President Donald Trump’s team of impeachment lawyers summoned the furious rhetorical style of their client as they began his defense Friday against what they termed a ‘sham impeachment’ they branded as a ‘witch hunt.’
Lawyer Michael van der Veen came out swinging with legal arguments that appeared to channel the former Twitter fury of his client – calling the impeachment an ‘appalling abuse’ and even bringing up the Russia probe.
He called the impeachment a ‘shameful effort’ to ‘smear, censor, and cancel’ Trump as well as his supporters.
Lawyer Michael van der Veen attacked the impeachment as a ‘sham’ process and brought up favorite targets of former President Donald Trump during the start of defense arguments on behalf of Trump Friday
He cherry-picked Trump’s political enemies, calling the impeachment a ‘witch hunt,’ while railing against the Russia probe and Antifa, and going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ‘left wing anarchists,’ and Rep. Maxine Waters for their own rhetoric.
He began his argument in his second Senate impeachment trial Friday with an angry denunciation of the charge leveled by managers that he incited a riot with his Jan. 6th speech.
Van der Veen blasted the impeachment as an ‘unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance.’ He said it only ‘further divides our nation.’
He called the idea that Trump wanted to stir violence a ‘preposterous and monstrous lie.’
He said Trump’s infamous January 6th speech was not ‘in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection.’
‘The suggestion is patently absurd on its face,’ he said.
He called Trump’s call to ‘fight’ a use of ‘ordinary political rhetoric.’
Among those Democrats he singled out for their own words was ‘squad’ member Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Vice President Kamala Harris.
After Democrats aired their own jarring video of violence at the Capitol, Trump’s team had a video of their own, this time showing Democrats objecting to certain electoral votes back in 2016.
The first person van der Veen mentioned was House lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was seen claiming Florida’s voters were not ‘lawfully certified.’
A video stitched together remarks by a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer calling to reap the ‘whirlwind.’ It was backed by a soundtrack with beating drums.
Due process claims
Returning to the floor after his Tuesday appearance, lawyer David Schoen accused the House managers of having skipped ‘the basic elements of due process.’
He accused them of acting out of ‘hatred’ for the president.
Schoen blasted Democrats for their rush to bring forward the impeachment, although his team has also argued that the impeachment is not constitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
He complained Trump never had ‘any opportunity ever to test the integrity of the evidence’ against him.
He ridiculed the managers for repeatedly saying ‘reportedly’ in their presentation, and played tape of a skein of managers using the term – having skipped the hearing process and electing not to call witnesses who could provide official testimony.
He called the word ‘reportedly’ a code for ”I have no real evidence.’
He said he had ‘reason to believe’ that House managers ‘manipulated evidence’ and ‘selectively edited footage.’
He played a clip of Trump’s speech to the rally until House managers cut it off, then ran a longer clip where Trump asked people to act peacefully. Democratic managers also played that portion of the speech at another point, arguing that calls for peaceful protest were outnumbered by calls to ‘fight.’
He blasted Democrats for dropping dramatic security footage that the public had not yet seen during their presentation. It showed Mike Pence being hustled out of a secure location along with the nuclear ‘football’ just steps from where rioters were located. They also showed images of then Minority Leader Charles Schumer running along with his security team.
‘Let me ask you this? Why was this footage never seen before?’ asked Schoen. ‘Shouldn’t the American people have seen this footage as soon as it was available? For what possible reason did the House managers withhold it form the American people?’ he asked.
Trump’s lawyers appeared in the chamber after House managers concluded their own two-day presentation, after airing graphic videos of the mob that stormed the Capitol as well as internal security footage showing Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers being rushed to safety as a violent mob approached.
Friday’s trial featured two new lawyers on Trump’s team, Michael van der Veen and William Brennan, following stumbles by Bruce Castor in his opening presentation Tuesday. Brennan is a veteran criminal defense attorney from Philadelphia. Castor joined Van der Veen’s firm in December.
Chaplain Berry Black issued an opening prayer seeking the ‘spirit of non-partisan patriotism.’
Once again, senators and others present were commanded to keep silent ‘on pain of imprisonment’ during the trial.
‘I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do. If they stand up,’ he told reporters at the White House when he made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn to see a Valentine’s Day message from Jill Biden.
Biden said he didn’t plan to call Republicans to urge them to convict his predecessor. House Democrats wrapped up their impeachment argument on Thursday. Trump’s defense makes their case Friday with a vote expected as early as Saturday. Trump is likely to be acquitted.
