Feb 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Impeachment 2.0: A tale of the tapes

Animated illustration of Trump's silhouette filled with television static

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

House impeachment managers and Donald Trump's defense team both plan to rely heavily on video during the former president's trial this week, and will try to use the opposing party's words against them, sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

What we're hearing: Trump's team, which will consist of four lawyers present on the Senate floor, is expected to make the First Amendment a focal point of their defense. Meanwhile, the House Democratic managers plan to show a series of videos designed to shock the Senate chamber and play on members' emotions.

Why it matters: With even President Biden saying he does not expect Trump to be convicted, both sides will play to a jury outside the Capitol — the court of public opinion.

Trump's team:

  • It plans to show video clips of Democratic lawmakers using what they'll argue is "aggressive and dangerous" language and claim the party is exercising a double standard against Trump, one source told Axios.

House impeachment managers:

  • They plan to show videos from those in the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, as well as clips demonstrating some of Trump's harshest and most aggressive rhetoric preceding the attack.
  • The managers also are expected to spend a good chunk of their time pointing to Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump and refused to apologize for it. Her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, was the equivalent of Darth Vader in the eyes of Democrats for many years.

What's next: The trial will begin Tuesday with a debate about the trial's constitutionality.

  • On Wednesday, the House impeachment managers will begin presenting their evidence.
  • Trump’s defense team's presentation will follow.
  • Both sides get 16 hours — over two days — to make their respective case, but neither is expected to use all of their allotted time.

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