LIVE COVERAGE: Trial ends for day as Senate moves to vote

Lawyer Bruce Castor Jr.
Greg Nash

Former President Trump’s defense team made its arguments Friday, concluding their defense after three hours and 15 minutes. 

The former president’s team argued, among other things, that Trump did not incite the Capitol riots, stating that his speech was protected under the First Amendment. 

The Senate will now engage in a question and answer period which is expected to last as long as four hours. 

The Hill will be providing live updates on the trial below.

Cornyn presses issue of ‘January exception’ 

6:10 p.m.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked about the House impeachment managers’ argument that presidents do not get a “January exception” that absolves them of any crimes they might commit in their final month in office.

“The House Democrats have argued that if the Senate cannot convict former officers, then the Constitution creates a January exception, pursuant to which the president is free to act with impunity because he is not subject to impeachment, removal or disqualification,” Cornyn during the impeachment trial’s question-and-answer period. “But isn’t a president subject to criminal prosecution after he leaves office for acts committed in office, even if those acts are committed in January?”

Trump attorney Bruce Castor said that his interpretation of the Constitution is that it is illegal to impeach a former official, and that once a person leaves office it is up to the state or federal prosecutors to determine if a crime should be pursued.

“There is no such thing as a January exception to impeachment, there is only the text of the Constitution that makes very clear that a former president is subject to criminal sanction after his presidency for any illegal acts he commits,” he said. “There is no January exception for impeachment, there is simply a way we handle high crimes and misdemeanors allegedly committed by a president when he is in office, impeachment, and how we treat criminal office by a private citizen when they are not in office.”

House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Congress must still have authority to impeach and convict for any crimes committed during the president’s final month in office, or else it gives impunity to sitting presidents at a sensitive moment when the government is vulnerable.

Raskin said authorities could still separately pursue criminal charges.

—Jonathan Easley

Hawley question focuses on procedure over substance of Trump article

5:35 p.m.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) posed a question to impeachment lawyers that focused on the scope of the Senate’s impeachment power but overlooked the substance of the allegation against Trump.

The question from Hawley and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) concerned whether the Senate would have the constitutional power to disqualify a president but not remove him.

Their hypothetical scenario appeared aimed at exposing an alleged logical inconsistency of House managers’ assertion that the Senate retains the power to disqualify an impeached president even after he’s left office.

But lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor, responded that the removal and disqualification powers “have always been treated as separate.”

“And as you know,” he added, “there’s a totally separate process within the Senate for doing this.”

Hawley faced criticism for challenging Biden’s 2020 election victory and fierce condemnation for objecting to the Electoral College results even after the deadly Jan. 6 riot.

In comments to media this week, Hawley has largely focused on the impeachment process, reiterating his view that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to try Trump.

—John Kruzel 


Sanders, Trump lawyer scuffle during Q&A
5:26 p.m.
Michael Van Der Veen, an attorney for Trump, got into a verbal scuffle with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), after the progressive lawmaker asked the attorney during the impeachment trial’s question and answer session if he believes Trump won the 2020 election.

Sanders submitted a question noting that the House impeachment managers have claimed that Trump was carrying out a “big lie,” after repeatedly stating that he actually won the election. Sanders asked, “Are the prosecutors right when they claim that Trump was telling a big lie, or in your judgment did Trump actually win the election?”

Van der Veen appeared annoyed by the question — which he ultimately did not answer.

“My judgment? Who asked that?” he asked, turning toward the Democratic side of the chamber.

Sanders yelled back: “I did.’

“My judgment is irrelevant,” Van Der Veen continued.

His response sparked jeers from senators, leading Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to interrupt and remind senators that they can’t challenge the response offered by Trump’s team or the House impeachment managers.

Sanders was overheard by reporters in the chamber yelling back to van der Veen, “You represent the president of the United States!”

—Jordain Carney
Defense says Trump did not know Pence was in danger
5:20 p.m.
Trump’s defense team on Friday denied that the former president knew his then-vice president, Mike Pence, was in danger during the attack of Jan. 6.

“The answer is no,” Michael van der Veen said flatly on the Senate floor. “At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.”