The Bidens made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn early Friday morning, coffee cups in hand and dogs Champ and Major at their side, to see a Valentine’s Day message the first lady had installed overnight.
Giant heart-shaped signs in red, white and pink with messages of ‘unity,’ ‘hope,’ ‘healing’ were placed on the lawn. ‘Love Jill’ was written on one of them.
President Joe Biden and Jill Biden visited the North Lawn Friday morning to see a Valentine’s Day message the first lady had installed over night
The Bidens carried cups of coffee and had dogs Champ and Major with them
President Joe Biden said he’s watching to see if his Republican ‘friends’ in the Senate ‘stand up’ to Donald Trump with their impeachment vote
The Bidens made brief remarks to the press during their visit
The messages include ‘love,’ ‘healing,’ ‘unity,’ ‘family’
Jill Biden’s office said the message was a Valentine’s Day gift for the country.
‘The First Lady is known for her sense of humor, love of surprises and celebrating traditions, especially with her family. Valentine’s Day has always been one of her favorite holidays. Sending messages of healing, unity, hope and compassion, this is her Valentine to the country,’ the East Wing said.
Biden, wearing jeans, an aviator jacket and face mask, checked out the display with the first lady, who wore a magenta coat and face mask.
‘Press is going to think it’s for them,’ the president joked.
The display was centered on the lawn behind the area known as pebble beach, which is where TV reporters do their live shots from the White House.
The president had a friendly back-and-forth with members of the media as he checked out the messages.
One reporter was heard calling him ‘Joe’ and telling him ‘those are nice dogs.’
‘Thank you,’ the president responded.
Another reporter joked the Bidens should have brought coffee for everyone. The president walked over and gave her his cup.
‘Promised I haven’t tasted it,’ he told her.
President Joe Biden gave his cup of coffee to a reporter, telling her he hadn’t tasted it yet
Jill Biden said the heart-shaped messages where a Valentine for the country
‘Love Jill’ read the message of ‘healing’
Jill Biden posted a photo of her painting her ‘love Jill’ message on the sign
Joe Biden said Valentine’s Day is Jill’s favorite holiday but he refused to say what he got her
The Bidens are scheduled to leave for Camp David on Friday to spend the weekend there
Biden refused to divulge what he got his wife for the upcoming holiday.
‘It’s not Valentine’s Day yet. I’m not going to tell,’ he said. ‘Valentine’s Day is Jill’s favorite day for real.’
The first lady said she did the display as she wanted to give the country some ‘joy.’
‘I just wanted some joy. With the pandemic, just everybody’s feeling a little down. So, it’s just a little joy. A little hope. That’s all,’ she said.
President Biden, asked his Valentine’s Day message to the nation, said: ‘There’s hope. There is hope. You just have to stay strong.’
The Bidens are scheduled to fly to Camp David on Friday afternoon, where they will spend the weekend.
Biden said at the presidential retreat they will ‘just hang out with the family.’
What to expect on Friday’s impeachment hearing as Donald Trump’s lawyers begin their defense, ahead of a final vote that could come as soon as Saturday
Donald Trump‘s lawyers will begin his defense against charges of insurrection on Friday, in an argument they plan to present in a concise and simple format taking only a few hours.
David Schoen and Bruce Castor, the two impeachment lawyers heading up Trump’s case, have 16 hours from midday on Friday to convince the Senate to acquit him.
But they are expected to take only two to three hours to lay out their arguments, believing their succinct case requires no lengthy explanation.
A vote could come as soon as Saturday, following four hours of questions from senators, after an agreement was reached to continue the sessions throughout the weekend.
David Schoen, Trump’s impeachment lawyer, is seen leaving the Capitol on Thursday night
Bruce Castor, pictured on Thursday, will also present Trump’s defense on Friday
The Senate on Tuesday voted 56:44 to proceed with his impeachment trial
Trump’s defense team had initially requested the Senate pause the proceedings from Friday at 5pm until Sunday morning. But on Wednesday, Trump’s defense withdrew the request to break on Saturday, allowing the trial to continue without a break into the weekend.
On Thursday night the pair of lawyers representing the former president met with Republican senators including Ted Cruz, who will serve as the jury in a final vote.
The Republican team plan to make four key points on Friday, Axios reported on Thursday night.
They will argue that impeachment of a former president is unconstitutional, because punishment is removal from office, and Trump is no longer in office.
They will claim there was no due process when he was impeached by the House on January 13, because no witnesses were called and there were no lawyers representing Trump.
Schoen and Castor will argue thirdly that Trump was exercising his First Amendment rights, and that impeaching him for that is unlawful.
