Former President Donald J. Trump’s authorized workforce mounted a combative protection on Friday targeted extra on assailing Democrats for “hypocrisy” and “hatred” than justifying Mr. Trump’s personal monthslong effort to overturn a democratic election that culminated in final month’s lethal assault on the Capitol.
After days of highly effective video footage exhibiting a mob of Trump supporters beating law enforcement officials, chasing lawmakers and threatening to kill the vp and House speaker, Mr. Trump’s legal professionals denied that he had incited what they known as a “small group” that turned violent. Instead, they tried to show the tables by calling out Democrats for their very own language, which they deemed simply as incendiary as Mr. Trump’s.
In so doing, the previous president’s legal professionals went after not simply the House Democrats serving as managers, or prosecutors, within the Senate impeachment trial, however half of the jurors sitting in entrance of them within the chamber. A rat-a-tat-tat montage of video clips performed by the Trump workforce confirmed almost each Democratic senator in addition to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris utilizing the phrase “fight” or the phrase “fight like hell” simply as Mr. Trump did at a rally of supporters on Jan. 6 simply earlier than the siege of the Capitol.
“Suddenly, the word ‘fight’ is off limits?” mentioned Michael T. van der Veen, one of many legal professionals hurriedly employed in latest days to defend Mr. Trump. “Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation. It’s a term that’s used over and over and over again by politicians on both sides of the aisle. And, of course, the Democrat House managers know that the word ‘fight’ has been used figuratively in political speech forever.”
To emphasize the purpose, the Trump workforce performed a few of the similar clips 4 or 5 occasions in lower than three hours as a few of the Democratic senators shook their heads and not less than considered one of their Republican colleagues laughed appreciatively. The legal professionals argued that the trial was “shameful” and “a deliberate attempt by the Democrat Party to smear, censor and cancel” an opponent after which rested their case with out utilizing even 1 / 4 of the 16 hours allotted to the previous president’s protection.
In the method, they tried to successfully slender the prosecution’s “incitement of insurrection” case as if it centered solely on their shopper’s use of that one phrase in that one speech as a substitute of the relentless marketing campaign that Mr. Trump waged since final summer season to discredit an election he would finally lose and provoke his supporters to assist him cling to energy.
“They really didn’t address the facts of the case at all,” mentioned Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment supervisor. “There were a couple propaganda reels about Democratic politicians that would be excluded in any court in the land. They talk about the rules of evidence — all of that was totally irrelevant to the case before us.”
After the Trump workforce’s abbreviated protection, the senators posed their very own questions, usually utilizing their queries to attain political factors. The questions, a complete of 28 submitted in writing and browse by a clerk, steered that the majority Republicans remained prone to vote to acquit Mr. Trump when the Senate reconvenes for closing arguments at 10 a.m. Saturday, blocking the two-thirds supermajority required by the Constitution for conviction.
Some of the few Republicans considered open to conviction, together with Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, grilled the legal professionals about what Mr. Trump knew and when he knew it throughout the assault. The managers have argued that it was not simply the president’s phrases and actions prematurely of the assault that betrayed his oath, however his failure to behave extra assertively to cease his supporters after it began.
- A trial is being held to determine whether or not former President Donald J. Trump is responsible of inciting a lethal mob of his supporters once they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching safety measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election outcomes. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to question him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would wish a two-thirds majority to have the same opinion. This means not less than 17 Republican senators must vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction appears unlikely. Last month, solely 5 Republicans within the Senate sided with Democrats in beating again a Republican try and dismiss the fees as a result of Mr. Trump is not in workplace. Only 27 senators say they’re undecided about whether or not to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, discovering him responsible of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators may then vote on whether or not to bar him from holding future workplace. That vote would solely require a easy majority, and if it got here all the way down to get together strains, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate doesn’t convict Mr. Trump, the previous president may very well be eligible to run for public workplace as soon as once more. Public opinion surveys present that he stays by far the most well-liked nationwide determine within the Republican Party.
Responding to the senators, the protection legal professionals pointed to mildly worded messages and a video that Mr. Trump posted on Twitter after the constructing was stormed calling on his supporters to not use violence whereas nonetheless endorsing their trigger and telling them that he beloved them. The managers repeated that Mr. Trump by no means made a robust, express name on the rioters to halt the assault, nor did he ship assist.
Mr. Romney and Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, zeroed in on Mr. Trump’s failure to exhibit concern for his personal vp, Mike Pence, who was focused for demise by the previous president’s supporters as a result of he refused to attempt to block finalization of the election. Even after Mr. Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber that day, Mr. Trump attacked him on Twitter, saying that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Mr. van der Veen advised the senators that “at no point was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger.” But in truth, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, advised reporters this week that he spoke by phone with Mr. Trump throughout the assault and advised him that Mr. Pence had been rushed out of the chamber. Officials have mentioned that Mr. Trump by no means known as Mr. Pence to examine on his security and didn’t communicate with him for days.
The protection workforce struggled to keep away from instantly addressing what managers known as Mr. Trump’s “big lie” that the election was stolen, which led his supporters to invade the Capitol to attempt to cease Congress from counting the Electoral College votes ratifying the outcome. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an impartial who caucuses with the Democrats, challenged Mr. Trump’s legal professionals to say whether or not they consider he really received the election.