The remarks came in response to a question from two Republican senators, Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), who had broken with most in their party earlier in the week in supporting the trial’s constitutionality. 

The question of what Trump knew about the severity of the attack — and when he knew it — has emerged as a major issue in the Senate trial, where Democrats have accused Trump of provoking last month’s attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Pence had become a target of the mob after he’d refused Trump’s entreaties to reject the Electoral College results, which formalized Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

At 2:24 p.m. on Jan. 6, Trump tweeted at Pence, pressing him to find the “courage” to reject the election outcome — a power the vice president does not possess.

That tweet came roughly 10 minutes after Secret Service agents had already whisked Pence from the Senate floor, fearing for his safety after the rioters had breached the building.

That timeline has raised plenty of questions from senators, including some Republicans, about whether Trump knew of Pence’s predicament at the time of the tweet, but chose to ignore it.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) added to the timeline intrigue this week when he revealed that he had spoken with Trump around that same time, and told him that Pence had been evacuated for his safety.

Part of the Democrats’ impeachment case hinges on the argument that Trump did nothing to defuse the attack until hours after it had begun.

“We know that he did not send any individuals. We did not hear any tweets, we did not hear him tell those individuals: ‘Stop. This is wrong. You must go back,'” Del. Stacy Plaskett (D-V.I.), an impeachment manager, told senators on Friday.

“They were doing what he asked them to do,” she added, “so there was no need for him to stop them.”

Trump’s attorney, van der Veen, rejected those charges, shifting the blame back on the Democrats for rushing their impeachment case in such a way that the precise details of what Trump knew could not be known in time for the trial.

“Because the House rushed through this impeachment in seven days with no evidence, there is nothing at all in the record on this point, because the House failed to do even a minimum amount of due diligence,” van der Veen said.

“What the president did know is that there was a violent … riot happening at the Capitol,” he continued. “That’s why he repeatedly called via tweet and via video for the rioters to stop, to be peaceful, to respect Capitol Police and law enforcement, and to commit no violence and to go home.”

After responding to the question, van der Veen added that it wasn’t relevant to the case since the Democrats’ impeachment article contains just one charge: incitement of insurrection.

“This is not an article of impeachment for anything else. It’s a one-count,” he said. “So that the question, although answered directly no, it’s not really relevant to the charges for the impeachment in this case.”

—Mike Lillis
Key GOP senators question when Trump knew Capitol was breached 
4:28 p.m.
Key Republican senators are raising questions about when Trump knew a mob of his supporters had breached the Capitol, and what steps he took after that. 
In one of the first questions offered during the question-and-answer period of the Senate impeachment trial, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked Trump’s legal team when Trump knew about the breach and what he did to stop it. 
“Please be as detailed as possible,” they added, in their question. 
Trump’s attorney noted that there was a tweet at 2:38 p.m., but didn’t fully answer the question. 
“It was certainly sometime before then. With the rush to bring this impeachment, there’s been absolutely no investigation into that,” Michael Van Der Veen told senators, adding that there had not been “due process.” 
Murkowski and Collins aren’t the only potential swing votes who have questions about when Trump was told that the Capitol had been breached. 
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) — the only GOP senator who voted for one of the articles of impeachment last year —released the five questions he has submitted Friday. Three of the five questions are about Trump’s knowledge of the events on Jan. 6. 

“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? ” Romney asked. 

Romney also wants to know if Trump personally approved the National Guard to deploy to the Capitol and if he knew that Pence had been evacuated from the chamber when Trump “sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m” regarding Pence. 
What Trump knew, and when, has come under greater scrutiny this week after Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told reporters that he had told Trump in a phone call as the attack was underway that Pence had to flee from the Senate. 
After rioters breached the Capitol, Pence had been pulled off the Senate floor around 2:13 p.m., just 11 minutes later, at 2:24 p.m., Trump tweeted about Pence: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
The questions offer a possible insight into what is going on in the minds of lawmakers who are potential swing votes on whether or not to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors. 
Romney, Collins and Murkowski are three of a handful that are viewed as potential “yes” votes on conviction. No GOP senator has said that they will vote to convict. 

Another potential swing vote, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), also raised concerns about Trump’s awareness of Pence’s movements earlier on Friday.

