Trump impeachment: defense wraps up, claiming free speech is at stake – live | US news


4.14pm EST

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.

Neal Katyal

Woah. Trump lawyer can’t answer it. At all. He just rants about the lack of due process. Seems to me this would be the first thing I would ask if I were Trump’s lawyer while getting ready. Devastating silence.

February 12, 2021

Collins and Murkowski are believed to be swing voters on whether to convict Trump.

4.06pm EST

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.

Joy WE VOTED!! WEAR A MASK!! Reid 😷)

Of course @LindseyGrahamSC uses his question to throw a bomb at Black Lives Matter who are who he means when he says “rioters.” (Narrator: BLM protesters were not “rioters,” and insurrectionist Lindsey Graham would fit in perfectly in the Confederacy.)

February 12, 2021

at 4.09pm EST

4.03pm EST

“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.

3.56pm EST

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.

3.27pm EST

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.

at 3.28pm EST

3.15pm EST

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.”

at 3.28pm EST

3.03pm EST

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.

Trip Gabriel

Castor — the lawyer who’s rambling, unfocused opening statement on Tuesday enraged Trump — begins by going over ground argued earlier, and showing the same clips.

February 12, 2021

Andrew Desiderio

DOJ has specifically referred to the events of Jan. 6 as an insurrection.

February 12, 2021

Eliza Collins

Trump’s lawyers are arguing that he is not guilty because 1. The trial is unconstitutional 2. The trial is politically motivated 3. Trump’s use of word “fight” and other language was ordinary political talk 4. Trump loves law and order. Our full coverage:

February 12, 2021

at 3.08pm EST

2.48pm EST

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.”

2.42pm EST

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.”

1.55pm EST

It’s not for me to say Trump’s lawyers have run out of ideas, but we’ve now seen the fight video, or a version of it, at least four times.

Trump defense plays montage of democrats saying ‘fight’ during impeachment hearing – video

The video cuts crucial context from Democrat’s remarks. Trump discussed fighting on January 6 after he had whipped up a crowd with false claims of election fraud, then he urged them to march on the US Capitol, where he implied more fraud was about to occur.

None of the Democrats ever did that.

at 3.17pm EST

1.33pm EST

Van der Veen is quoting former Associate Justice James Wilson, who died in 1798, then loops in some of the other ‘founding fathers’. He is still on the subject of freedom of speech.

“If the house managers had their way they would ignore all of the constitution,” Van der Veen said. He then added something about the impeachment being “anti-American”, and moved on to quoting case law from the 1960s.

Greg Sargent

This argument is dumb. Conduct can be generally “constitutional” while also being disruptive to the *constitutional order.*

Trump incited the violent disruption of the *constitutional process* by which our elections conclude.

It doesn’t matter if the speech itself is protected.

February 12, 2021

Here’s a little more on Van der Veen, who is usually a personal-injury lawyer:

Jake Tapper

Trump lawyer Michael T. van der Veen, speaking right now, once sued Trump, citing “an environment subject to repeated claims by President Donald J. Trump that voting by mail is ripe with fraud, despite having no evidence in support of these claims”

February 12, 2021

at 1.36pm EST

1.26pm EST

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, is among those using the word “fight” in this video that Trump’s legal team keeps rolling out. Here’s some context:

Ali Vitali

Given how much Warren footage we just watched, it feels worthwhile to point out: I covered Warren’s campaign for over a year. Every day was about “why she’s in this fight.” For policy. It’s laughable to think anyone ever thought she was urging people towards physical violence.

February 12, 2021

1.22pm EST

More video! Trump’s defense team plays clips of Democrats – and, weirdly, Madonna – using pugnacious language. Joe Biden’s always curious claim that he’d like to take Trump “behind the gym” is included.

“This is not what about-ism,” Van der Veen said. “I show you this video because all robust speech must be protected.”

That video was almost identical to the two videos Trump’s lawyers have already shown.

Van der Veen then showed the text of the first amendment on a big screen. The free speech part of Trump’s defense continues.

at 1.39pm EST

1.16pm EST

This happened at Mar-a-Lago, the private club where Trump is living, apparently indefinitely:

Allie Malloy

Minutes before his lawyers begin their defense, a banner flew over Trump’s Mar-a-Lago reading: “CONVICT TRUMP AND LOCK HIM UP”

February 12, 2021

1.14pm EST

Michael Van der Veen, the Trump lawyer who kicked things off for the defense, has returned to the podium.

Van der Veen brought up the “free speech” defense that we heard Trump’s legal team would use.

“Mr Trump’s speech deserves full protection under the first amendment,” Van der Veen said.

Meanwhile, a Republican senator has apparently just told CNN there is “real concern” about the quality of the Trump team’s defense today:

The senator, who has been among those paying far closer attention to the proceedings in the chamber than many colleagues, said there is no question the House impeachment managers’ presentation will almost certainly be stronger that the defense presentation. But the senator said Republicans hope the defense is presented “in a professional and serious way – unlike the rambling show” from the first day of the trial.

1.08pm EST

More video from Trump’s legal team, as the defense ticks past the one hour mark.

This video shows clips from Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. It’s another attempt to compare protests against racism to a bunch of Trump supporters smashing their way into the US Capitol and threatening to kill politicians.

Here’s some takes on Twitter:

Philip Bump

A reminder that Schoen was on Fox News this week where he said that only Trump had a base that would actually be riled up by language about fighting!

February 12, 2021

Katie S. Phang

Schoen has made serious accusations of fraud and deceit against the House Impeachment Managers.

He better have receipts, because what he has shown thus far is not even close.

February 12, 2021

Daniel Goldman

Just after Schoen accused Managers of “manipulating” evidence because they took excerpts of videos, he shows a lengthy video of numerous, extremely spliced video clips without any context for the comments.

February 12, 2021

12.58pm EST

Trump’s legal team has played another video. The video, like one earlier, shows a number of Democrats using the word “fight” during political interviews and at rallies.

A key difference is that none of the Democrats used the word fight as they amped up their supporters then urged them to march to the US Capitol, where the result of a presidential election was about to be formalized. In some cases the Democrats were talking about fighting for policy changes or fighting for healthcare coverage. (Trump’s legal team clipped out those bits, just leaving the word ‘fight’.)

The Trump legal case so far seems to be: a) Democrats rushed the impeachment hearing, which seems irrelevant, b) the impeachment is unconstitutional, which is wrong, and c) some Democrats have used the word sometimes used the word “fight”, but – as far as I can tell – none of them ever used the word in the same volatile circumstances Trump faced on January 6.

at 1.41pm EST

12.45pm EST

Schoen, being done no favors by the top-down camera angle in the Senate chamber, continued to talk about the second impeachment of Trump being rushed. He claims impeachment managers “manufactured evidence”.

He claimed that two tweets, gathered by House impeachment managers as evidence that rioters were incited by Trump, were not posted on January 6. This is kind of irrelevant, because those tweets – as Schoen pointed out – were not part of the impeachment managers’ case.

Schoen then plays longer versions of Trump videos that impeachment managers played. Schoen claimed that impeachment managers cut the videos to remove context.

One video showed Trump’s infamous “very fine people on both sides” remarks about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. I’m not sure the longer video helps Trump’s case.

Donald Trump’s defense attorney David Schoen. Photograph: Getty Images

at 12.50pm EST



Robert Dunfee