“My judgment?” Mr. van der Veen replied derisively after which demanded: “Who asked that?”
“I did,” Mr. Sanders known as out from his seat.
“My judgment’s irrelevant in this proceeding,” Mr. van der Veen mentioned, prompting an eruption from Democratic senators. He repeated that “it’s irrelevant” to the query of whether or not Mr. Trump incited the riot.
Senate Democrats dismissed the protection’s efforts to equate Mr. Trump’s actions with Democratic speeches. “They’re trying to draw a dangerous and distorted equivalence,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, advised reporters throughout a break within the trial. “I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump inviting the mob to Washington.”
But for Republicans searching for causes to acquit Mr. Trump, the protection was greater than sufficient. “The president’s lawyers blew the House managers’ case out of the water,” mentioned Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin.
Even Ms. Murkowski, who known as on Mr. Trump to resign after the Capitol siege, mentioned the protection workforce was “more on their game” than throughout the trial’s opening day this week, though by day’s finish, she indicated to a reporter she was agonizing over the choice.
“It’s been five weeks — less than five weeks — since an event that shook the very core the very foundation of our democracy,” she mentioned. “And we’ve had a lot to process since then.”
During the query interval, senators intently watched for clues about the place their colleagues stood. Although most lawmakers nonetheless guessed that solely a handful of Republicans would vote to convict, a further group of Republicans, together with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority chief, have mentioned virtually nothing to colleagues concerning the unfolding trial in non-public or throughout day by day luncheons earlier than it convenes, prompting hypothesis that they may very well be making ready to interrupt from the get together.
The managers want 17 Republicans to hitch all 50 Democrats to succeed in the two-thirds required for conviction. While Mr. Trump can not be faraway from workplace as a result of his time period has ended, he may very well be barred from ever searching for public workplace once more.
The former president had hassle recruiting a authorized workforce to defend him. The legal professionals who represented him final yr throughout his first impeachment trial didn’t come again for this one, and the set of legal professionals he initially employed for this continuing backed out in disagreement over technique. Bruce L. Castor Jr., the chief of this third set, was extensively criticized for his preliminary presentation on Tuesday, together with reportedly by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Castor and David I. Schoen had been largely supplanted on Friday by Mr. van der Veen, who has no lengthy historical past with the president and in reality was reported to have as soon as called Mr. Trump a “crook” with an expletive, a press release he has denied. Just final yr, Mr. van der Veen represented a shopper suing Mr. Trump over moves that might limit mail-in voting and accused the president of constructing claims with “no evidence.”
But Mr. van der Veen on Friday supplied the form of aggressive efficiency that Mr. Trump prefers from his representatives as he accused the opposite facet of “doctoring the evidence” with “manipulated video,” all to advertise “a preposterous and monstrous lie” that the previous president inspired violence.
A private damage lawyer whose Philadelphia legislation agency solicits slip-and-fall purchasers on the radio and whose web site boasts of profitable judgments stemming from auto accidents and one case “involving a dog bite,” Mr. van der Veen proceeded to lecture Mr. Raskin, who taught constitutional legislation at American University for greater than 25 years, concerning the Constitution. The managers’ arguments, Mr. van der Veen mentioned, had been “less than I would expect from a first-year law student.”
He and his colleagues argued that Mr. Trump was exercising his free-speech rights in his fiery deal with to a rally earlier than supporters broke into the Capitol. The legal professionals leaned closely on Mr. Trump’s single use of the phrase “peacefully” as he urged backers to march to the Capitol whereas minimizing the 20 occasions he used the phrase “fight.”
“No thinking person could seriously believe that the president’s Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection,” Mr. van der Veen mentioned. “The suggestion is patently absurd on its face. Nothing in the text could ever be construed as encouraging, condoning or inciting unlawful activity of any kind.”
Sensitive to the cost that Mr. Trump endangered law enforcement officials, who had been crushed and in a single case killed throughout the assault, the legal professionals performed video clips through which he known as himself a “law and order president” together with photographs of antiracism protests that turned violent final summer season.
They likewise confirmed video clips of Democrats objecting to Electoral College votes in previous years when Republicans received, together with Mr. Raskin in 2017 when Mr. Trump’s victory was sealed, evaluating them with Mr. Trump’s criticism of the 2020 election. At the identical time, these movies additionally confirmed Mr. Biden, then vp, gaveling these protests out of order.
Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and one of many managers, objected that most of the faces proven within the movies of Democratic politicians and avenue protesters had been Black. “It was not lost on me so many of them were people of color and women, Black women,” she mentioned. “Black women like myself who are sick and tired of being sick and tired for our children.”
The protection legal professionals contended that Democrats had been pursuing Mr. Trump out of non-public and partisan animosity, utilizing the phrase “hatred” 15 occasions throughout their formal presentation, and so they forged the trial as an effort to suppress a political opponent and his supporters.
“It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters and criminalizing political viewpoints,” Mr. Castor mentioned. “That’s what this trial is really about. It is the only existential issue before us. It asks for constitutional cancel culture to take over in the United States Senate. Are we going to allow canceling and banning and silencing to be sanctioned in this body?”
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.