“I do hope they [the defense] go after or they address, if you will, the timeline,” Cassidy said.

He pointed to a piece in the Washington Examiner that stated Tuberville had informed Trump at 2:15 p.m. that the vice president had been evacuated.

“So the president knew that people had invaded. They were approaching the Senate chamber. … The president clearly had knowledge at that point. And then the tweet went out,” Cassidy said.

 —Jordain Carney

GOP senators huddle with Trump’s team, again

4:05 p.m.

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) huddled briefly with Trump’s legal team on Friday. 
The two GOP senators were spotted heading into a workspace being used by the former president’s lawyers during a brief break in the impeachment trial. 
Cruz was also seen in the room typing on a computer. 
Neither senators offered comment to reporters when they left the meeting. 

Cruz and Graham, as well as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) met with Trump’s team on Thursday night. Cruz told reporters after that meeting that they had discussed legal strategy. 

—Jordain Carney

Trump’s lawyers conclude defense

3:25 p.m.

Former President Trump’s defense team rested their case on Friday, using only about three hours and 15 minutes of their allotted 16 hours. 

In his closing remarks, Trump attorney Bruce Castor said he wanted to speed the process along so that Congress could return to more important work.

“Members of the Senate, our country needs to get back to work,” Castor said. “I know that you know that. But instead we are here. The majority party promised to unify and deliver more COVID relief, but instead they did this. We will not take most of our time today, us of the defense, in the hopes that you will take back these hours and use them to get delivery of COVID relief to the American people.”

Senators will now have four hours to ask questions. There could be a vote on whether witnesses will be called before the final vote on whether to convict or acquit.

—Jonathan Easley

Democrats blast Trump team videos: ‘False equivalency’ 

3:08 p.m.

Senate Democrats quickly shrugged off video presentations made from Trump’s defense team, arguing that they were trying to draw a false equivalency in an attempt to downplay Trump’s remarks. 

“It’s a complete false equivalence. I mean, you have a history, in one case, of encouraging violence through, you know, overt statements, but also dog whistles …versus a history that in no cases resulted in deaths, deaths of police officers, rioting behavior. It’s just not the same thing,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the videos a “distraction” from Trump “inviting the mob to Washington.” 

“They’re trying to draw a dangerous and distorted equivalence,” he said. 

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) laughed when asked about the “fight” videos from Trump’s legal team. 

“I think it feels like they’re erecting straw men to then take them down, rather than deal with the fact that the events of the 6th happened, including Donald Trump doing nothing to protect this place,” Bennet said, describing it as a “false equivalency.” 

Democrats also argued that Trump’s rhetoric fired up his supporters, as he urged them to go to the Capitol just as Vice President Pence and congressional lawmakers were counting the Electoral College vote. A mob of rioters subsequently broke into the building, suspending Congress’s count for hours and forcing lawmakers to evacuate to secure locations. 

“Show me anytime that the result was our supporters pulled someone out of the crowd, beat the living crap out of them and then we said, ‘that’s great, good for you, you’re a patriot,’ ” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“Second, If you looked at the chyron in terms of what was the content or the context, lots of those were about like, budgetary disputes. He was speaking to a crowd where he had notice from law enforcement and intelligence that there were extremists in the audience that they were planning to and threatening to assault the Capitol and the time mattered,” Coons added.

—Jordain Carney 

Democrats say Schoen lied about being denied new video footage

3:05 p.m.

David Schoen, a defense attorney representing former President Trump, lied when he accused impeachment managers of withholding new video evidence aired during the Senate trial, a senior aide on the impeachment team charged on Friday.

“The Trump team was given the trial record, including ALL video and audio used, prior to the start of the trial,” the aide said in an email.

A short time earlier, Schoen had launched Trump’s formal defense with the claim that the Democratic prosecutors had denied the defense team the new footage, which was taken largely from Capitol security cameras.

“Why was this footage never seen before?” Schoen asked from the Senate floor. “Should the subject of an impeachment trial, this impeachment trial, President Trump have the right to see the so-called new evidence against him?

“Shouldn’t the American people have seen this footage as soon as it was available?” he continued. “For what possible reason did the House managers withhold it from the American people, and President Trump’s lawyers? For political gain?”

