Updated Feb 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Impeachment trial recap, day 4: Trump's team concludes speedy defense

 Members of former President Donald Trumps defense team, David Schoen, center left, Michael van der Veen, center, and Bruce Castor, center right, arrive at the Capitol

Members of former President Donald Trumps defense team, David Schoen, center left, Michael van der Veen, center, and Bruce Castor, center right, arrive at the Capitol. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Donald Trump's legal team argued four key points during its defense of the former president on Friday — all focused on process.

The big picture: The lawyers delivered a swift defense in which they called the House charge that the former president incited the Jan. 6 insurrection a "preposterous and monstrous lie." In their presentation, the defense team asserted that the trial itself is unconstitutional; there was no due process; convicting Trump violates his First Amendment rights; and impeachment fails to unify the country.

  • The Q&A portion of the trial also came to a close early Friday evening.

What to watch: The Senate has adjourned until 10 a.m. Saturday. A final vote is expected around 3 p.m. ET, suggesting neither side plans to call witnesses.


  • Trump attorney Michael Van der Veen kicked off the presentation by arguing that "no thinking person" could conclude that Trump incited the insurrection on Jan. 6, calling the impeachment an "unconstitutional act" of "political vengeance" and a "political witch hunt."
  • Van der Veen showed clips of House Democrats in 2016 objecting to Trump's victory in several states — including lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin. "To litigate questions of election integrity within the system is not incitement to insurrection. It is the democratic system working as founders and lawmakers have designed," the attorney argued.
  • He falsely claimed that one of the first people arrested after the Capitol attack was "a leader of Antifa," before going on to accuse Democrats of encouraging "mob violence" over the past four years.
  • Van der Veen watched senators for their reaction as he played video, and concluded his presentation by claiming the impeachment is "about Democrats trying to disqualify their political opposition" and "smear" the 75 million Americans who voted for Trump, calling the effort "constitutional cancel culture."
  • Trump lawyer David Schoen accused the impeachment managers of "manipulating video" and relying on media reports as evidence of the president's response to the riots. Notably, Trump's legal team turned down a request to have him testify under oath, calling it a "stunt."
  • Schoen played a 13-minute, selectively edited montage of Democrats and media personalities using the word "fight" and similar phrases during speeches and commentary, arguing that it's standard political rhetoric protected by the First Amendment. Republicans in the chamber could be seen visibly laughing at the clips.
  • Lawyer Bruce Castor said Trump could not be convicted for "incitement of insurrection" because "clearly, there was no insurrection" — citing the apparent lack of plans to take full control of the government. "The critical issue in this case is the very narrow issue that is charged against the 45th president," he stated.
  • Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham were seen going in and out of the conference room where Trump's defense team was during a break. The two Republicans drew criticism for huddling with the lawyers despite also being jurors in the trial.
  • During the Q&A, the former president's defense team could not answer a question on when he knew about the breach of the Capitol, saying the "rush" to impeach has resulted in "zero" investigation.
  • Rep. Stacey Plaskett responded to the same question on behalf of Democrats, stating, "This attack was on live TV. On all major networks in real-time."
  • During the question-and-answer portion of the trial, van der Veen responded to a question posed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, refusing to say whether his client won or lost the 2020 election and describing his own judgment on the matter as “irrelevant.”

Read the questions posed to the House managers and Trump defense team here.

The bottom line: Republican lawmakers — as well as Trump’s defense team — agree that they want to get the trial over as quickly as possible, given the beating they’re taking from the media and the strength of the Democrats' presentation.

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