Booker urging supporters to "fight" for a particular cause. They aimed to put the politicians' speech into the same category as the rhetoric that Democrats have said led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Plaskett, a Black woman who is the delegate for the U.S. Virgin Islands, noted that the defense team's videos disproportionately targeted Black politicians.

"The defense counsels put out a lot of videos out in their defense, playing clip after clip of Black women talking about fighting for a cause or an issue or a policy," she said while answering a question about the implications of the Senate's potential acquittal of Trump. "It was not lost on me, so many of them were people of color and women. Black women, Black women like myself who are sick and tired of being sick and tired for our children."

Plaskett later added: "I thought we were past that. I think maybe we're not."

— Jacob Pramuk

Trump defense team claims Trump did not know Pence was in danger

Former President Donald Trump's defense team claims the former president did not know that Vice President Mike Pence was in imminent danger on Jan. 6.

When asked if Trump knew about the danger his vice president was in, Michael van der Veen said, "No," adding, "at no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger."

"To be clear, this is an article of impeachment for incitement. This is not an article of impeachment for anything else," van der Veen said. "So that the question, although answered directly, 'No,' it's not really relevant to the charge for impeachment in this case."

However, House Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro asked, "How could he not know?" Castro argued the news of what was transpiring within the Capitol building was being reported across all media.

Christian Nunley

Trump lawyer dodges question about what Trump did to stop Capitol riot

A lawyer for Donald Trump did not directly answer when asked "exactly when" the former president found out rioters breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 and what specific actions he took to stop the violence.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — two of the Republicans considered most likely to vote to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection — posed the question to Trump's defense team.

Attorney Michael van der Veen only went as far as to say Trump sent a tweet about the attack on 2:38 p.m. ET that day, "so it was certainly sometime before that."

He claimed the onus was on House impeachment managers to find out the information. The attorney contended the Democratic prosecutors relied on "hearsay" to make their case.

— Jacob Pramuk

Romney reveals planned questions ahead of Q&A portion of impeachment trial

Sen. Mitch Romney, R-Utah, has released questions to the public that he plans to ask in the Q&A portion of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

His questions include:

  • When did President Trump first learn that the Capitol was breached and what specific actions did he personally take to defend the Capitol, Vice President Pence, and the others inside? 
  • Is it necessary to the House Managers' case to prove that President Trump intended for the mob to enter the Capitol and cause mayhem? 
  • When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24PM regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that the Vice President had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?
  • Is it the position of Counsel to the former President that President Trump's call to the Georgia Secretary of State was not an attempt to have him falsify the election results? 
  • Did President Trump personally approve the deployment of the National Guard to the Capitol and if so, at what time?

Christian Nunley

Trump defense team wraps up argument, both sides to take questions

Bruce Castor (L) and David Schoen, Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal defense team arrive prior to the start of opening arguments in the impeachment trial of Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, February 10, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Pool | Reuters
Bruce Castor (L) and David Schoen, Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal defense team arrive prior to the start of opening arguments in the impeachment trial of Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, February 10, 2021.

Donald Trump's defense team has wrapped up its case, arguing that the former president's Jan. 6 speech is protected by the First Amendment and that he did not incite the violent attack on the Capitol.

Bruce Castor, one of Trump's two defense lawyers, was the last to speak.

Both legal teams are now set to hear questions from the Senate. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have publicly stated they've submitted questions, according to Politico.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., confirmed this Q&A will be the last proceeding on Friday, according to NBC News.

Christian Nunley

Key GOP senator praises Trump defense team

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee nomination hearing for Marty Walsh to be labor secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021.
Graeme Jennings | Pool | Reuters
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee nomination hearing for Marty Walsh to be labor secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021.

One of the Republican senators most critical of Donald Trump's conduct after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol praised the arguments presented by the former president's lawyers.

"I think they are putting on a good defense today," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said, according to NBC News.

Murkowski, who called on Trump to resign following the riot last month, criticized the president's attorneys earlier in the week. She was one of only six GOP senators who voted to say Trump's second impeachment trial was constitutional, and is considered one of the Republicans most likely to vote to convict the former president.

