Takeaways From Day 4 of Trump’s Impeachment Trial
Former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers opened and closed their impeachment defense in a span of three hours on Friday, drawing praise from Republicans. Senators then submitted questions to each side. They are expected to vote to convict or acquit Mr. Trump on Saturday.
Here are takeaways from the fourth day of Mr. Trump’s trial.
The Trump defense sounded a lot like Trump himself.
Republican senators praised Mr. Trump’s three-hour defense, during which his lawyers accused House impeachment managers of taking the former president’s words and actions out of context, complained about what they saw as the news media’s unfair coverage of their client and presented many of Mr. Trump’s own talking points and narratives.
It was almost as though Mr. Trump was delivering his defense himself. And lawmakers praised it as a huge improvement over the rambling and disorganized argument delivered on Tuesday by one of his lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr., a performance that was widely panned and infuriated Mr. Trump.
The defense lawyers said the House managers manipulated their client’s words and pointed to Mr. Trump’s call to his supporters in his Jan. 6 speech to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Mr. Castor said, “The House managers took from that: ‘Go down to the Capitol and riot.’”
But that is not what Mr. Trump was asking his supporters to do, Mr. Castor said: “He wanted them to support primary challenges.”
The former president stood for law and order, Michael T. van der Veen, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, said, picking up a phrase the president has used repeatedly.
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
“Mr. Trump did the opposite of advocating for lawless action, the opposite,” Mr. van der Veen said. “He expressly advocated for peaceful action at the Save America rally.”
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin raved about the defense.
“The president’s lawyers blew the House managers’ case out of the water — they just legally eviscerated their case,” he told reporters. Mr. Johnson was among the Republican lawmakers who had planned on Jan. 6 to challenge the Electoral College tally of Mr. Biden’s victory. But his plans changed after the attack.
“We’ve seen a much stronger presentation from the defense,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, told reporters. Ms. Murkowski voted with Democrats to find the Senate trial of a former president constitutional, and Democrats have hoped they could count on her to vote to convict Mr. Trump.
Trump’s defense went on the offensive and brought its own videos.
The former president’s lawyers began their defense by attacking the House impeachment managers’ case, taking aim at many of the compelling video presentations the Democrats made throughout the week.
The lawyers produced split screens for senators, juxtaposing footage that House managers showed during the first three days of the trial with what the defense argued really happened. Many were labeled “MANAGERS” and “REALITY.”
“Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the last four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people,” Mr. van der Veen said.
The House managers used video footage to tell the story of Jan. 6 in Mr. Trump’s and the rioters’ own words. They showed scenes of what was happening outside the Senate chamber when the senators — in the same space where the trial has been held — were rushing to safety and played recordings of distress calls from officers who were vastly outnumbered by the violent mob.
Democrats and Republicans alike use the word ‘fight’ figuratively.
Mr. Trump’s defense team delivered a rapid-fire video montage of Democrats saying the word “fight” in their political speeches, challenging a key House argument that Mr. Trump incited the attack on Jan. 6 by telling his supporters to “fight” in a speech just before urging them to march to the Capitol.
Earlier in the week, House managers played video of that speech, including Mr. Trump saying: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Mr. Trump’s lawyers maintain that this figurative language is common among politicians, as evidenced by the video montage, which they asserted included all the House managers as well as the Democratic senators using phrases such as: “You don’t get what you don’t fight for.” “Get in this fight.” “We will fight when we must fight.” “We are in this fight for our lives.”
The final clip on one of the fight reels was of Kamala Harris, a senator at the time, on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in April 2018.
Ms. DeGeneres asked Ms. Harris: “If you had to be stuck in an elevator with either President Trump, Mike Pence or Jeff Sessions, who would it be?”
Ms. Harris responded, “Does one of us have to come out alive?” drawing laughter from her host and the audience.
Mr. van der Veen let out a deep sigh as the video ended.
One Democratic lawmaker took issue with the defense team’s montage.
“Yes, all of us at some times have used the word ‘fight,’” Senator Chris Coons of Delaware told reporters during a brief break. But, he said, Democrats did not tell people to fight right before their supporters launched an attack.