Highlights of Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Trial – The New York Times

Posted: February 14, 2021 at 2:04 pm

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transcript

transcript

Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people. To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie. A small group who came to engage in violent and menacing behavior hijacked the event for their own purposes. This sham impeachment also poses a serious threat to freedom of speech for political leaders of both parties at every level of government. The Senate should be extremely careful about the president, the precedent, this case will set. We heard a lot this week about fight like hell, but they cut off the video before they showed you the presidents optimistic, patriotic words that followed immediately after. Fight like hell, and if you dont fight like hell, youre not going to have a country anymore. Our exciting adventures and boldest endeavors have not yet begun. My fellow Americans, for our movement, for our children and for our beloved country, and I say this despite all thats happened, the best is yet to come. This case, unfortunately, is about political hatred. It has become very clear that the House Democrats hate Donald Trump. This type of political hatred has no place in our political institutions, and certainly no place in the law. This hatred has led the House managers to manipulate and selectively edit Mr. Trumps speech to make it falsely appear that he sought to incite the crowd to violently attack the Capitol. Suddenly, the word fight is off limits? Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation. Its a term used over and over and over again by politicians on both sides of the aisle. And of course, the Democrat House managers know that the word fight has been used figuratively in political speech forever. But dont take it from me. Its best to listen to them. We are in a fight. We are in a fight. Democrats are fighting as hard as we can. Democrats are standing up to fight. We know how to fight. We like a good fight. Democrats are going to fight like hell. We fight like hell. So why are we here? Politics. Their goal is to eliminate a political opponent. To substitute their judgment for the will of the voters. 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.

Lawyers for Donald J. Trump delivered an incendiary but brief defense of the former president on Friday, calling the Houses charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol a preposterous and monstrous lie as they falsely equated his conduct to Democrats own combative rhetoric.

Confident they have enough votes from Republicans to acquit Mr. Trump, the lawyers used only about three of their 16 allotted hours. Their speed allowed senators to complete a period of questioning the prosecution and defense Friday evening and cleared the way for closing arguments and a final verdict, likely on Saturday.

Earlier, the defense team had channeled the former presidents own combative style and embrace of falsehoods to claim, contrary to facts, that Mr. Trump never glorified violence during his presidency and that he consistently called for peace as the rampage at the Capitol unfolded. Showing video clips of Democrats urging their supporters to fight and Mr. Trump venerating law and order, they sought to rewrite not just the narrative of his campaign to overturn the election but that of his entire presidency.

This trial is about far more than President Trump, said Bruce L. Castor Jr., one of the lawyers, as he closed the defense. It is about silencing the speech the majority does not agree with. It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters and criminalizing political viewpoints.

The defenses presentation unfolded after nine House prosecutors spent two days laying out a meticulous case against the former president dramatized with never-before-seen video of the Jan. 6 riot portraying the rampage as the direct result of Mr. Trumps monthslong campaign to overturn the election. Desperate to cling to power, the Democrats argued, Mr. Trump goaded his followers into joining his effort and would do so again, they said, if the Senate failed to convict him and bar him from holding office in the future.

Among the lawyers core arguments were that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to even try a former president now out of office, that Mr. Trumps conduct was protected by the First Amendment and that it came nowhere near the legal definition for incitement.

But standing before a jury of 100 senators, their case was as political in nature as it was legal. Using a favorite tactic of Mr. Trumps, his lawyers also sought to defend his behavior by citing that of others, arguing that he could no more be held responsible for the Capitol assault than Democrats could for the violence that erupted at some racial justice protests last summer.

They also sought to selectively poke holes in Democrats case. Michael van der Veen, one of the lawyers, insisted on Friday that Mr. Trump had only ever been interested in election security reforms, like voter ID laws an assertion that directly contradicted months of public and private actions by Mr. Trump. He said the president intended for the Jan. 6 rally he hosted before the attack to be peaceful, but that it had been hijacked by extremists, including from the far left another claim disproved even by Republicans.

The reality is Mr. Trump was not in any way shape or form instructing these people to fight using physical violence, Mr. van der Veen said. What he was instructing them to do was challenge their opponents in primary elections, to push for sweeping election reforms, to hold big tech responsible all customary and legal ways to petition your government for redress of grievances.

Mr. Castor also pointed to tweets by Mr. Trump while the attack was underway telling his supporters to stay peaceful and support our Capitol Police. But he did not discuss Mr. Trumps actions during the hours when the Capitol was under attack in which managers said he reveled in his success and delayed sending in reinforcements.

