Former President Trump's lawyers began to argue their defense Friday
They are expected to speak for just a few hours
They played clip after clip of Democrats calling to 'fight' and 'fight back'
Accused Democrats of acting out of 'hatred'
Said managers 'manipulated evidence'
Called impeachment a 'witch hunt' and a 'sham,' language Trump uses
When they conclude senators will get to ask questions
President Joe Biden said he's watching to see if his Republican 'friends' in the Senate 'stand up' to Donald Trump with their impeachment vote
'I'm just anxious to see what my Republican friends do. If they stand up,' he said
Joe and Jill Biden made surprise appearance on North Lawn to see a Valentine's Day message the first lady had installed overnight
Giant heart-shaped signs in red, white and pink with messages of 'unity,' 'hope,' 'healing' were placed on the lawn
Biden's carried cups of coffee and had dogs Champ and Major with them
'I just wanted some joy. With the pandemic, just everybody's feeling a little down. So, it's just a little joy. A little hope. That's all,' Jill Biden said of her message
By GEOFF EARLE, DEPUTY U.S. POLITICAL EDITOR FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and EMILY GOODIN, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER and NIKKI SCHWAB, SENIOR U.S. POLITICAL REPORTER
PUBLISHED: 12:24 EST, 12 February 2021 | UPDATED: 20:57 EST, 12 February 2021
President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial grew into a contentious fight night on the floor of the Senate Friday, as his Philadelphia lawyer repeatedly attacked Democrats and sparred with managers as well as senators seeking to test sturdiness of his defense.
Trump lawyer Michael Van der Veen was charged with responding to questions asked by senators themselves during a question-and-answer period spelled out in Senate rules – and used his time to snap at lawmakers who have advanced the impeachment effort.
At one point, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders submitted a question, which as read out by a clerk asked whether he believed Trump’s claim that the election was stolen or if in his judgment did Trump actually win the election.
‘My judgment? Who asked that?’ snapped Van der Veen, who had earlier accused Democrats of being motivated by ‘hatred.’
‘I did,’ responded Sanders, a Vermont independent who aligns with Democrats and has spent years serving in the chamber.
Democrats could be heard murmuring in the background. ‘My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding,’ he responded.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairing the proceeding, had to gavel down the chamber and remind senators not to challenge the content of the response.
It was one of numerous times when Van der Veen took on a pugilistic role and went after his legal adversaries. He sneered about a ‘newly-created Raskin doctrine’ in a dig at Rep. Jamie Raskin, and accused Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas of twisting Trump’s words when he said Trump called on supporters to ‘fight to the death’ on Jan. 6th.
'I'm not from here, I'm not like you guys,' he told senators, gesticulating. He said he was being 'very polite' and giving Castro an opportunity to 'correct the record.'
'Instead what he did is he came up and illustrated the problem with the presentation of the House case. It's been smoke and mirrors and worse, it's been dishonest. He came up and he tried to cover when he got caught,' he claimed.
Castro came back later to say he was quoting form a Trump tweet the president had said Democrats would ‘fight to the death’ if they had an election stolen. Van der Veen used another unrelated question to blast him once again, saying the comment was out of context.
At other points during his arguments Friday, he called Democrats ‘hypocrites’ for charging Trump with incitement despite their public appeals to ‘fight’ on a range of issue or even bringing election challenges. It is a charge that normally might not be allowed in the House or Senate if a member tried to impugn another’s integrity.
In another key exchange, a Trump claimed Trump did not know that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger when he sent a tweet at 2:24 pm on Jan. 6th that Pence ‘didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.’
The lawyer got asked if Trump knew Pence had just been evacuated from the Senate at the time, as Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said he had told the president minutes earlier.
'The answer is no. At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger,' attorney Bruce Castor said.
The Defense Rests
Trump's impeachment lawyers concluded their defense of the former president Friday after less than three hours – after attacking the process as a 'witch hunt' and calling Democratic managers who argued it hypocrites.
Three different Trump lawyers spoke Friday, going after elected Democrats who have used the word 'fight' in their own speeches and claiming Trump had a constitutional basis for his pre-riot speech where told supporters to go to the Capitol to take on 'weak' Republicans.