Other GOP lawmakers who have defended Trump throughout the process offered more predictable praise for the defense team. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., wrote in a tweet that the president's lawyers "blew the House Manager's case out of the water."

— Jacob Pramuk

'Clearly there was no insurrection' at the Capitol, Trump lawyer says

Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump.

A lawyer for former President Donald Trump said that the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a violent riot but not an insurrection.

Attorney Bruce Castor Jr., making the case for Trump's acquittal, said that "the critical issue in this case" is about incitement.

"That issue is, did the 45th president engage in an incitement of, [Democrats] continue to say, insurrection. Clearly there was no insurrection," Castor said.

"Insurrection is a term of art," he elaborated. "It's defined in the law, it involves taking over a country, a shadow government taking the TV stations over and having some plan of what you're gonna do when you finally take power."

"Clearly this is not that. What our colleagues here across the aisle meant is incitement to violence, to riot."

Kevin Breuninger

Trump's defense presentation is 'almost over,' lawyer says

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Bruce Castor Jr., defense lawyer for former President Donald Trump, speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Congress.gov | Getty Images
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Bruce Castor Jr., defense lawyer for former President Donald Trump, speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.

The defense team's presentation in the impeachment trial is "almost over," a lawyer for former President Donald Trump said.

Attorney Bruce Castor Jr., the first member of Trump's legal team to speak in the Senate trial, said around 2:30 p.m. ET that the defense would wrap up its arguments within "another hour" or so.

Trump's team began laying out its case at noon. The attorneys were allotted 16 hours to present their arguments against conviction and disqualification.

Kevin Breuninger

House impeachment managers respond to accusations of manipulating tweets and video

An aide to the House impeachment team pushed back after defense lawyers accused them of manipulating evidence in their presentation.

The examples from former President Donald Trump's lawyer David Schoen included an incorrect date on a tweet — which was corrected prior to the trial — and a Twitter verification symbol that he said was wrongly attached to a user's account.

Schoen also slammed the team for recreating images of Trump's tweets, rather than using screenshots.

"As Trump's attorneys are no doubt aware, President Trump's Twitter account has been removed by Twitter and so is only available in archive instead of screenshots," a senior aide to the impeachment team told NBC News.

"As Trump's attorneys spotlighted, while inexplicably condemning the Managers for a draft graphic of a tweet barely visible on a computer screen inside a New York Times photo that was not shown in the Senate, it is necessary to format and blow up the text of tweets into a graphic so that Senators can see it," the aide said.

"The text is entirely unchanged."

The aide said that a graphic was included in their presentation that "accidentally had a blue verification checkmark on it, but the substance of it was entirely accurate."

"So what is Trump's attorneys' point?" the aide asked.

"If anything, it is further evidence of President Trump's attention to and knowledge of what was being openly planned on Jan. 6 by his followers, even those without Twitter verifications."

Kevin Breuninger

Trump lawyer defends pre-riot speech: 'Suddenly the word 'fight' is off limits?'

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.
Jim Bourg | Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.

A member of the impeachment defense team defended former President Donald Trump's speech at his rally outside the White House just prior to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

"Suddenly the word 'fight' is off limits? Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation," attorney Michael van der Veen told the Senate.

Democratic House impeachment managers had repeatedly pointed to a key phrase from that speech — "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore" — as part of their argument that he is guilty of inciting the Capitol riot.

Van der Veen argued that the word "fight" is commonplace in politics, used rhetorically and metaphorically and never taken as a literal call to action.

Earlier in the presentation, Trump's legal team played a lengthy video, splicing together dozens of instances of Democrats using the word publicly.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump lawyer accuses Democrats of 'Big Lie' hypocrisy at impeachment trial

In this image from video, a defense exhibit video plays for senators, as Michael van der Veen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, speaks during the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.
US Senate TV | AP
In this image from video, a defense exhibit video plays for senators, as Michael van der Veen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, speaks during the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

A lawyer for President Donald Trump accused Democrats of hypocrisy by claiming that the purported "Big Lie" Trump told about election fraud incited the Capitol riot.

David Schoen, the attorney, noted that Democrats repeatedly objected to the certification of Trump's electoral victory during a session of Congress in 2017.

One of them was Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who was a prosecutor at Trump's Senate impeachment trial, where Schoen was making closing arguments.