We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur, because his longstanding hatred for violent protesters and his love for law and order is on display, worn on his sleeve, every single day that he served in the White House, he said.

Later, during the question and answer session, Mr. van der Veen said Mr. Trump had not been aware that his vice president, Mike Pence, had been in danger, even though a senator he called during the attack told him Mr. Pence was being evacuated from the chamber.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

transcript

transcript

If we do not convict former President Trump, what message will we be sending to future presidents and Congresses? The consequences of his conduct were devastating on every level. Police officers were left overwhelmed, unprotected; Congress had to be evacuated; our staff barricaded in this building, calling their families to say goodbye. And the world watched us. And the world is still watching us to see what we will do this day. And will know what we did this day 100 years from now. Is it not true that under this new precedent, a future House facing partisan pressure to lock her up could impeach a former secretary of state and a future Senate be forced to put her on trial and potentially disqualify from any future office? In this case, we have a president who committed his crimes against the republic while he was in office. He was impeached by the House of Representatives while he was in office. Mr. Raskin cant tell you on what grounds you acquit. If you believe, even though there was a vote, that theres jurisdiction, if you believe jurisdiction is unconstitutional, you can still believe that. If you believe that the House did not give appropriate due process in this, that can be your reason to acquit. It is clear that President Trumps plot to undermine the 2020 election was built on lies and conspiracy theories. How did this plot to unconstitutionally keep President Trump in power lead to the radicalization of so many of President Trumps followers and the resulting attack on the Capitol? What our commander in chief did was the polar opposite of what were supposed to do. We let the people decide the elections. Except President Trump. He directed all of that rage that he had incited to January 6th. Are the prosecutors right when they claim that Trump was telling a big lie? Or in your judgment, did Trump actually win the election? Who asked that? [Sen. Bernie Sanders] I did. My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding. It absolutely is. Whats supposed to happen here is the article of impeachment is supposed to be [Sen. Patrick Leahy] The Senate will be in order. Whats relevant in this impeachment article is: Were Mr. Trumps words inciteful to the point of violence and riot? Thats the charge. Thats the question. And the answer is no. If the Senates power to disqualify is not derivative of the power to remove a convicted president from office, could the Senate disqualify a sitting president but not remove him or her? Mr. Castro attributed a statement, the time before last that he was up here, that Donald Trump had told his people to fight to the death. Im not from here Im not like you guys I was being very polite and giving him an opportunity to correct the record. And I thought thats exactly what he would do. But instead, what he did is he came up and illustrated the problem with the presentation of the House case. Its been smoke and mirrors, and worse, its been dishonest.

Senators on Friday afternoon opened their first and last window in the trial to directly question the prosecution and defense. But as they submitted questions in writing one by one, most members of the jury appeared more interested in scoring political points than breaking new ground.

Does a politician raising bail for rioters encourage more rioting? read one early question from Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ted Cruz of Texas and two other Republicans. It was an apparent reference to Democrats who supported bail funds for people arrested while protesting racial violence this summer.

Bruce L. Castor Jr., one of former President Donald J. Trumps lawyers, gave a one word answer: Yes.

Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, asked Mr. Trumps lawyers whether the former presidents big lie was correct when he insisted over and over again that he had won the election. If it was an attempt to force his defense to contradict their client, it did not work.

Who asked that? responded Michael van der Veen, another lawyer for the former president, looking for Mr. Sanders. My judgment? My judgments is irrelevant in this proceeding.

As time ticked by, the former presidents lawyers and the House managers began sniping at each other, too. Mr. van der Veen complained the trial was the most miserable experience Ive had down here in Washington, D.C. and accused Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, of doctoring evidence.

Mr. Raskin was not pleased. Counsel said before, This has been my worst experience in Washington, he said. For that, I say were sorry, but man you should have been here on Jan. 6.

A short time later, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who was presiding over the trial, gently warned that all parties in this chamber must refrain from using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.

The exception came from a small group of Republican senators openly contemplating conviction. Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana all seemed interested in what Mr. Trump knew about the unfolding riot, when he knew it and what he did about it.

Mr. van der Veen said he could not precisely say when Mr. Trump learned about the attack, but he blamed it on the Democratic managers for building their impeachment on hearsay on top of hearsay on top of hearsay rather than a thorough investigation.

We have a tweet at 2:38 p.m., so it was certainly sometime before then, he said.