Wrapping up his own arguments, lawyer Bruce Castor yielded back about 13 hours of time that had been allotted, finishing with a partisan blast at the Democratic majority.
'The majority party promised to unify and deliver more COVID relief. But instead, they did this. 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,' he said.
Trump's team of impeachment lawyers summoned the furious rhetorical style of their client as they began his defense Friday against what they termed a 'sham impeachment' they branded a 'witch hunt.'
With no public indications that the trial has moved enough Republican senators to convict Trump, lawyer Michael van der Veen came out swinging with legal arguments that appeared to channel the former Twitter rage of his client – calling the impeachment an 'appalling abuse' and even bringing up Trump targets like the Russia probe and Antifa.
He called the impeachment a 'shameful effort' to 'smear, censor, and cancel' Trump as well as his supporters.
He cherry-picked Trump's political enemies, calling the impeachment a 'witch hunt,' and going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'left wing anarchists,' and Rep. Maxine Waters for their own rhetoric.
After being on the receiving end of jarring video presentations, Trump's lawyers strung together clips of Democrats in a style often used on evening conservative talk shows meant to throw the opposition off balance.
He began his argument in his second Senate impeachment trial with a denunciation of the charge leveled by managers that he incited a riot with his Jan. 6th speech.
Van der Veen blasted the impeachment as an 'unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance.' He said it only 'further divides our nation.'
Trump's team accused managers of twisting his words that there were 'good people on both sides' at Charlottesville. Trump went on to speak at length to note some people were peacefully protesting the removal of a statute honoring confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee
Former U.S. President Donald Trump's defense attorneys Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen arrive to begin pleading Trump's case during the fourth day of the impeachment trial of the former president on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2021
A lengthy video had Democrats including now-Vice President Kamala Harris calling to 'fight,' as she did at the Human Rights Campaign
Trump's lawyers accused Democrats of manipulating Trump's words
He called the idea that Trump wanted to stir violence a 'preposterous and monstrous lie,' and said he was only asking his supporters to pursue legal political ends.
'The reality is Mr. Trump was not in any way shape or form instructing these people to fight using physical violence,' he said. 'What he was instructing them to do was challenge their opponents in primary elections, to push for sweeping electoral reforms, to hold big tech responsible – all customary and legal ways to petition your government for redress of grievances.'
The day Trump spoke, Congress was in a special session where lawmakers to met only to count electoral votes, and debate on any other issue was not permitted.
Van der Veen said Trump's infamous January 6th speech was not 'in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection.'
'The suggestion is patently absurd on its face,' he said.
He called Trump's call to 'fight' a use of 'ordinary political rhetoric.'
Among those Democrats he singled out for their own words was 'squad' member Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The efforts to attack House managers and pull other Democratic lawmakers into the fray came in a process where Democrats will need to bring over 17 Senate Republicans to secure a conviction. Trump is the first president in history to face a second impeachment, and the first to face one after having left office, after being impeached in the House in the last days of his presidency. Senators would not agree to move it up when the Senate was out of session, setting up the February impeachment.
When it was over, Trump loyalist Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was seen meeting with Trump's defense team for the second consecutive day, after joining a meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas Tuesday evening.
After Democrats aired their own jarring video of violence at the Capitol, Trump's team had a video of their own, this time showing Democrats objecting to certain electoral votes back in 2016. After playing the ten minute video once, the team played a portion of it a second time.
In addition to Democrats, it showed Madonna and actor Johnny Depp using militant language.
The first person van der Veen mentioned was House lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was seen claiming Florida's voters were not 'lawfully certified.'
A video stitched together remarks by a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer calling to reap the 'whirlwind.' It was backed by a soundtrack with beating drums.
Another video showed Democrat after Democrat calling to 'fight' – with notable appearances by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and House impeachment managers.
'That's okay. You didn't do anything wrong,' Schoen told the seated senators. 'It's a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy.'
Schoen defended Trump's remarks to the MAGA rally near the White House that preceded the riot.
'One of the House manager's made much of the president's supposedly ominous words, 'you have to get your people to fight,' but you knew what the president really meant. He meant that the crowd should demand action from members of Congress and support primary challenges to those who don't do what he considered right,' he siad.
'Support primary challenges, not violent action. I know what he meant because I watched the full video. And so did the impeachment managers. But they manipulated his words,' he added.