To underscore his point, Schoen played a highlight video reel of Democrats arguing that Trump's first election win was fraudulent.

Democratic impeachment managers "said that raising the issue of election security and casting doubt on the propriety of the election was dangerous," Schoen said.

"The House managers tell you that it was the Big Lie that incited the riot, and that Big Lie was President Trump's claim that the election was not a fair election," the lawyer said.

But Schoen said Democrats had a double standard, in which any challenge to election integrity by their party was legitimate, "irrespective of whether there is any evidence to support their claim," while similar challenges by Republicans are dangerous.

"You've been doing it for years," Schoen told Democrats.

Democrats have argued that Trump's monthslong claims of widespread ballot fraud sparked the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol. Trump's claims have been repeatedly rejected by courts, and even by Republican elected officials in states such as Georgia.

— Dan Mangan

Trump attorney claims Democrats violated due process through swift impeachment

David Schoen, defense attorney for Donald Trump, speaks in the Senate Chamber in a video screenshot in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.
Senate TV | Bloomberg | Getty Images
David Schoen, defense attorney for Donald Trump, speaks in the Senate Chamber in a video screenshot in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

An attorney for Donald Trump argued the House violated due process for the former president through its swift impeachment process.

The chamber impeached Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 13, a week after a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol while lawmakers formalized President Joe Biden's electoral win. In order to impeach Trump before he left office, Democratic leaders skipped traditional parts of the process, including committee hearings.

"The hatred that the House managers and others on the left have for President Trump has driven them to skip the basic elements of due process and fairness, and to rush an impeachment through the House claiming 'urgency,'" Trump lawyer David Schoen contended.

He later argued "you get more due process than this when you fight a parking ticket."

Democrats urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the chamber back using emergency powers for the trial before Trump left office. He declined to do so, saying the Senate would not be able to conduct a full trial before Biden's inauguration even if it reconvened early.

Schoen claimed Democrats deliberately held the article of impeachment back until they controlled the Senate after the swearing-in of Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia on Jan. 20.

— Jacob Pramuk

Trump lawyer accuses Democrats of 'false representations of tweets'

Defense lawyer David Schoen accused Democratic House managers of manipulating evidence by making "false representations of tweets" in their presentation.

His examples included an incorrect date on a tweet — which was corrected prior to the trial — and a Twitter verification symbol that he said was wrongly attached to a user's account.

After decrying what they described as a lack of due process afforded to former President Donald Trump, Schoen claimed there is "significant reason to doubt" the evidence put forward by the prosecutors.

"Let me say this clearly: We have reason to believe the House managers manipulated evidence and selectively edited footage."

"If they did, and this were a court of law, they would face sanctions from the judge," the lawyer said.

Schoen's first example involved a picture from The New York Times, showing lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., staring at a computer screen displaying two tweets, one of which was from Trump.

Schoen said that the timestamps on the bottom of the tweets incorrectly showed the year as 2020, rather than 2021.

"To be fair, the House managers caught this error before showing this image on the Senate floor, so you never saw it when it was presented to you," Schoen told the Senate.

"But that's not all," he said.

He then showed two pictures of a Twitter user's account handle. One picture included a verification symbol — the "blue check" signifying that the account belongs to the entity it purports to be — and the other did not. Schoen said the account was unverified, and that the managers wrongly added the verification symbol in their presentation.

"Were you trying to make her account seem more significant?" Schoen asked rhetorically. "Or were you just sloppy?"

Schoen also asserted that managers selectively edited video during their presentation in order to make it appear that Trump was speaking to crowds when he wasn't.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump lawyer says Capitol riot premeditated: 'You can't incite what was already going to happen'

Trump supporters near the U.S Capitol, on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Shay Horse | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Trump supporters near the U.S Capitol, on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

A lawyer for former President Donald Trump argued that the impeachment trial charge that he incited the Capitol riot was preposterous because the violence was "premeditated."

"You can't incite what was already going to happen," said the attorney, Michael van der Veen, as he opened the defense argument at Trump's Senate trial.

"The fact that the attack was apparently premeditated, as alleged by the House managers, demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegation against the president," van der Veen said.