The new footage revealed harrowing scenes of the mob smashing its way into the Capitol, and Senate and House lawmakers racing away from their chambers in search of safety. The Democrats prosecuting Trump’s impeachment had aired the new footage before the Senate jury on Wednesday.

The footage was the most riveting part of the Democrats’ presentation, transfixing senators of both parties, who were seeing scenes of their escape for the first time.

“That was a pretty emotional — emotional — presentation. Because obviously, none of us were able to see all of that,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday.

During a break in the defense Friday afternoon, a reporter asked Schoen to affirm that Democrats did not provide his team with the new video.

“When would you say they would have gotten us the video?” Schoen asked the reporter.  

Informed that Democrats say they delivered the footage before the trial started, Schoen dismissed it.

“Oh, come on,” Schoen said.

—Mike Lillis

Democrats dismiss accusation that they ‘created false representations’

2:33 p.m.

Democrats dismissed the Trump defense team’s accusation they “created false representations” with video and tweets used in their case against the former president.

One senior aide on the House impeachment team noted that Trump’s tweets are only available via the archive since his account was suspended indefinitely following the Capitol attack. 

The aide said the content of the tweets displayed were accurate and the argument that the verification on one of the retweeted posts indicates false information is inaccurate.

“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 text is entirely unchanged,” the aide said.

“The final graphic accidentally had a blue verification checkmark on it, but the substance of it was entirely accurate. So what is Trump’s attorneys’ point? 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,” the aide continued. 

“Furthermore, in self-evident context, it is simply not believable that President Trump recognized the frequently confused ‘calvary’ as anything besides the ‘cavalry is coming.’”

The aide also pushed back against Trump’s lawyers’ allegation that the video the managers showed was strategically spliced to paint a false depiction of the former president’s remarks. The aide noted Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) showed video of the former president stating that protesters should “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

The source argued that Schoen used video misrepresenting how the managers presented their case.

“Somewhere in between repeatedly showing video of comments from Democrats cut entirely out of their context, Trump’s attorney leveled a false accusation of selective editing at the House managers, and in doing so, selectively edited the managers’ presentation to make his point. Schoen’s statement is incorrect,” they said.

—Juliegrace Brufke

Trump’s speech protected under First Amendment, defense lawyer says

2:05 p.m.

Trump’s defense team on Friday said impeachment trials are required to adhere to Supreme Court rulings and argued that the former president’s rhetoric amounted to constitutionally protected speech.

Attorney Michael van der Veen rejected an argument by House managers that an impeachment proceeding — by virtue of being a political rather than legal trial — need not be governed by First Amendment precedent.

“House managers’ suggestion that the First Amendment does not apply to this impeachment process is completely untenable,” he said. “Ignoring the First Amendment would conflict with the senator’s office, it would also conflict with well-settled Supreme Court precedent and ignore the intent of the Framers of the Constitution.”

He cited the landmark 1969 ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which laid out a legal test to distinguish protected speech from illegal incitement. The so-called Brandenburg test hinges on the presence or absence of a speaker’s intent, plus the immediacy and likelihood of lawlessness.

“House managers cannot get past the first problem of the Brandenburg test,” he said. “They have not and cannot prove Mr. Trump explicitly or implicitly encouraged use of violence or lawless action.”

Van der Veen also lashed out at a letter penned last week by more than 140 constitutional scholars that dismissed Trump’s First Amendment defense as “legally frivolous.”

“This is really an outrageous attempt to intimidate Mr. Trump’s lawyers,” he said, calling the letter “a bully tactic.”

House managers argued during their presentation that Trump’s speech fell outside First Amendment protections.

—John Kruzel

Cassidy wants defense to clarify Trump-Tuberville call timeline

1:56 p.m.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Friday that he wants Donald Trump’s defense team to further clarify when exactly the former president learned that the life of then-Vice President Pence was in danger during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

That timeline has come under greater scrutiny during this week’s Senate impeachment trial after Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told reporters that he had told Trump in a phone call as the attack was underway that Pence had to flee from the Senate.

