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Feb. 12 updates for impeachment trial Day 4: Defense team rests their case

The House impeached Trump last month for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Image: Illustration shows former President Donald Trump on a teal background with a red paper tear showing the Capitol and words like \"insurrection\" and \"high crimes.\"
Watch live: full coverage of Trump's second impeachment trial on NBC News NOW.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Former President Donald Trump's defense team rested their case Friday after making less than three hours of arguments in his Senate impeachment trial. House Democrats took up two days, including presentations of harrowing footage of last month's Capitol riot.

The trial then moved into the question and answer phase, with members of the Senate submitted questions for both sides.

Trump's lawyers are arguing that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional — a point legal experts dispute. They also say the former president's speech at a rally that preceded the violence at the Capitol, in which he riled up the crowd with repeated false claims of election fraud, is protected by the First Amendment.

Democratic House impeachment managers made the case Thursday that the mob of Trump supporters who ransacked the Capitol believed they were doing so at his direction. The managers methodically documented how rioters echoed the exact words of Trump while they stormed the building, and how, once inside, many of them said they were acting at his behest.

Managers went on to play a series of clips of times Trump explicitly called on his supporters to commit violent acts, or expressed support for violent groups, which they said showed a "pattern and practice of inciting violence."

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Read the latest updates below:

952d ago / 2:05 AM UTC

Trump impeachment trial highlights: Defense team rests case

952d ago / 1:57 AM UTC

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. 


952d ago / 1:22 AM UTC

'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.

952d ago / 1:15 AM UTC

Biden's post-impeachment trial plans

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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. 

952d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

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.

952d ago / 12:22 AM UTC

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."

952d ago / 11:35 PM UTC

NBC News' Hallie Jackson: Trump knew Pence was in danger

952d ago / 11:34 PM UTC

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.

952d ago / 11:33 PM UTC

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.

952d ago / 11:17 PM UTC

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.

952d ago / 10:55 PM UTC

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.

952d ago / 10:50 PM UTC
952d ago / 10:40 PM UTC

'He delighted in this': Castro explains why Trump's tweet hours after riot shows his mindset

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked what the relevance of one of Trump's tweets in the hours after the Capitol riot was to his guilt.

The tweet in question, posted just after 6 p.m. on the night of the riot, read: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."

"Go home with love & in peace," he continued. "Remember this day forever!"

Castro answered the question, saying if the riot "wasn't what he wanted, why would he say remember this day forever?"

Trump would only say that, according to Castro, if he "thought it was something to praise."

"That statement was entirely consistent with everything he said leading up to the attack," Castro said, adding, "Senators, he reveled in this. He delighted in this."

952d ago / 10:31 PM UTC

Raskin rebutts Trump's defense with quip

House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., offered a quick quip in response to Trump's defense team during the Q&A portion. 

"If you rob a bank and on the way out the door you yell, 'respect private property,' that's not a defense to robbing the bank," Raskin said in response to a question regarding Trump saying "stay peaceful" during the riot.

952d ago / 10:21 PM UTC

Trump's attorneys refuse to say Trump lost the election

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked both sides whether they believe Trump actually won the election, a question that the president's entire effort to overturn the results was based upon.

After Plaskett explained that Trump, through the election and his numerous court cases that followed, definitively lost, it was the former president's attorneys turn to answer.

Van der Veen demanded to know which senator asked the question, looking out into the audience.

"I did!" Sanders snapped back.

Van der Veen then said whether or not he believes Trump won the election was "irrelevant to this proceeding."

952d ago / 10:12 PM UTC

GOP senator asks defense about Trump being pro-Israel, lawyer accuses managers of doctoring evidence

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., asked, "Given the allegations of the House manager that President Trump has tolerated anti-Semitic rhetoric, has there been a more pro-Israel president than President Trump?"

"No, but it's apparent that nobody listened to what I said earlier today," Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen responded. 

Van der Veen said that he isn't "having fun" and is having "the most miserable experience" he's ever had in Washington, D.C. "There's nothing fun about it." 

He then suggested, without evidence, that House managers were "caught doctoring evidence." 

952d ago / 10:02 PM UTC

Both sides asked to clarify Senate powers on conviction, removal and disqualification

Both sides were asked to clarify what powers the Senate has on conviction, removal and disqualification. 

Trump's defense did not answer the question, directly, but instead excoriated a House manager for claims he made about the former president. 

Lead impeachment manager Raskin said that the power to disqualify is derived from the power to convict, and further explained that the Senate can vote to convict without disqualifying the former president from running from office. Also, Raskin argued, a sitting president can be convicted and disqualified. 