The lawyer argued that "various different stripes and political persuasions" conducted that pre-planned assault on the Capitol, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming number of people at that riot identified as supporters of Trump.

Van der Veen also suggested that local and federal authorities in Washington failed to prepare adequately in terms of security on Jan. 6 because of "a sustained negative narrative in the media regarding the necessity" of federal forces violently clearing the area outside the White House of protestors last summer.

The lawyer claimed, without offering evidence, that the controversial sweep of Lafayette Square, which allowed Trump to pose for cameras while holding up a Bible outside of a nearby church, "certainly prevented many calamities from occurring."

"There must be a discussion of the decision by political leadership regarding force posture and security in advance of the" Capitol riot, van der Veen said.

"It must be investigated whether the proper force posture was not initiated due to political pressure stemming from the events at Lafayette Square."

Trump waited for hours, despite pleas from a number of people, to urge his supporters to leave the Capitol, even as then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress hid in secure locations to prevent becoming victims of the mob.

Dan Mangan

Trump lawyer argues impeachment threatens freedom of speech

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, video evidence is presented as former President Donald Trump's defense attorney David Schoen speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Congress.gov | Getty Images
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, video evidence is presented as former President Donald Trump's defense attorney David Schoen speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.

One of Donald Trump's attorneys argued convicting the former president of inciting an insurrection would have a chilling effect on free speech.

The Senate impeachment trial "poses a serious threat to freedom of speech for political leaders of all parties in every level of government," lawyer Michael van der Veen contended. He called the former president's comments that led up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "ordinary political rhetoric."

The defense attorneys supported their arguments with video of comments from Democratic lawmakers urging resistance to the Trump administration. The Democrats' comments, however, did not lead to violent attempts to disrupt the transfer of power from one White House to the next.

Democrats argued that Trump incited the mob that attacked the Capitol by urging them to contest the 2020 presidential election results based on conspiracy theories that widespread fraud cost him a second term. They also said he did not initially try to tamp down the violence, as he tweeted criticism of Vice President Mike Pence while some of the rioters sought to harm Pence.

— Jacob Pramuk

Democrats' push to disqualify Trump is 'constitutional cancel culture,' defense lawyer says

Michael van der Veen, defense attorney for Donald Trump, speaks in the Senate Chamber in a video screenshot in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.
Senate TV | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Michael van der Veen, defense attorney for Donald Trump, speaks in the Senate Chamber in a video screenshot in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Defense lawyer Michael van der Veen said that the push by Democrats to not only convict Trump but disqualify him from running for federal office again is an attempt to "disqualify their competition."

"It is constitutional cancel culture," van der Veen said in the Senate trial.

The power to disqualify following impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution itself: "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States."

But van der Veen said the "plainly unconstitutional" trial against Trump, who is no longer president, would "transform" impeachment into "a mechanism for asserting government control over which private citizens are and are not allowed to run for president."

Kevin Breuninger

Cruz, Graham, Lee discussed strategy with Trump defense team

From left, Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, wear protective masks while talking during a break of a confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images
From left, Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, wear protective masks while talking during a break of a confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee discussed "strategy" and rebuttal advice with former president Donald Trump's legal team shortly after House Democratic impeachment managers rested their case Thursday, according to NBC News.

Graham, Cruz and Lee are all senators who will be voting on whether to convict former President Trump.

After the meeting Cruz briefly spoke with reporters, saying that the parties in the meeting discussed legal strategy and shared their thoughts.

David Schoen, a member of Trump's legal defense team, said, "There's nothing about this thing that has any semblance of due process whatsoever," and added they were "just talking about procedure, making sure we're familiar with the procedure."

Christian Nunley

Trump's team kicks off impeachment defense, accuses Democrats of seeking 'political vengeance'

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, former President Donald Trump's defense attorney Michael van der Veen speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Congress.gov | Getty Images
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, former President Donald Trump's defense attorney Michael van der Veen speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.

A member of former President Donald Trump's defense team began his argument for acquittal by slamming the trial as an "unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance" by Democrats.

"This appalling abuse of the Constitution only further divides our nation when we should be trying to come together around shared priorities," attorney Michael van der Veen said on the Senate floor.

"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," van der Veen said.

"The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it."