After rioters breached the Capitol, Pence had been pulled off the Senate floor around 2:13 p.m. Just 11 minutes later, at 2:24 p.m., Trump tweeted an attack at Pence as a violent mob hunted for him: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

At 2:26 p.m., two minutes after Trump’s missive, Secret Service rushed Pence and his family out of his office next to the Senate chamber, down a flight of stairs and to a secure room in the Capitol complex.

It’s unclear the exact timing of when Tuberville informed Trump that Pence had been hustled out of the Senate, but mounting evidence suggests that Trump was aware Pence’s life was at risk when he tweeted his attack.

“I do hope they [the defense] go after or they address, if you will, the timeline,” Cassidy said.

He pointed to a piece in the Washington Examiner that stated Tuberville had informed Trump at 2:15 p.m. that the vice president had been evacuated.

“So the president knew that people had invaded. They were approaching the Senate chamber … The president clearly had knowledge at that point. And then the tweet went out,” Cassidy said.

“Now there’s a long timeline and some folks don’t believe the timeline because it’s so long,” Cassidy continued, “but that is a senator [Tuberville] who probably is going to vote for acquittal, [an article] written by a conservative columnist in the Washington Examiner. 

“So you put all that together and it gives it a special credibility.”

Cassidy is the only Republican to change his vote earlier this week to declare that the Trump impeachment trial is constitutional after voting last month that the trial should not proceed.

Still, the senator has not indicated whether he will vote to convict Trump.

—Scott Wong

Trump attorneys draw attention to Democrats questioning past election results

1:34 p.m.

Trump attorney David Schoen accused Democrats of refusing to accept the results of past elections, saying they’re being hypocrites by expressing outrage over Trump’s election claims.

Schoen played video of House impeachment team member Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) saying, “Can you imagine telling your supporters that the only way you could possibly lose is if the American election was rigged or stolen from you? Ask yourself if you’ve ever seen anyone at any level of government make the same claim about their own election?”

Schoen followed that with video of top Democrats warning that election machines cannot be trusted or refusing to concede their own election losses.

“I agree with millions of Americans who are very worried that when they cast a ballot on an electronic voting machine, there is no paper trail to record that vote,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said following former President George W. Bush’s victory in 2004.

“You can run the best campaign, even become the nominee, and you can have the election stolen from you,” former Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton said in 2017. “He knows he’s an illegitimate president … he knows there are a bunch of different reasons why the election turned out the way it did.”

“I will not concede,” Stacey Abrams said following her 2018 election loss in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

“If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it. It’s clear,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said of that race.

“It seems the House manager’s position … really is that when Republican candidates for office claim the election is stolen or the winner is illegitimate, it constitutes inciting an insurrection, and the candidates should know it,” Schoen concluded. “But Democratic Party candidates for public elected office are perfectly entitled to claim the election was stolen or that the winner is illegit, or to make any other outrageous claim they can … irrespective of whether there is evidence to support their claim.”

—Jonathan Easley 

Schoen accuses Democrats of using violent language during social justice protests 

1:25 p.m.

Trump attorney David Schoen accused Democrats of using violent rhetoric during the civil unrest over the summer of 2020 over the death and shootings of several Black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

Schoen played two videos showing Democrats urging their supporters to hit the streets and protest. Some of the protests turned violent or destructive in Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle.

“The House managers spoke about rhetoric, a constant drumbeat of heated language … we need to show you some of their own words,” Schoen said.

In the video, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is shown saying: “I don’t know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country and maybe there will be.”

When asked about the destructive elements of the protests, Pelosi responded: “People will do what they do.” 

A state representative from Michigan, Cynthia Johnson, lost her committee seats for saying: “This is just a warning to you Trumpers: Be careful. Walk lightly … and for those of you who are soldiers … make them pay.”

There was also a montage of Democrats saying they’d like to beat Trump up.

“If we were in high school I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” Biden said.

“I think you need to go back and punch him in the face,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). 

Schoen also played a montage of Democrats pledging to “fight” to argue that they are misconstruing Trump’s own use of the word.

—Jonathan Easley

Schoen alleges House impeachment managers misrepresented evidence

1:19 p.m.

One of Trump’s defense lawyers, David Schoen, alleged that the House impeachment managers used manipulated video and “created false representations” while making their case against the former president and his role in the insurrection. 