952d ago / 10:01 PM UTC

'There is a cost': Castro on Trump's months-long effort to delegitimize the election

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., asked the House managers how Trump's efforts to delegitimize the election, based on falsehoods, lead to the "radicalization of so many of his followers and the attack on the Capitol?"

Castro answered, saying the former president's months-long effort to delegitimize the election — including calling it rigged and stolen — was unlike anything ever seen in American politics before.

"There is a cost to doing that," Castro said. "They're listening to [Trump] in a way that they're quite honestly not listening to me or to us.

Earlier, van der Veen accused Castro of mischaracterizing a tweet in which Trump said Democrats would "fight to the death" if victims of a stolen election.

"If a Democrat Presidential Candidate had an Election Rigged & Stolen, with proof of such acts at a level never seen before, the Democrat Senators would consider it an act of war, and fight to the death," Trump wrote in late December. "Mitch & the Republicans do NOTHING, just want to let it pass. NO FIGHT!"

"He said they'd fight to the death," Castro said, adding that it was clear the meaning behind the tweet is "so you should fight to the death."

"Do we read that any other way?" he said.

952d ago / 9:54 PM UTC

Trump's defense asked constitutional question of impeaching former officeholders

Several Republican senators posed a question to Trump's defense team about the constitutionality of impeaching a former officeholder. 

The lawmakers wondered since several states, such as Delaware and Vermont, had specific language in their state constitutions about impeaching former officeholders, if the Founding Fathers omitted that language on purpose when they later drafted the U.S. Constitution. 

Trump's defense argued that the Founding Fathers did omit the language after reviewing state constitutions and making several drafts before arriving at the final version.

However, before the trial began the Senate voted that the chamber is the appropriate venue to put the former president on trial. 

952d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

Plaskett: Decision on whether to convict Trump will be defining for U.S. around the world

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bob Casey and Sherrod Brown asked the managers what message will be sent to future presidents and Congresses if the Senate does not convict Trump.

Rep. Stacey Plaskett answered the question, pointing to the destruction of Jan. 6 amid the efforts to overturn the election "and thwart the transfer of power."

"And the world watched us," she said of the riot. "And the world is still watching us to see what we will do this day."

"Our actions will reverberate as to what are the future consequences," she said.

"[It's] decisions like this that will define us as a people, who America is," she added.

952d ago / 9:44 PM UTC
952d ago / 9:41 PM UTC

Both sides asked if Trump knew Pence being evacuated during riot

Both sides were asked by Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine about whether the president knew former vice president Pence was being evacuated as the rioters were storming the Capitol.

House manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, noted the timeline of the siege and said Trump had to know because the images were being broadcast across the country and the world. Castro noted that just before Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber to escape a mob that wanted to “hang” him, Trump tweeted that the former vice president did not have the “courage” to stop the electoral certification. 

The defense argued that the president did not know and also claimed that this incident is not mentioned in the article of impeachment, making it an irrelevant point. 


952d ago / 9:38 PM UTC

'Cartoon-like': Democrats mock Trump team's video showing them say 'fight'


Democrats reacted Friday with a mix of dismissal and mockery at former President Donald Trump's defense team showing a montage of many of them using the word "fight."

The 11-minute clip showed the word 238 times, according to an NBC News count, in an attempt to argue that Trump did nothing wrong or unusual at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the Capitol riot. The defense videos also used dramatic and dark music over clips of Democrats and news reporters.

But Democrats argued it was a bad-faith comparison, noting that they were clearly speaking rhetorically and were not trying to egg on supporters to overturn a legitimate election.

"There's a false equivalence," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Friday on MSNBC during a break. "What they ignore is Donald Trump invited this mob to Washington, knew they were armed and dangerous," based on available intelligence at the time, he added. "When the attack began he did nothing to protect the lives of those who were in danger."

Read more here.

952d ago / 9:21 PM UTC

Defense lawyer fails to answer GOP question about when Trump learned of Capitol breach

Moderate GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine asked Trump's defense team: "Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach at the Capitol? What specific actions did he take to end the rioting, and when did he take them? Please be as specific as possible."

Lawyer Michael van der Veen came the podium and didn't answer the question. Instead, he claimed House managers didn't present any evidence about that, saying there was "absolutely no investigation into that." 

"That's the problem with this entire proceeding," he claimed. "The House managers did zero investigation and the American people deserve a lot better." 

Before walking away from the podium, van der Veen said that Trump was denied due process — but he never answered the question. Afterward, Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois repeated the question.

