Trump impeachment trial highlights: Defense team rests case
Trump’s defense team confident ahead of closing arguments
Bruce Castor, one of President’s Trump defense attorneys, said their arguments today at the Senate impeachment trial “went exactly as planned.”
Castor said he plans for his closing argument to be concise, and if the House managers plan to call witnesses the defense team would also call their own witnesses.
The team was criticized by pundits on both sides for their free-wheeling presentation earlier this week but declined to tell reporters if the president was pleased with the defense team’s presentation today.
“I think he would have let me know if he was displeased,” Castor told reporters as he was leaving the Capitol.
‘Constitutional cancel culture’: Key takeaways from Day Four
Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers put up a pugnacious if brief defense presentation in his impeachment trial Friday, saying his rally speech before the Capitol riot was “ordinary political rhetoric” and blasting the proceedings as a “sham” fueled by Democrats’ “political hatred” for the ex-president.
Parts of the attorneys’ presentation invoked the former president’s language and arguments, with his lawyers charging that Trump’s second impeachment trial is “constitutional cancel culture” while making numerous false claims.
During the question-and-answer session, however, the lawyers wouldn’t say when Trump discovered the Capitol had been breached on Jan. 6 and what, if anything, he did to stop it.
Here are some key takeaways from Day Four of the trial.
Biden’s post-impeachment trial plans
As President Biden eyes the end of the impeachment trial, his aides are drafting a statement for him to possibly deliver afterward and crafting plans for him to intensify his push for a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package.
This weekend Biden is making his first trip to Camp David as president where he will spend Valentine’s Day with the first lady.
Three administration officials say if the trial concludes this weekend they expect Biden to release a written statement and then turn the page next week from a process that has threatened to slow momentum on his agenda. When White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the president’s plans for addressing the trial once it wraps up: “He did put out a statement at the conclusion of the House trial, so I’d certainly keep that option open.”
Still with Congress in recess for all of next week, Biden will turn his attention to building public support for his package. On Tuesday he will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for his first official trip where he will participate in a town hall. Officials say he will continue outreach throughout the week, through calls and more meetings with state and local leaders.
What’s on tap for Saturday
With the trial set to resume at 10 a.m. Saturday, a vote on conviction might happen sooner rather than later.
When it resumes, there will be up to four hours to consider whether to subpoena witnesses and documents. Should any attempts be voted down, the managers and defense then split another four-hour block for their closing arguments.
Under that timeline, a conviction vote could come as early as Saturday afternoon. Already, both sides have presented in under their maximum allotted time.
Senators react to how Cassidy’s timeline question was answered
Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked House managers and the defense team a timeline question regarding when Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., spoke to the president in relation to when former President Trump tweeted insults about his vice president.
Tuberville later told pool reporters that he “didn’t know what time” the call was, saying “they’ll have to find that out.”
Angus King, I-Maine., told reporters he thought the defense team did not adequately respond to Cassidy’s question, adding, “that’s an important question. I remember thinking at the time that was one of the best questions that we had.”
Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., told reporters the defense team’s response was inadequate: “The question that Senator Cassidy asked was an important one and Donald Trump’s lawyers simply, once again, tried to distract, look another way, and take attention away from the underlying question about what the evidence showed that Donald Trump knew and when he knew it.”
NBC News’ Hallie Jackson: Trump knew Pence was in danger
Fact check: Trump was impeached while president, not after
Sen. Marco Rubio asked Trump’s team if convicting the former president in the Senate trial would create a new precedent where House lawmakers could impeach former officials like Hillary Clinton in the future.
Micheal van der Veen said “yes” and that impeachment could happen “to a lot of people.”
This question, and its answer, are misleading; Trump was impeached while in office, it is the Senate trial weighing whether to convict or indict him that has extended into his time as a private citizen.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman received a standing ovation during a break of the impeachment trial where it was announced he would receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
Congress’ highest honor is being awarded to Goodman for his his action on Jan. 6. He was seen on video during attack leading the mob away from the Senate chamber and to a different area as lawmakers escaped.
Goldman was stoic in the back of the chamber during the ovation, and joined in for the round of applause for Capitol Police in general, according to a pool report.
He was swarmed by appreciative senators as they left, exchanging fist bumps and elbow bumps.
He exchanged salutes with former military members, Sens. Duckworth and Ernst (and Ernst also gave him a hug).
After that, the trial ended for the day.
Rubio asks if convicting Trump could lead to barring others, like Hillary Clinton, from office
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., essentially asked that if Trump could be convicted while out of office, couldn’t a future Congress bar other former officials, like Hillary Clinton, from holding future office?
Raskin made the point that Trump’s conduct took place while he was president and that he was impeached while still in office.
“The hypothetical suggested by the gentleman from Florida has no bearing on this case,” he said.
Van der Veen then came up to speak, and said Rubio was right in outlining what would become a “slippery slope,” adding that senators can decide to acquit Trump on a number of technicalities.
Sen. Cassidy asks whether Trump was tolerant of rioters intimidating Pence
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked both sides whether Trump’s tweet attacking Pence on Jan. 6 after he spoke to Sen. Tuberville about Pence being evacuated suggests that Trump was tolerant of the intimidation posed by the rioters to Pence.
“Directly, no,” Trump lawyer van der Veen said. “But I dispute the premise of your facts. I dispute the facts that are laid out in that question. And, unfortunately, we’re not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on.”
Trump’s lawyer continued by saying he had “no idea” what the answer is because the House didn’t provide an opportunity to investigate further.
Leader House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., argued in response to the question that the managers invited Trump to testify before Congress himself about the events and had the chance to set the record straight. Raskin, however, noted that Trump declined and according to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in civil cases, if the defendant refuses to testify, then it implies guilt.
“Rather than yelling at us…bring your client here and have him testify under oath,” Raskin said.