Due process claims – Democrats motivated by 'hatred'
Returning to the floor after his Tuesday appearance, lawyer David Schoen accused the House managers of having skipped 'the basic elements of due process.'
He accused them of acting out of 'hatred' for the president.
Schoen blasted Democrats for their rush to bring forward the impeachment, although his team has also argued that the impeachment is not constitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
He complained Trump never had 'any opportunity ever to test the integrity of the evidence' against him.
He ridiculed the managers for repeatedly saying 'reportedly' in their presentation, and played tape of a skein of managers using the term – having skipped the hearing process and electing not to call witnesses who could provide official testimony.
He called the word 'reportedly' a code for 'I have no real evidence.'
He said he had 'reason to believe' that House managers 'manipulated evidence' and 'selectively edited footage.'
He played a clip of Trump's speech to the rally until House managers cut it off, then ran a longer clip where Trump asked people to act peacefully. Democratic managers also played that portion of the speech at another point, arguing that calls for peaceful protest were outnumbered by calls to 'fight.'
He blasted Democrats for dropping dramatic security footage that the public had not yet seen during their presentation. It showed Mike Pence being hustled out of a secure location along with the nuclear 'football' just steps from where rioters were located. They also showed images of then Minority Leader Charles Schumer running along with his security team.
'Let me ask you this? Why was this footage never seen before?' asked Schoen.
'Shouldn't the American people have seen this footage as soon as it was available? For what possible reason did the House managers withhold it form the American people?' he asked.
Trump's lawyers appeared in the chamber after House managers concluded their own two-day presentation, after airing graphic videos of the mob that stormed the Capitol as well as internal security footage showing Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers being rushed to safety as a violent mob approached.
Friday's trial featured two new lawyers on Trump's team, Michael van der Veen and William Brennan, following stumbles by Bruce Castor in his opening presentation Tuesday. Brennan is a veteran criminal defense attorney from Philadelphia. Castor joined Van der Veen's firm in December.
Chaplain Berry Black issued an opening prayer seeking the 'spirit of non-partisan patriotism.'
Once again, senators and others present were commanded to keep silent 'on pain of imprisonment' during the trial.
First Amendment – defends Trump's words and attacks constitutional lawyers
Van der Veen accused Democrats of minimizing Supreme Court precedents speaking to 'elected officials' core first amendment rights.
He used personal language to deride the opposing counsel, accusing them of 'intellectual dishonesty.'
'Hatred is a dangerous thing. We all have to work to overcome it. Hatred should have no place in this chamber in these proceedings,' he said.
'They cite zero case law. They made it up.'
He took time to tell the elected lawmakers that rhetoric generally has gotten 'over the top,' and called for applying the First Amendment 'evenly.'
'Do you want to create a precedent where the Senate will be tasked with sitting in judgement as to the meaning and implied intent of a president's words,' he asked.
Van der Veen accused Democrats of making 'sideways analogies' when they compared Trump to a fire chief who starts a fire and the fans the flames while dissecting his comments to the crowd on the day of the counting of the electoral votes. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland had said Trump is different from a random person at a bar who shouts out his views, given his enormous power as president.
'Mr. Trump actually has enhanced free speech rights because he is an elected official,' countered Van der Veen. He called it 'total intellectual dishonesty.'
He also ripped a letter released by 144 constitutional scholars, calling them 'partisan law professors' and labeling it an 'outrageous attempt to intimidate Mr. Trump's lawyers.'
Then he described the issue as affecting his own pocketbook. 'This letter is a direct threat to my law license, my career and my family's financial well-being. These law professors should be ashamed of themselves and so should the House managers,' he said.
Cites trial record and uses the term 'Negro' explaining the case was 'in the 60s'
At one poing Trump's lawyer Michael van der Veen used the word 'negro' during his presentation to the Senate Friday.
van der Veen was walking senators through several Supreme Court cases he thought were relevant to the ex-president's defense, including the 1962 case Wood v. Georgia.
'In Wood v. Georgia the Supreme Court addressed a case involving a sitting sheriff, whose re-election was being investigated by a grand jury impaneled by a judge, based on allegations of irregular negro bloc voting - it was in the 60s,' van der Veen said.
He looked to be reading something when he used the term – and then quickly gave an explanation for its use.