952d ago / 9:14 PM UTC

Senators' takeaways are split along party lines

The opinions of senators Friday about what they've seen from Trump's defense team, as well as House managers the day before, are adhering to party lines.

Mike Braun, R-Ind., praised the defense team's presentation: "I thought it was excellent. I thought it showed the contrast between what we've seen before. It exposed some of the editing that occurred and, you know, made the other side's point of view easier to understand."

Braun said he's waiting until tomorrow to decide how he will vote.

Ron Johnson, R- Wis., said in a tweet, "President’s lawyers blew the House Manager’s case out of the water. Legally eviscerated them."

Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., similarly praised the House managers: "The evidence is so much more graphic and powerful, the crime so, so much easier to understand."

952d ago / 9:07 PM UTC

Republican Georgia election official disputes Trump's impeachment defense

Gabriel Sterling, who serves as a top Georgia election official, disputed a claim made by one of President Trump's defense lawyers during the impeachment trial regarding the infamous call between the former president and Georgia's secretary of state. 

Trump's attorney Bruce Castor claimed that the president's call with Brad Raffensperger was misconstrued by the media. Castor said the president was concerned about the drop in rejection rates of ballots during the 2020 election. In the call, Trump also appeared to pressure Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” him enough votes to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden. That call is cited in the impeachment article and now part of a criminal probe in Georgia. 

However, Sterling said in a tweet on Friday that Castor had it wrong. 

"OK...piecing this together. The initial absentee rejection rate for signature issue was about double in 2020 as 2018. There is a cure period now and the final rate was 0.15% in both years. So...shockingly, the disinformation continues...," he wrote. 

952d ago / 9:00 PM UTC

Question-and-answer period of trial begins

The Senate is beginning the question-and-answer period of the trial, in which senators can submit written questions to either side. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that answers would be limited to 5 minutes and if the question is posed to both parties, the time will be equally divided. Questions will alternate between each side. 

952d ago / 8:59 PM UTC

Fact check: Trump attorney says call to Georgia's Raffensperger was totally proper

Castor spent a lengthy chunk of time talking about Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (who Castor inaccurately referred to as “Ben Roeffensperger") in which he demanded proof of widespread voter fraud. 

The call, Castor said, couldn’t possibly be part of the former president’s attempt to incite violence because he didn’t release it. But Castor nonetheless spent ample time discussing the call and Georgia’s election broadly. He repeated Trump’s false and baseless claims that there was fraud, and seemingly attempting to justify his phone call as entirely proper.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cited the call as proof that Trump tried to overturn the election, not as proof of incitement.

Castor also suggested that the rejection rate for absentee ballots in Georgia should have been higher, as it had been in the past; he did not acknowledge that the state standardized their process and trained election workers in proper signature-matching techniques before the election.

And the ultimate rejection rate in 2020 was the same as it was in 2018, according to Georgia's election systems manager, Gabriel Sterling.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Georgia, despite numerous investigations and inquires by state officials.

952d ago / 8:46 PM UTC

Trump's defense team trips up repeatedly during presentations

The president's legal team fumbled a number of words and other aspects of their presentations on Friday.

Van der Veen at one point confused "resurrection" with "insurrection," called Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., "Anya," and mispronounced Vice President Kamala Harris' name. He also made an accusation about a tweet from one of the House managers, though he said, "I forget which one."

And in one flub that caught some attention on social media, Castor seemed to confuse Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, reading his name as "Ben Roeffensberger."

Castor at one point also wondered allowed about whether the participants in the trial were under oath.

"I don't know if we're under oath here," Castor said, adding, "But I sure as hell felt I was under oath" in the chamber.

952d ago / 8:37 PM UTC
952d ago / 8:26 PM UTC

Trump’s lawyers keep talking criminal standards. That’s not how impeachment works.

Trump’s attorneys repeatedly applied the standards of a courtroom to the Senate trial, failing to acknowledge that impeachment is not a criminal sanction — it’s a political one.

In his defense, van der Veen claimed Trump’s rhetoric was not incitement because it was free speech protected by the First Amendment. He went on to say it did not satisfy the Brandenburg test, a legal precedent that reviews if inflammatory speech is protected free speech or can be criminally punished as incitement to violence.

This is misleading, because these are all criminal standards and precedents; impeachment is not a criminal sanction, governed by the Bill of Rights. 

Van der Veen also argued that Trump's team was being victimized by criticisms that their First Amendment argument was frivolous, because attorneys can be sanctioned by a judge for advancing frivolous lawsuits in a court of law.