When Mr. Romney and Ms. Collins pressed the lawyers on Mr. Trumps specific knowledge of the threat to his vice president, Mike Pence, the answer was clearer, but it appeared to contradict the word of Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, who told reporters this week he informed the president that the vice president was being evacuated from the Senate chamber during a contemporaneous phone call.

The answer is no, said Mr. van der Veen. At no point was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger.

Democrats scoffed, and argued that any weaknesses in their evidentiary record was the fault of Mr. Trump, who refused an invitation to testify.

Rather than yelling at us and screaming about how we didnt have time to get all the facts about what your client did, bring your client up here and have him testify under oath, Mr. Raskin said.

transcript

transcript

The House managers spoke about rhetoric, about a constant drumbeat of heated language. Well as Im sure everyone watching expected, we need to show you some of their own words. I just dont know why there arent uprisings all over the country. Maybe there will be. There needs to be unrest in the streets for as long as there is unrest in our lives. Weve got to be ready to throw a punch. We have to be able to throw a punch. Donald Trump, I think you need to go back and punch him in the face. Please get up in the face of some Congresspeople. People will do what they do. I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay a price. If you had to be stuck in an elevator with either President Trump, Mike Pence or Jeff Sessions, who would it be? Does one of us have to come out alive. Im just going to keep the fight up. What we have to do right now is fight as hard as we can. We have to rise up and fight back. And so, were going to fight. And were going to continue to fight. I am going to be fighting fighting like hell. Keep fighting, fighting, fighting we kept fighting, and we did. So were going to keep fighting. Never, never, never give up this fight. Im a citizen fighting for it Means not only fighting As a leader who fought for progressive change As a lawyer who fought for people his whole life As well as other fights, and Im proud to have Tim in this fight.

Former President Donald J. Trumps defense team offered their own video presentation on Friday a montage of remarks by Democrats urging supporters to fight a rhetorical drumbeat aimed at countering the impact of the footage of the real fight at the Capitol, images of blood and broken glass, presented by the prosecution on Wednesday.

The strategy by Mr. Trumps lawyers was to prove that Mr. Trumps call for his followers to fight like hell in a speech shortly before members of the crowd stormed Congress on Jan. 6 was no different than anti-Trump remarks made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Representative Maxine Waters of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other members of Congress.

To make their point, the team played a lengthy mash-up of bellicose statements from Democrats including President Bidens claim on the campaign trail that he would have beaten the hell out of Mr. Trump in high school.

The presentation, featuring quick-cut editing and the type of ominous music often heard in negative campaign ads, a sharp contrast to the raw footage, sometimes silent, of the attack that was compiled by the House impeachment managers from security cameras and cellphone video, and accompanied by a minute-by-minute timeline.

The defense teams montage concluded with images of Democrats praising the protests against police violence in cities across the United States last summer, juxtaposed with video of rioting, even though every senior Democrat denounced violence.

I showed you the video because in this political forum, all robust speech should be protected, said Michael van der Veen, one of the presidents lawyers.

When you see speech such as this, you have to apply the First Amendment evenly. Blindly, he said, adding, She is blind, lady justice.

It reflected the argument being promoted by Trump defenders on conservative media outlets like Fox News, and was part of an effort to offer a more defiant defense pushed by the former president, who was dissatisfied with the earlier efforts of his team.

It is not clear that the approach had its desired effect, however.

During the presentation, senators in both parties were overheard chatting and laughing by observers in the chamber. Democrats emerged enraged at what they saw as an argument built upon false equivalence.

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: Thats great. Good for you. Youre a patriot, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said after watching the video.

Yet the approach might have succeeded in giving Republicans caught between their disdain for Mr. Trumps behavior and fear of his hold over the party enough cover to justify an acquittal.

The Twitter/CNN/MSNBC bubble will mock & dismiss this defense, but it is going to work with Republican voters and it will give much needed cover and justification to Republican Senators to acquit, said Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and frequent Trump critic, on Twitter during the defenses arguments.

As the Capitol was being infiltrated by a mob last month, what did President Donald J. Trump know about Vice President Mike Pences whereabouts and when did he know it?

That was a question multiple senators were intent on learning more about Friday evening, during a period in the impeachment trial in which senators questioned the House impeachment managers and Mr. Trumps lawyers.

At issue was not only when Mr. Trump took any steps to help end the riot, but also a tweet he posted that day at 2:24 p.m. as rioters had breached the Capitol and Mr. Pence was being rushed out of the Senate chamber.

The vice president didnt have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, Mr. Trump tweeted.