Kevin Breuninger

Biden: I'm 'anxious' to see if Republicans 'stand up' in impeachment trial

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors on his Covid-19 relief plan, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 12, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors on his Covid-19 relief plan, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 12, 2021.

President Joe Biden said Friday he is "anxious" to see if Republicans will take a stand in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

"I'm anxious to see what my Republican friends do. Will they stand up," Biden told reporters on the White House North Lawn. The president's remark came shortly before Trump's defense team began their arguments for his acquittal.

Biden, who is pushing for lawmakers of both parties to back his massive coronavirus relief plan, has largely steered clear of discussing Trump's second impeachment trial.

"I'm focused on my job," the president told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday. But he added that he had seen news coverage of House Democrats' presentation in the trial, saying, "My guess is some minds may be changed."

Kevin Breuninger

What to expect from Trump's legal defense team

Bruce Castor (L) and David Schoen, Trump's defense lawyers, arrive for the second day of former U.S. President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, at the Capitol Hill, in Washington, February 10, 2021.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
Bruce Castor (L) and David Schoen, Trump's defense lawyers, arrive for the second day of former U.S. President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, at the Capitol Hill, in Washington, February 10, 2021.

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are set to respond to Democratic prosecutors' arguments that Trump incited the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The defense team, scheduled to take the Senate floor at noon, is expected to make the case that the mob alone is responsible for storming the building, and that Trump's incendiary words at a pre-riot rally are protected speech under the First Amendment.

The defense team is expected to limit their presentation to one day, according to Trump advisor Jason Miller. Trump lawyer David Schoen has said the team's presentation could take as little as three to four hours.

House managers, in contrast, spent the better part of two days delivering their presentation, which was filled with video footage of the attack and analyzed months of Trump's statements.

Whether or not the defense team makes a more convincing case, they have numbers on their side. Convicting Trump requires two-thirds of the Senate, which means 17 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats. The majority of GOP senators earlier this week voted that the trial was not constitutional.

Christian Nunley

Trump 'let us down,' former UN ambassador Nikki Haley says

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, speaks at a campaign rally for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Cumming, Georgia, U.S., on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, speaks at a campaign rally for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Cumming, Georgia, U.S., on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Days after the mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley tore into former President Donald Trump for his post-election conduct and his pre-riot rally speech.

"We need to acknowledge he let us down," said Haley in a Politico interview conducted on Jan. 12 that was published Friday morning. Haley, who served in the Trump administration, in the past has taken care not to criticize him.

"He went down a path he shouldn't have, and we shouldn't have followed him, and we shouldn't have listened to him. And we can't let that ever happen again," Haley said.

In the interview, Haley said she was "disgusted" by Trump's attacks on his vice president, Mike Pence, who had "been nothing but loyal to that man."

"I am so disappointed in the fact that [despite] the loyalty and friendship he had with Mike Pence, that he would do that to him," she said of Trump heaping pressure on Pence to reject Electoral College results. Legal experts say Pence had no power to do so under the law, and the then-vice president refused to comply with Trump's demand.

Despite her condemnation, Haley told Politico that she thought impeaching Trump over the invasion of the Capitol was "a waste of time." Asked how Trump should be held accountable absent impeachment, she said, "I think he's going to find himself further and further isolated."

Haley, who is widely reported to be considering a run for the presidency, had avoided criticizing Trump after he spread an array of voter-fraud conspiracy theories following his election loss to President Joe Biden.

Asked in mid-December if it was dangerous for Trump to publicly insist that he was cheated out of reelection, Haley told Politico, "He believes it." Asked if Trump was being responsible with his bully pulpit, Haley repeated: "He believes it."

But the following month, in the wake of the deadly attack on the Capitol, Haley said, "At the time, I didn't think that was dangerous."

"Since the election ... I mean, I'm deeply disturbed by what's happened to him," she said.

Pressed on whether she was really surprised at Trump's post-election conduct — and if so, how she could have so badly misread his character — Haley said, "My leadership stands on its own grounds. ... I'm not going to apologize."

"That's not poor leadership. That's sitting there looking at someone knowing the relationship that you had, knowing the good that he had, and watching someone fall apart, in awe, going, 'How did this happen?'" she said.

Kevin Breuninger

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