The Senate is a political court, however, where historically there has always been room for frivolous arguments.

952d ago / 8:24 PM UTC

Trump defense team finishes arguments after less than 3 hours

Trump's defense team finished its arguments at 3:16 p.m. ET. They used just 2 hours and 32 minutes of speaking time, leaving behind the vast majority of the 16 hours that had been allotted to them.

After a 15-minute break, the next part of the trial allows senators to ask both sides questions about their arguments and evidence. 

Both sides will eventually have the opportunity to deliver closing arguments. 

952d ago / 8:13 PM UTC

A 'primary' consideration during the trial?

952d ago / 8:06 PM UTC

Who chose that music?

952d ago / 7:52 PM UTC

House managers' team responds to Trump lawyers' claims about edited tweets and videos

A senior aide to the House managers said Trump's lawyers were wrong to accuse the managers of manipulating Trump videos and tweets. 

Trump's attorneys also took Democrats' comments out of context when playing video clips during the trial, the aide said.

"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," the aide said.

Attorney David Schoen, for example, claimed that the Democratic managers played a clip from Trump's Jan. 6 speech in which he told the crowd they would "walk down" to the Capitol, alleging Democrats cut off the president's comments about going "peacefully and patriotically" to make their voices heard and cheer on some members of Congress. Schoen suggested that was an attempt by Democrats to make it look like Trump had incited the crowd.

"Schoen’s statement is incorrect.  Rep. Dean showed this entire portion of President Trump’s speech —twice," of Trump saying it and also from the crowd's perspective, the aide said.

The aide also said Trump's Twitter account had been suspended, requiring them to recreate some of his tweets graphically, which led to a blue verified badge to be added erroneously to one of the images.

952d ago / 7:34 PM UTC

GOP senators appear more focused during Friday's presentations

Republicans senators appear to be more focused, with less multi-tasking much less during the defense presentation. There was some notetaking at points by GOP Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina during the lawyers' presentations (though not during the videos quoting Democrats talking about "fighting.") 

Someone on the GOP side also chuckled during that video when Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio was shown saying that the only way Stacey Abrams would lose the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia is if the election was stolen. 

952d ago / 6:57 PM UTC

Trial recesses for 15 minutes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced that they would recess for 15 minutes. 

This is the first break in the trial Friday.

952d ago / 6:45 PM UTC

Analysis: The president's speech is less protected than that of lawmakers

The Constitution specifically creates stronger protections for the speech and actions of lawmakers engaged in their duties. Contained in Article I, it is colloquially called “the speech or debate clause.”

The clause, according to the Congressional Research Service, “serves chiefly to protect the independence, integrity, and effectiveness of the legislative branch by barring executive or judicial intrusions into the protected sphere of the legislative process.” It says that members of Congress cannot be held to account for their speech or debate in any other forum but Congress.

There is no such constitutional provision protecting the president’s speech or public acts. The standard for protection of legislative speech is, therefore, higher than that of presidential speech. And, of course, the Senate is not making a law prohibiting free speech in the impeachment case.

952d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

'This is not whataboutism': Trump team replays video of Democrats in First Amendment defense

In presenting the former president's First Amendment defense, Michael T. van der Veen said Trump's rally speech on Jan. 6 "deserves full protection" under the Constitution and mocked the House managers as forming an argument based on "total intellectual dishonesty."

Van der Veen then presented a textbook slippery-slope argument — that if Trump could be convicted over his speech and actions in connection to the riot at the Capitol, no political speech would be safe, and that politicians would now face the threat of impeachment for any speech.

"You can see where this would lead," he said.

Before replaying a heavily edited clip of Democrats making incendiary remarks, van der Veen said: "This is not whataboutism."

"I am showing you this to make the point that all political speech must be protected," he said. "I did not show you the speech to balance out the speech of my client."

"All robust speech should be protected, and it should be protected evenly for all of us," he said.

Meanwhile, nearly 150 leading First Amendment lawyers and constitutional scholars from all over the political spectrum wrote a letter saying the Trump team's First Amendment argument is "legally frivolous," The New York Times reported.

"In other words, we all agree that the First Amendment does not prevent the Senate from convicting President Trump and disqualifying him from holding future office," the attorneys and scholars wrote.

952d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

Trump attorney says no evidence 2016 election was hacked. This is false.

In his defense of Trump, van der Veen also cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election, a routine false claim made by Trump himself.

“The entire Democratic party and national news media spent the last four years repeating, without any evidence, that the 2016 election had been hacked,” he said. “Speaker Pelosi herself said that the 2016 election was hijacked, and that Congress has a duty to protect our democracy.”