Schoen cited a photo of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) preparing for the trial displayed in The New York Times, but not used in their case in the Senate that showed a tweet dated Jan. 3, 2020. 

He also took issue with a tweet that depicted a verified account that he said was not verified, and a tweet mentioning supporters of the former president bringing a “calvary” to Washington, D.C.

“We have reason to believe that the House managers created false representations of tweets and a lack of due process means there was no opportunity to review or verify the accuracy. Consider these facts here the House managers, proud of their work in this snap impeachment, staged numerous photoshoots of their preparations,” he said. 

“A House manager showed you this tweet this week and he emphasized that this tweet reflected a call to arms. He told you repeatedly that this was a promise to call in the cavalry for Jan. 6,” Schoen continued. 

“He expressly led you to believe that President Trump’s supporters believe that the president wanted armed supporters at the Jan. 6 speech, paramilitary groups, the cavalry ready for physical combat.”

“The problem is, the actual text is exactly the opposite. The tweeter promised to bring the calvary, public display of Christ’s crucifixion, a central symbol of our Christian faith with her to the president’s speech, a symbol of faith, love and peace. They just never want to see to read the text and believe what the text means,” he added.  

Schoen went on to accuse the managers of selectively editing the clips they showed during their presentation, stating that Trump called on protesters to “peacefully and patriotically” cheer on members of Congress. Trump’s lawyers argue these words nullify the argument that the former president incited violence. 

“Words matter, they told you. But they selectively edited the president’s words over and over again. They manipulated video time-shifting clips and made it appear the president’s words were playing to a crowd when they were not,” he continued. 

—Juliegrace Brufke
‘You can’t incite what was already going to happen,’ Trump lawyer says
12:57 p.m.

An attorney for Trump on Friday said that the former president couldn’t have incited the Jan. 6 riot because it had been planned in advance. 

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen argued that the attack was set in motion prior to Trump’s Jan. 6 speech in which the former president implored rally attendees to “fight like hell” and march toward the Capitol. 

“You can’t incite what was already going to happen,” he said.

As evidence, van der Veen said public reporting has shown that “extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol.”

House impeachment managers, for their part, have argued that Trump’s weeks of repeated false assertions of widespread voter fraud and his Jan. 6 speech to rallygoers constitute a critical link in the causal chain of events leading up to the insurrection.

—John Kruzel 
No. 2 GOP senator suggests he’s open to censuring Trump 
12:52 p.m.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, indicated on Friday that he could be open to censuring Trump, depending on how the resolution was framed. 
Asked about censuring Trump, Thune indicated that proposals are floating around but said that it would need be “effective.” 
“I know there are a couple of resolutions out there. … I’ve seen a couple of resolutions at least that I think could attract some support,” Thune told reporters. 
Pressed if he was saying the resolutions could get support from him, he added: “Yeah.” 
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has drafted a censure resolution that would also include language from the 14th Amendment that he hopes could be used to bar Trump from future office. 
Thune, however, appeared to indicate that a resolution that also works in the 14th Amendment was largely a non-starter. 
“I don’t think … those will go anywhere,” he said. 

—Jordain Carney 

Attorney: Trump was speaking metaphorically about ‘fighting’

12:38 p.m.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen said the former president was speaking metaphorically when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to take the country back. 

“Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles. Joe Biden’s slogan was ‘battle for the soul’ of America. No one believes that the use of this political terminology was incitement of political violence,” van der Veen said while addressing senators in the upper chamber. 

Van der Veen played a video of different short cuts of Democrats encouraging social justice protesters to fight for their principles amid the civil unrest that spread across the country last summer, intercut with Trump praising the police and calling for law and order.

“There needs to be unrest in the streets for as long as there is unrest in our lives,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in a clip included in the video.

“I felt like punching [Trump],” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said.

“Show me where protests are supposed to be polite or peaceful,” said CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

“Democratic politicians endorsed and encouraged the riots that destroyed vast swaths of American cities last summer,” van der Veen stated. 

—Jonathan Easley  

Van der Veen plays video of Democrats objecting to 2017 Electoral College count

12:24 p.m.