And finally, Axios said, they will argue that impeaching Trump will not unify the country, as Joe Biden pledged.
The pair have repeatedly condemned the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and will not, Axios said, focus on Trump’s words at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally he held shortly before the unrest.
Donald Trump has spent his impeachment trial playing golf near Mar-a-Lago in Florida
Trump’s lawyers argue his January 6 speech is protected under the First Amendment
Schoen and Castor argue Trump cannot be held responsible for the riot of January 6
Five people died in the Capitol chaos and its aftermath, a domestic attack unparalleled in US history.
Democrats have argued that his rhetoric riled up the rabble and drove them to attack the Capitol on his behalf.
As they wrapped up their case, Democrats beseeched their Congressional colleagues to vote to convict him.
‘We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,’ said Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives.
‘Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen – or worse, if we let it go unanswered – who’s to say it won’t happen again?’
Democrats argued Trump has lit the fuse on violence for years: ‘January 6th was a culmination of the president’s actions, not an aberration from them,’ Lead House Impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said
The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol.
Prosecutors used the rioters’ own videos from that day to pin responsibility on Trump.
‘We were invited here,’ said one.
‘Trump sent us,’ said another. ‘He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.’
Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render ‘impartial justice.’
‘Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,’ Raskin said, noting that Trump stood by doing nothing for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.
‘Why did president Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?’ Raskin asked.
‘As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?’
Raskin and his colleagues argued that Trump had been stoking tensions long before January 6.
‘This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,’ Raskin said. ‘This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.’
Earlier, Joe Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change ‘some minds.’
Democratic House impeachment managers showed the break-in from two angles
Schoen said on Thursday that the Democrats’ presentation was ‘offensive’ and that they ‘haven’t tied it in any way to Trump.’
He told reporters on Thursday at the Capitol that he believed Democrats were making the public relive the tragedy in a way that ‘tears at the American people’ and impedes efforts at unity in the country.
Despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.
It would take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats.
The proceedings could finish with a vote this weekend by the senators who are sitting as impeachment jurors.
THE IMPEACHMENT LEGAL TEAMS
THE HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGERS
Who’s who in the prosecution (from left): Jamie Raskin, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Diana DeGette, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse
Lead impeachment manager: Jamie Raskin. Constitutional law professor who lectured at American University, in Washington D.C., before moving into politics as a Maryland state senator then House member. Fierce critic of Trump who called for his impeachment after the Mueller report.
David Cicilline: One-time public defender and mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, which is now in his district. Lead author of the article of impeachment.
Joaquin Castro: Texas rep whose twin brother Julian ran for president. Lawyer and member of Texas Legislature before joining Congress.
Diana DeGette: Longest-serving member of Congress in the team with 13 terms for her Colorado district. A civil rights attorney before she went into public office.
Eric Swalwell: California prosecutor turned rep who is the only member of the impeachment managers who was also involved in the first trial. Target of Republican ire for his admitted relationship with a Chinese spy called Fang Fang which he ended when the FBI warned him she was a spy
Stacey Plaskett: Represents the Virgin Islands and therefore has no vote but was an assistant district attorney in the Bronx before entering Congress.
Joe Neguse: Private practice lawyer who is now a two-term Colorado congressman.
Ted Lieu (not in photo): Former Air Force officer who is a reserve colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The California rep is another bitter public critic of Trump.
Madeleine Dean (not in photo): Pennsylvania attorney turned English professor and member of its house of representatives whose Pennsylvania district is also home of Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s defense team.
David Schoen: Alabama-based criminal defense attorney who has previously represented Roger Stone, and met with Jeffrey Epstein just before his death – then suggested he did not believe it was suicide. Observant Jewish attorney said he would not work on the Sabbath, leading to impeachment trial being scheduled not to sit from 5pm on Friday, but later said he was not needed that day, allowing it to go on.
Bruce Castor: Castor was Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney when he decided not to prosecute Bill Cosby on rape charges which his successor went ahead with, leading to the comedian being convicted and imprisoned. Castor settled a defamation case with victim Andrea Costand. Later became acting attorney general of Pennsylvania, and is now in private practice.
Michael van der Veen: Added to the roster of attorneys on the eve of the trial. Philadelphia personal injury attorney who is close to Castor – Castor joined his firm in December – and has also been a criminal defense attorney. A former client said he called Trump a ‘f***ing crook’ in summer 2020.
William Brennan: Veteran Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who appears to have joined on the first day of the trial. Has represented pro-Trump figures but also a college student charged with trying to steal Trump’s tax returns.