U.S. intelligence agencies are in broad agreement that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, including breaching the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

952d ago / 6:27 PM UTC

Democrats respond to Trump team videos

952d ago / 6:18 PM UTC

Schoen falsely portrays Democrats as supporting violent protests

Schoen showed video montages from some of the unrest that occurred during last summer's wave of racial justice protests to argue that Democrats were supportive of violence.

The Trump defense team, however, did not show any of the much more prevalent peaceful protests that unfolded across the country, which is what Democrats at the time were saying they supported. Instead, they falsely portrayed Democrats as supporting the violence that occurred.

Throughout Trump's defense so far, the former president's lawyers haven't shown clips of the violence outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and how Trump supporters breached the Capitol. 

952d ago / 6:16 PM UTC

Fact check: Trump’s 'first two' tweets urged peace

In his defense of the president, Trump attorney Van der Veen falsely claimed that “the first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion of the Capitol began were 'stay peaceful and no violence, because we are the party of law and order.'”

This is false: the president’s first tweet during the riot outside the Capitol was a video of the morning’s rally.

His second, and first after the Capitol was actually breached, was a post angrily blaming Pence for the ongoing certification.

It was more than a half hour after mobs invaded the Capitol when Trump actually wrote "stay peaceful"; an hour into the riot, Trump wrote "no violence!" 

952d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Trump defense plays heavily edited clip of Democrats saying 'fight'

As the defense entered the meat of its argument on Friday, the former president's attorneys began playing a selectively edited video of Democrats calling on supporters to "fight" for their objectives after accusing the House managers of selectively editing Trump's words.

The clip, which went on for minutes, featured prominent Democrats talking about the need to "fight" for various policy objectives or against other efforts.

The attorneys highlighted the comments as a defense for the president's heavily scrutinized words from the rally ahead of the Capitol riot, in which he told supporters to "fight like hell."

952d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

Schoen begins his defense with some questionable claims

The former president's defense team began their presentation by accusing the House managers of taking the president out of context and misrepresenting his words, claiming there was "significant reason to doubt the evidence the House managers have put before us."

Attorney David Schoen accused the House managers of having "manipulated evidence and selectively" editing footage, though the president's defense team proceeded to play a number of selectively edited clips of past comments from Democrats.

Schoen also accused the managers of creating a false representation of the president's tweets and lamented that the president's team did not have the chance to review the evidence ahead of time, saying it amounted to a lack of due process afforded to the defense.

In one example, he said Democrats misrepresented a tweet promoted by the president in which Schoen claimed the user, an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally ahead of the Capitol riot, referenced the "calvary" — a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus — and was not simply misspelling "cavalry," which was how the managers interpreted the tweet.

"The calvary is coming, Mr. President," Kylie Jane Kremer wrote.

952d ago / 5:58 PM UTC

Schoen tries to argue Dems omitted key lines from 'very fine people on both sides' clip

Trump lawyer David Schoen tried to make the case that Democrats selectively edited previous remarks made by the former president in their presentation. 

Schoen argued that the clip Democrats played of Trump's infamous "very fine people on both sides" comment in Charlottesville omitted key lines. 

"The Charlottesville lie — very fine people on both sides — except that isn't all he said, and they knew it then, and they know it now," he said. 

He then played a longer clip of Trump when he made the remark during a press conference after Charlottesville. 

"You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You have people in that group — excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did — you had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very very important statue, and the renaming of a park from Robert E Lee to another name," Trump said at the time. 

Trump went on to say that the Neo-Nazis and white nationalists "should be condemned," but then said suggested the people protesting those groups were just as violent. 

"You had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the, with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats," Trump said. 


952d ago / 5:57 PM UTC

Fact check: Did Antifa infiltrate the protests?

Trump attorney van der Veen also suggested Antifa was involved in infiltrating Trump supporters in a protest.

“One of the first people arrested was a member of Antifa,” van der Veen said, noting he was "sadly" released early.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump allies quickly began claiming anti-fascist activists had infiltrated the gathered Trump supporters. But there’s no evidence of any widespread Antifa involvement and none of the criminal complaints filed so far accuse anyone of being involved with Antifa.

This appeared to be a reference to a Utah man, John Sullivan, who was arrested on Jan. 13. But there’s nothing to indicate that he’s a follower of Antifa and he’s been denounced by some liberal groups who describe him as a non-ideological rabble-rouser.