The former president’s attorneys played a video of Democratic lawmakers objecting to the Electoral College vote count certifying Trump’s victory in 2017. 

Among the objectors were House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), whose objections were swatted down by then-Vice President Biden because he did not have a co-signer in the Senate.

The video showed more than half a dozen Democrats objecting for various reasons to Trump’s victories in several battleground states. Trump’s attorney said the former president and his allied GOP lawmakers were doing the same thing when the Capitol was overrun.

“To litigate questions of an election integrity within the system is not incitement to resurrection, it is the democratic system working as the Founders and lawmakers have designed,” van der Veen said. “To claim the president wished, desired or encouraged violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.”

—Jonathan Easley 

Trump lawyer: Article of impeachment an ‘act of political vengeance’ 

12:17 p.m.

Former President Trump’s attorney on Friday called the Senate impeachment trial an “act of political vengeance” in opening remarks denying that Trump had anything to do with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol following his Jan. 6 address to supporters. 

“The article of impeachment now before the senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance,” said Michael van der Veen.

“This appalling abuse of the Constitution further divides our nation when we should be trying to come together around shared priorities. Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in … this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, evidence and interests of the American people. The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it.”

Van der Veen pointed to moments in Trump’s speech in which he called on the crowd to march “peacefully and patriotically” down to the Capitol to make their voices heard.

Democrats earlier in the week focused on Trump’s remarks during his address at the Ellipse telling his supporters they needed to “fight like hell” or they would lose the country.

At the time, Trump also ticked through unproven claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.

Van der Veen argued that Trump was focusing on ways to better improve elections going forward, and that he was not calling on his followers to physically disrupt the Electoral College vote count. 

“No thinking person could seriously believe the president’s Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection,” van der Veen said. “The suggestion is patently absurd on its face.”

—Jonathan Easley

Ahead of Trump defense, Dems warn of ‘whataboutism’

11:53 a.m.

As Donald Trump’s defense team prepares to take the stage Friday in the former president’s impeachment trial, Democrats are rejecting one of the central arguments likely to emerge: that Trump’s speech ahead of last month’s assault on the Capitol was no more dangerous than words employed by Democrats over the years.

“The blatantly false equivalence that the Trump team is going to try to draw between Trump’s concerted incitement of insurrection and a handful of isolated comments from Democrats” should be rebuffed, a senior aide to the Democratic impeachment managers told reporters Friday morning.

“Whataboutism is never a particularly morally strong case,” the aide added.

Trump is on trial this week on charges that he had incited a mob of his followers to march on the Capitol to block the vote formalizing the presidential victory of his opponent, Joe Biden.

In two days of emotional arguments on the Senate floor, the nine Democratic impeachment managers had highlighted tweets, speeches and rallies where Trump falsely claimed that November’s election results were fraudulent; encouraged supporters to travel to Washington on Jan. 6 to protest the outcome; and sat silent for several hours after violent rioters stormed into the Capitol, even as some of his closest GOP allies were pleading for him to defuse the attack.

“If we pretend this didn’t happen, or, worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again?” Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), an impeachment manager, asked senators on Thursday.

David Schoen, one of Trump’s defense attorneys, said Thursday that the Democrats had failed to make the case that Trump was responsible for the violent behavior of others. The president, he said, enjoys the same First Amendment protections as everyone else.

“The evidence they have under no circumstances would make out a case for incitement,” Schoen told reporters in the Capitol.

Democrats have rejected that argument out of hand, saying that Trump must be held to a higher standard because he was not an ordinary citizen expressing beliefs, but a president who was bound to an oath to protect the country and the Constitution.

—Mike Lillis

Tags Ayanna Pressley Bernie Sanders Bill Cassidy Capitol breach Chris Coons Chris Cuomo Cory Booker Donald Trump first amendment Hillary Clinton Impeachment Jamie Raskin Joaquin Castro Joe Biden Joe Neguse John Cornyn Jon Tester Josh Hawley Kevin Cramer Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Madeleine Dean Martin Heinrich Michael Bennet Mike Lee Mike Pence Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Patrick Leahy Sherrod Brown Susan Collins Ted Cruz Tim Kaine
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