Trial Tensions: Trump Defense Argues for Acquittal and Senators Question Both Sides

President pro tempore Patrick Leahy presides over the second impeachment trial of Donald Tr**p
United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons -

On Friday, February 12, 2021, Donald Trump's lawyers mounted a defense in the former president's second Senate Impeachment Trial in response to the case for conviction laid out by the House Impeachment Managers. In contrast to the House Managers' case, the defense took only about three hours to present, allowing the Senate to move on to the Q&A portion of the trial the same day.

The Defense 

Former President Trump's impeachment defense was short and featured video clips of violence from over the summer, Democrats using the word "fight" and other language the defense argued was no better than Trump's January 6th speech, Democratic objections to Mr. Trump's electoral certification vote in 2017, and Democrats saying they planned to impeach the former president all throughout his term. Several of these videos were simply replayed throughout the defense team's presentation. The argument was that the impeachment against Donald Trump is simply a partisan, political act of revenge against a person they hate, despite the fact the impeachment in the House was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history. 

The defense also accused the House Managers of manufacturing and manipulating evidence and not showing them all the evidence. Outside reports and fact-checkers from several different news outlets indicate that the accusations against the Managers were not accurate, and aids to the Managers indicate that one example was clearly a mistake and that the text of the post in question was accurate regardless. 

Trump's defense was packed with numerous misrepresentations, omissions, and false information. Several live-fact-checks can be seen on our impeachment live blog. One notable example was the fact that the defense left out, multiple times, the fact that during the Capitol Seige, Donald Trump tweeted an attack at Mike Pence - an attack that was then seen by the insurrectionists and according to the House Managers' evidence, further provoked the rioters.

Questions and Answers

When the defense concluded, the Senate began the next portion of the impeachment trial: up to four hours of Senator Questions directed to both the Managers and the defense. Three key questions which could very well have the largest effect on the final vote were as follows:

  • From Sens. Collins and Murkowski: Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the capitol? What specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end? And when did he take them?
  • From Sens. Romney and Collins: When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m. regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that the Vice President had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?
  • From Sen. Cassidy: Senator Tuberville reports that he spoke to President Trump at 2:15 p.m. He told the President that the Vice President had just evacuated. I presumed it was understood at this time that the rioters had entered the capitol and threatened the safety of senators and the vice president. Even after hearing, [he tweeted] at 2:24 p.m. that Mike Pence lacked courage. He did not call for law enforcement backup until then. The tweet and lack of response suggests President Trump did not care that Vice President Pence was endangered or that law enforcement was overwhelmed. Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?
These three questions in particular were essentially shrugged off by the defense. In response to the first, the defense stated that they did not know the answer because the House did not spend enough time with the investigation, despite the fact the defense has direct access to former President Trump and those around him and could have and should have easily known the answer. The second question above was similarly hedged. The third question, however, was even more so contested by the defense. Not only did they provide an inadequate answer but they stated that they disagreed with the facts in the question, implying that Sen. Tuberville's account of his phone call with Trump could be false. Sen. Tuberville later spoke with the press and stated that he stands by his account of the call. Sen. Cassidy later said that the answer to his question was not an adequate response.

In addition, in response to a statement from the defense that former President Trump was "at no point" aware that Pence was in danger on January 6th, a source close to the former VP said the lawyer was lying.

What Happens Now?

After the Senators finished asking questions, the trial adjourned until February 13, 2021, when they will continue with closing arguments as well as the possibility of calling any witnesses. 

This article on the House Managers' arguments also goes over the six possible GOP votes for conviction. Sens. Romney, Murkowski, Collins, Sasse, Toomey, and Cassidy are all still potential conviction votes. From what's known so far, several of the senators listed did not feel like their questions were adequately answered by Trump's defense team. In addition, Sen. Tuberville, though an unlikely conviction vote, seems to be digging in his heels regarding his call with Trump during the insurrection. All eyes are still on GOP Leader Mitch McConnell as the trial nears its conclusion, as it remains a slight possibility for him to vote for conviction. 

New Friday night, it has been reported and confirmed by several GOP lawmakers that during a rather tense call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on January 6th, Donald Trump refused to call off the rioters, stating to the Republican leader, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." This new information could possibly be a deciding factor for some Republican Senators on the fence.

Regardless, the mystery will not last forever, though, as a final vote on conviction is expected when the trial continues on Saturday, February 13th. Between now and then, senators will likely begin releasing statements regarding how they will vote and why. 

In the meantime, if you are interested in continued coverage of the Second Trump Senate Impeachment Trial, or if you would like to catch up, our Impeachment Trial Live Blog has the latest!

Basil E. Bacorn

Basil E. Bacorn is an author, artist, entrepreneur, and aspiring entertainer. He has written and published over ten books, including Geek Gods, The Book of Random Thoughts, The Circle's Problem, and the Dark's Descent Series, and has earned an associate's degree in Business and Entrepreneurial Studies.

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