952d ago / 5:37 PM UTC

Fact check: Van der Veen incorrectly describes clearing of Lafayette Square

952d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

Fact check: What Trump's attorney says he said, and what he actually said

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen claimed on Friday that the president was not in fact trying to derail the certification of the 2020 election results on Jan. 6.

“The entire premise of his remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law, including both the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act,” van der Veen said.

But here’s what Trump actually said in his Jan. 6 speech:

“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldening radical left Democrats which is what they're doing and stolen by the fake news media," Trump said.

He continued: “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that's what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.”

Later, Trump told gathered attendees that he would march on the Capitol with them, where he said it was "up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy."

Van der Veen went on to claim that Trump was simply advocating for future voting restrictions. 

Here’s what Trump said, at the very end of his address: “In addition to challenging the certification of the election, I'm calling on Congress and the state legislatures to quickly pass sweeping election reforms, and you better do it before we have no country left."


952d ago / 5:32 PM UTC

Analysis: What Hillary Clinton didn’t do

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen argued that Trump just did what Democrats did when Hillary Clinton lost: challenge the results, seek recounts and push to reject the certification of electors.

What Hillary Clinton did not do is rally her supporters in Washington, ask them to go to the Capitol, tell them to “stop the steal” and praise them after they stormed the Capitol and looked to kill or otherwise harm elected officials. The reason that she didn’t offer that encouragement is twofold. First, she, at every turn, starting from her concession speech the day after the 2016 election — Trump never gave one — made a point of embracing the rule of law. Second, her supporters didn’t storm the Capitol or threaten elected officials during a riot at the Capitol.

“I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president,” she said on Nov. 9, 2016. “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that — we cherish it."

The whole point of the managers' arguments this week was to demonstrate the difference between legal political discourse and a president inciting his supporters to attack Congress and his vice president.

952d ago / 5:25 PM UTC

Lawyer Michael van der Veen argues Trump did not incite violence on Jan. 6

Trump defense lawyer Michael van der Veen began his team's opening arguments declaring that Trump's Jan. 6 speech on the White House ellipse was not an incitement to violence. 

"No thinking person could seriously believe that the president's January 6 speech on the ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection. This suggestion is patently absurd on its face," he told senators. 

Van der Veen said that Trump instead encouraged his supporters at his rally "to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically." He said that the president laid out a series of legislative steps that should be taken such as passing voter ID legislation, banning ballot harvesting and requiring proof of citizenship and "turning out strong in the next primaries."

"These are not the words of someone inciting a violent insurrection," the lawyer said. "His entire challenge to the election results was squarely focused on how the proper civic process could address any concerns to the established legal and constitutional system."

House managers have argued that Trump clearly incited the attack on the Capitol when he told his supporters that they needed to "fight" back.

952d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

The trial resumes


The Senate impeachment trial got underway just after noon on Friday with the former president's legal team beginning its defense presentation.

Michael van der Veen began the arguments for the defense. They have up to 16 hours to speak, but the defense team said they only expected to speak for three to four hours.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said there will be short breaks about every two hours and a longer dinner break at around 5pm.

952d ago / 4:58 PM UTC
952d ago / 4:49 PM UTC

Shattered glass from doors of Capitol's East Front to be 'preserved'


Laura Condeluci, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, says the shattered windows in the East Front doors, which were repaired Thursday, would be saved.

“The broken panes of glass removed today from the historic Columbus Doors at the east entrance of the Rotunda were preserved," Condeluci said Thursday in response to a question from NBC News. "The broken panes were replaced with new glass.”

Asked what they will do with the glass, she said, “Moving forward, we are looking at options to display a collection from January 6.”

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Mo., told NBC News that he and Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., are drafting a letter today to “encourage that it be enshrined in a display next to the door from which it came.” 

Phillips said he has notified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of his letter, and she “seems very amenable.”

In addition to preservation, they ask that the panels be “prominently displayed for future generations to bear witness to the events of that day and the fragility of our democracy.”

In their letter, the congressmen list a number of other examples of “impressions of our history” that can be found around the Capitol including a bullet hole from the 1954 attack by Puerto Rican nationalists. 

“We believe these items must be preserved as a symbol to those who remain, and to educate future Americans about the fragility of our union and the preciousness of our democracy." the wrote in their letter. 

952d ago / 4:35 PM UTC

Sen. Whitehouse rejects rhetorical equivalence argument

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said Friday that he rejects the idea that there's no difference between Trump's rhetoric preceding the Jan. 6 attack and the comments of Democratic leaders last year after the death of George Floyd. 