Senator Mitt Romney asked early in the question-and-answer session: When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m. regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that Vice President Pence had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?

No, Michael van der Veen, one of Mr. Trumps lawyers, said bluntly. At no point, he continued, was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger.

The Democratic House managers, who are serving as prosecutors in the trial, argued that Mr. Trump had to know what was going on at the time of his tweet. The whole world knew it, all of us knew it, said Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas. Live television had by this point shown that the insurgents were already inside the building, and that they had weapons and that the police were outnumbered.

The answer also appeared to contradict statements from Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. Mr. Tuberville told reporters this week about a cellphone call he had with Mr. Trump as the Senate was being evacuated. Well, I mean, I dont know if youve ever talked to President Trump, he said. You dont get many words in, but, uh, he didnt get a chance to say a whole lot because I said, Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, Ive got to go.

The timestamp on Mr. Trumps tweet about Mr. Pence lacking courage shows it was sent about 10 minutes after Mr. Pence was evacuated from the chamber.

The Democratic House managers noted Mr. Tubervilles remarks in their answer to Mr. Romneys question. Later in the evening, Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, brought them up again, asking if Mr. Tubervilles account shows Mr. Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence.

Both sides largely reiterated their arguments.

But Mr. Trumps lawyer also argued that whatever Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Pences whereabouts was irrelevant to the charge against him, incitement of insurrection. Other legal analysts might be dubious of that argument. If Mr. Trump was aware of his vice presidents imminent danger, it would conceivably bear on Mr. Trumps intentions.

On the eve of a verdict in Donald J. Trumps Senate trial, one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him confirmed on Friday night that the top House Republican, Representative Kevin McCarthy, told her that the former president had sided with the mob during a phone call as the Jan. 6 Capitol attack unfolded.

In a statement on Friday night, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, recounted a phone call relayed to her by Mr. McCarthy of California, the minority leader, in which Mr. Trump was said to have sided with the rioters, telling the top House Republican that members of the mob who had stormed the Capitol were more upset about the election than you are.

She pleaded with witnesses to step forward and share what they knew about Mr. Trumps actions and statements as the attack was underway.

To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time, Ms. Herrera Beutler said in the statement.

Her account of the call between Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Trump, first reported by CNN, addressed a crucial question in the impeachment trial: what Mr. Trump was doing and saying privately while the Capitol was being overrun.

Ms. Herrera Beutler said that Mr. McCarthy had relayed details of his phone call with Mr. Trump to her. She has been speaking publicly about it for weeks, including during a virtual town hall on Monday with constituents, and she recounted their conversation again in the statement on Friday.

A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy did not reply to a request for comment. Spokespeople for the House impeachment managers did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Republican leaders response to Mr. Trump in the weeks since the attack on the Capitol has fluctuated. On the day of the Houses impeachment vote, he said Mr. Trump bore some responsibility for the attack because he had not denounced the mob, but he has since backtracked and sought to repair his relationship with the former president.

By Ms. Herrera Beutlers account, Mr. McCarthy called Mr. Trump frantically on Jan. 6 as the Capitol was being besieged by thousands of pro-Trump supporters trying to stop Congress from counting Electoral College votes that would confirm his loss.

She said Mr. McCarthy asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.

Mr. Trump replied by saying that antifa, not his supporters, was responsible. When Mr. McCarthy said that was not true, the former president was curt.

Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are, he said, according Ms. Herrera Beutlers account of what Mr. McCarthy told her.

Hours after the assault began, Mr. Trump tweeted a video in which he asked those ransacking the Capitol to leave. Go home. We love you. Youre very special, he said.

A core argument of Mr. Trumps defense, made by Michael van der Veen, one of his lawyers, is that Mr. Trump cannot be convicted of inciting an insurrection because everything he said was protected by his rights to free speech under the Constitution.

Mr. van der Veen who is a personal injury lawyer, not a civil liberties lawyer dismissed a letter signed last week by 144 constitutional scholars and First Amendment lawyers from across the political spectrum, who called a free speech defense of Mr. Trump legally frivolous and not grounds for dismissing the charge against him.

Nonetheless, Mr. van der Veen argued, Mr. Trumps speech deserves full protection under the First Amendment. He cited Supreme Court cases holding that elected officials can engage in political speech.

Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for The New York Times, addressed the argument in a live analysis.

Its true, of course, that elected officials have First Amendment rights, Mr. Liptak wrote. Its also true that government officials may be fired for making statements that would otherwise be protected political speech. An impeachment trial may present that second sort of question.