In the case, Sheriff James Woods publicly went after the investigation and was charged with and convicted of contempt of court and obstruction of the grand jury.
'The sheriff spoke publicly in multiple press releases calling the grand jury investigation racist, illegitimate and an attempt to intimidate voters,' van der Veen said. 'The sheriff viewed the grand jury as challenging the legitimacy of his election.'
The Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions.
'The court held that the First Amendment protected an elected public official's speech because the voting controversy directed affected the sheriff's political career,' van der Veen said.
'Wood, thus, stands for the proposition that a difference in political opinion expressed in the speech on an issue of voting irregularity cannot be punishable, when all that was done was to encourage investigation and peaceful political speech - just like Mr. Trump has done here,' he explained.
In the case, the Supreme Court said the judge's words would have to present a clear and present danger for the lower court's punishment to stick.
Law and Order
Back on the floor after his shaky debut, lawyer Bruce Castor played another video – this one with Trump over and over again calling for 'law and order,' a main theme of his campaign.
'We know the president did not incite the riots because of his plain words that day,' said Castor. 'We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur because his longstanding hatred for violent protests 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.
Castor said Trump had 'disdain' for political violence, after House managers played clips of him going back to campaign rallies discussing violence toward protesters.
'House managers manipulated President Trump's words,' Castor said, blasting them for saying Trump urged the crowd on to the Capitol to 'fight.' He said Trump wanted them to primary Republicans who weren't fighting for him, rather than 'sending them to Capitol Hill go and breach the building and trash the very sacred halls of Congress.'
Castor pointed to Trump's 2:38 pm tweet urging people to 'stay peaceful,' although Trump's speech ended at 1:11 pm.
He said that tweet went out 'by the time word reached the president that there was a problem down there' – although the protests and intrusion at the Capitol were carried live on television and making global news. There is footage of Trump watching TV coverage after the end of his speech along with Donald Trump. Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle while the song 'Gloria' can be heard at the rally.
The Capitol was breached at 2:11 pm.
Castor also addressed Trump's infamous call to Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger. 'How can a request for signature verifications to be done in public be a basis for a charge for inciting a riot,' he said.
Managers had brought up Trump's demand that the official 'find' 11,780 votes while describing his efforts to discredit the election that preceded the Jan. 6 electoral count.
Castor then argued that Trump had used the word 'find' at other times than when he asked for one vote more than would be required to secure victory.
'Mr. Trump continued to use the word 'find' throughout the conversation,' he said.
Earlier Friday, President Joe Biden on Friday said he's watching to see if his Republican 'friends' in the Senate 'stand up' to Donald Trump with their impeachment vote.
'I'm just anxious to see what my Republican friends do. If they stand up,' he told reporters at the White House when he made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn to see a Valentine's Day message from Jill Biden.
Biden said he didn't plan to call Republicans to urge them to convict his predecessor. House Democrats wrapped up their impeachment argument on Thursday. Trump's defense makes their case Friday with a vote expected as early as Saturday. Trump is likely to be acquitted.
The Bidens made a surprise appearance on the North Lawn early Friday morning, coffee cups in hand and dogs Champ and Major at their side, to see a Valentine's Day message the first lady had installed overnight.
Giant heart-shaped signs in red, white and pink with messages of 'unity,' 'hope,' 'healing' were placed on the lawn. 'Love Jill' was written on one of them.
Jill Biden's office said the message was a Valentine's Day gift for the country.
'The First Lady is known for her sense of humor, love of surprises and celebrating traditions, especially with her family. Valentine's Day has always been one of her favorite holidays. Sending messages of healing, unity, hope and compassion, this is her Valentine to the country,' the East Wing said.
Biden, wearing jeans, an aviator jacket and face mask, checked out the display with the first lady, who wore a magenta coat and face mask.
'Press is going to think it's for them,' the president joked.
The display was centered on the lawn behind the area known as pebble beach, which is where TV reporters do their live shots from the White House.
The president had a friendly back-and-forth with members of the media as he checked out the messages.
One reporter was heard calling him 'Joe' and telling him 'those are nice dogs.'
'Thank you,' the president responded.
Another reporter joked the Bidens should have brought coffee for everyone. The president walked over and gave her his cup.
'Promised I haven't tasted it,' he told her.