Asked about his response to the defense's expected equivalency argument in an interview with CNN, Whitehouse said, "It's false and the obvious differentiation is the events of January 6. We actually had a mob that was, in fact, incited and that came up to the Capitol and that looted and ransacked the place with the intention of disrupting the constitutional process of transfer of power, and did so at the behest of and at the direction of Donald Trump."

"It's really impossible to compare that to anything else," Whitehouse continued. "There's a lot of, you know, political rhetoric out there. This was different and the prosecution showed it."

Whitehouse said the Trump defense team is "trying to hang on for dear life" and that "they can still blow this."

952d ago / 4:15 PM UTC

GOP senators met with Trump legal team to discuss 'strategy'

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Trump's legal team met with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Thursday afternoon after the House managers rested their case.

Graham was spotted leaving the meeting, saying, "See you tomorrow." 

Cruz said they were "discussing their legal strategy and sharing our thoughts."

The meeting raised eyebrows, as senators who will be voting on whether to convict Trump were also strategizing with his legal team. But they're just following in the footsteps of Mitch McConnell, who as Senate majority leader during Trump's first impeachment trial said he was "coordinating with the White House counsel."

"There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this," McConnell, R-Ky., said at the time.

Trump defense attorney David Schoen told reporters after the meeting: "I think it's the best practice here in impeachment. There's nothing about this thing that has any semblance of due process whatsoever."

952d ago / 4:00 PM UTC

Schoen says Trump defense arguments might take just 3 to 4 hours

Trump's lawyer David Schoen said his team thinks it will need only a few hours to deliver its defense arguments.

Speaking to reporters after the House managers finished their arguments Thursday, Schoen said Trump's team may go for about "three to four hours, something like that," on Friday. 

He also criticized the case made by the House managers, saying they had turned the evidence into "an entertainment piece," which he said was "horrific."

952d ago / 3:45 PM UTC
952d ago / 3:29 PM UTC

Managers expect 'distraction campaign' from Trump defense team, senior aides say


Senior aides on the House impeachment managers' team told reporters Friday morning that they expect a "distraction campaign" from the Trump's defense team when the trial begins in the afternoon. 

“I have no doubt that there will be very little substantive defense presented today by the defense because there is no defense," an aide said. 

The aides said that they expected to hear legal arguments from Trump's defense team that are “extraordinarily dangerous in a Constitutional republic."

They said they expect the former president's lawyers, for example, to present the Democrats' incitement argument against Trump as limited only to the one speech he gave on Jan. 6, but the managers have made it clear during their two days of presentations that Trump's rhetoric about the election being rigged predated that rally by many months. 

The aides also said they expect the defense team will show clips of Democrats using incendiary rhetoric to try to establish some kind of equivalency. But “like so much of what Trump’s lawyers might say, that’s a gimmick, it’s a parlor game meant to inflame partisan hostility and play on our division," they said.

952d ago / 3:12 PM UTC

Here's what comes next in the Senate impeachment trial

With the House managers having wrapped their case on Thursday, the Senate impeachment trial will move into its next phase — the defense's presentation.

Like the prosecution, the defense will have a maximum of 16 hours to present its case, though, like the House managers, they may choose to use less than that allotted time.

Following their presentation, senators will have the opportunity to ask questions of both the House managers and the defense. They could then vote on whether to request additional documents and witnesses, although that is not currently expected.

Should no additional documents and witnesses be requested, a total of four hours will be given so each side can make their closing arguments before the Senate will advance to voting on whether to convict the president.

952d ago / 2:36 PM UTC

FIRST READ: The impeachment case against Trump comes down to this one question

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The last three days of arguments by the Democratic impeachment managers boil down to this simple question: Is political violence — in support of a president, provoked by a president, never vociferously condemned by a president — ever acceptable in a democracy?

As it turns out, we were asking this very question five years ago during the 2016 GOP presidential race.

And here was our colleague Benjy Sarlin’s story just two days later: “Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that his supporters would respond with ‘riots’ if he fails to secure the nomination at July’s convention in Cleveland. ‘I think you’d have riots,’ Trump told CNN on Wednesday. ‘I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous many, many millions of people.’”

And it's what Democratic impeachment managers asked yesterday: Is what happened on Jan. 6 — the lead-up to the rally, Donald Trump’s words at the rally, his kind words about the rioters, and his failure to admit he did anything wrong — acceptable to GOP voters and politicians?

Because if it is, there will almost certainly be a next time.

Get more First Read.

952d ago / 2:13 PM UTC
952d ago / 1:48 PM UTC

GOP Sen. Rounds says Lieu's warning left an impression on Republicans

When Rep. Lieu warned the Senate that Trump, if acquitted, could run for office again and potentially incite more violence if he loses, it made an impression on some Republicans in the chamber.