Mr. Liptak quoted from the House impeachment managers brief that addressed the First Amendment argument advanced by Mr. Trumps lawyers: Under President Trumps view of the First Amendment, even a sitting President who strenuously urged States to secede from the Union and rebel against the federal government would be immune from impeachment.

FACT CHECK

Donald J. Trumps lawyers, mounting their defense of the former president on Friday, made a number of inaccurate or misleading claims about the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, Mr. Trumps remarks and the impeachment process itself. Here are some of them.

Michael van der Veen, one of the lawyers, misleadingly said that Mr. Trump did not express a desire that the joint session be prevented from conducting its business but rather the entire premise of his remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law. But Mr. Trump repeatedly urged former Vice President Mike Pence to send it back to the States to recertify and noted that he was challenging the certification of the election.

Far from promoting insurrection of the United States, the presidents remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically, Mr. van der Veen said. Mr. Trump used the phrase peacefully and patriotically once in his speech, compared to 20 uses of the word fight.

Mr. van der Veen also claimed that one of the first people arrested in connection with the riots at the Capitol was the leader of antifa. That was a hyperbolic reference to John E. Sullivan, a Utah man who was charged on Jan. 15 for violent entry and disorderly conduct. Mr. Sullivan, an activist, has said he was there to film the siege. He has referred to antifa a loose collective of antifascist activists that has no leader on social media, but he has repeatedly denied being a member of the movement, though he shares its beliefs.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said there is no evidence that supporters of the antifa movement had participated in the Jan. 6 siege.

Mr. van der Veen equated the Jan. 6 siege to the protests at Lafayette Square in front of the White House last summer, and presented a false timeline, claiming that violent rioters repeatedly attacked Secret Service officers and at one point, pierced a security wall, culminating in the clearing of Lafayette Square.

There was no breach. Law enforcement officials began clearing Lafayette Square after 6 p.m. on June 1, to allow Mr. Trump to pose, while holding a Bible, in front of a church near the square. Additional security fencing was installed after those events, according to local news reports and the National Park Service.

Similarly, Mr. van der Veen compared Mr. Trumps complaints and political language about the 2020 election with concerns about the integrity of the 2016 election, arguing that the entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked. But American intelligence agencies concluded years ago that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election. The Republican-led Senate agreed last year that Russia disrupted that election to help Mr. Trump.

David Schoen, another lawyer, misleadingly claimed that the House held on to the article of impeachment until Democrats had secured control over the Senate and Representative Clyburn made clear they had considered holding the articles for over 100 days to provide President Biden with a clear pathway to implement his agenda.

In fact, Democrats had considered delivering the article to the Senate earlier, almost immediately after it was approved, but Senator Mitch McConnell, then the majority leader, precluded the possibility of an immediate trial in a letter informing Republican lawmakers that the Senate was in recess and may conduct no business until January 19. Mr. Clyburn made his suggestion of withholding the article even longer, after Mr. McConnell had sent his letter.

Mr. Schoen also accused Democrats of presenting a manufactured graphic, referring to a New York Times photo of Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, looking at a computer screen. The screen featured an image of a tweet Mr. Trump shared stamped with an erroneous date. Left unsaid was that the image was recreated because Mr. Trump has been banned from Twitter and House managers could not simply show the retweet itself. Mr. Schoen then acknowledged that House managers fixed the incorrect date before presenting the graphic during the trial.

Mr. Schoen complained once again that the impeachment did not afford Mr. Trump due process a point Mr. Trumps lawyers and supporters had previously argued during his first impeachment, and a point law scholars had dismissed.

There are no enforceable rights to due process in a House inquiry, and while those rights exist in the Senate trial, they are limited, said Frank O. Bowman III, a law professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on impeachment. Former President Andrew Johnson, for example, was impeached by the House before it even drew up the articles.

Fani T. Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., is targeting former President Donald J. Trump and a range of his allies in her newly announced investigation into election interference.

Ms. Willis and her office have indicated that the investigation, which she revealed this week, will include Senator Lindsey Grahams November phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgias secretary of state, about mail-in ballots; the abrupt removal last month of Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who earned Mr. Trumps enmity for not advancing his debunked assertions about election fraud; and the false claims that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the presidents personal lawyer, made before state legislative committees.

An investigation is like an onion, Ms. Willis told The New York Times in an interview. You never know. You pull something back, and then you find something else.

She added, Anything that is relevant to attempts to interfere with the Georgia election will be subject to review.

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Highlights of Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Trial - The New York Times

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