"Several of us wrote that down," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told reporters later Thursday. "I think that was a strong statement on his part."

Lieu had warned earlier in the day: "I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again."

Still, Rounds said that questions about what the former president might do later are "hypotheticals" and signaled that they wouldn't form the basis of how senators vote.

"What I think right now is that — we're basing everything that we're doing on what's already happened," he said. "And we're not going to try to do hypotheticals about what's happening in the future."

952d ago / 12:56 PM UTC
952d ago / 12:26 PM UTC

House manager rejects idea that Trump was not given due process

Lieu pre-emptively responded Thursday to an argument that may be raised by Trump's attorneys and one that has been promoted by Trump allies — that the former president wasn't given due process. 

The Democratic manager pointed out that as a former prosecutor, he didn't need to take months to investigate a crime before charging someone. Lieu said that hundreds of rioters have been charged for the violence on Jan. 6. 

"There was no reason for the House to wait to impeach the man at the very top," Lieu said. "The House had a good reason to move quickly." 

Lieu said that this was "not a case where there was hidden conduct or some conspiracy that required months or years of investigating." The case, he said, didn't raise any complicated legal issues. 

There must be "no doubt" that Congress will act decisively against a president that incites violence, Lieu said. 

952d ago / 11:57 AM UTC

Trump has no First Amendment right to incite violence, House managers say

House managers sought to cut off Trump's First Amendment defense on Thursday, saying that freedom can't be used to justify the incitement of a deadly riot.

For weeks after Joe Biden won the election, Trump willfully lied about election fraud and set the stage for his supporters to violently attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,  according to Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo. 

"In the middle of that explosive situation," Neguse told senators, "he struck a match and he aimed it straight at this building, at us." 

The former president's power set him apart from an ordinary citizen with no ability to incite mob violence, the House manager argued.

"President Trump just wasn't  some guy with politician opinions," Neguse said. "He was the president of the United States and he spent months, months using his unique power of that office, his bully pulpit to spread that big lie."

952d ago / 11:27 AM UTC
952d ago / 11:22 AM UTC

Rep. DeGette: 'Trump made it clear this was only the beginning'

Extremists were emboldened by last month's riot to plot more violence and former President Trump must be held accountable, Rep. DeGette said Thursday.

"President Trump made it clear this was only the beginning," she said.

DeGette focused on a Jan. 7 statement by Trump when the then-president seemed to stop short of completely disavowing violence a day earlier while telling supporters, "our incredible journey is only just beginning." 

"And he was right. Unless we take action, the violence is only just beginning," DeGette said. "Violence is never patriotic and it's never American. It's not the Democratic way and it's not the Republican way."

953d ago / 11:21 AM UTC

Raskin plays clips of Trump endorsing violence before Jan. 6

Raskin argued Thursday that Jan. 6 was a "culmination of the president's actions, not an aberration from them."

"His encouragement of violence against other public officials who he thought had crossed him long predates the 2020 campaign," Raskin said. 

Raskin said that white supremacist and extremist groups "have spread like wildfire" across the country under Trump, and he played a number of video clips showing Trump encouraging or praising violence. 

At an October 2015 rally in Miami, Trump told his supporters to "knock the crap out of" a protester who was in the audience. 

"I promise you I will pay for the legal fees," Trump said on stage. 

Trump was also seen at a March 2016 press conference describing an incident that took place at one of his campaign rallies. He said that someone in the audience began swinging at his supporters. 

"He was hitting people and the audience hit back," Trump said at the time, adding that the audience's reaction was "very, very appropriate."

Another video clip showed the incident in which Greg Gianforte, while running for Congress, body-slammed a reporter at a campaign event and broke the reporter's glasses. Trump later joked about the incident at a campaign rally, saying, "Greg is smart — never wrestle him."

Raskin also played video of Neo-Nazis chanting in Charlottesville, "Jews will not replace us!" and repeating that there were "very fine people on both sides." 

953d ago / 11:14 AM UTC

'Damage' control: Key takeaways from Day 3

House managers rested their case against former President Donald Trump on Thursday by focusing on the damage his supporters caused at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and the harm that could come if he isn't held accountable, while many Republican senators — and even one of Trump's attorneys — seemed to tune the proceedings out.

Impeachment managers rested their case on the third day of Trump's trial. Trump's attorneys will offer his defense Friday.

Here are key takeaways from Day Three.

953d ago / 11:11 AM UTC