Political

Trump impeachment trial live updates: Trump attorneys lay out defense

rarrarorro/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, MICHELLE STODDART and LAUREN KING, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial is taking place in the Senate. He faces a single charge of incitement of insurrection over his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Here is how events are unfolding Friday. All times Eastern:

Feb 12, 5:04 pm
Castro: Trump’s baseless election fraud claims were ‘inciting’ his base

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., asked House managers about how the former president’s false allegations of election fraud led to the “radicalization” of Trump supporters and led to the attack on the Capitol.

House manger Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Calif., argued that the former president’s persistent claims about election fraud caused his supporters to buy into the “big lie” that the election was stolen, which incited them.

“That was the purpose behind Donald Trump saying that the election had been rigged and that the election had been stolen, and to be clear, when he says ‘the election is stolen,’ what he’s saying is that the victory, and he even says one time, the election victory is being stolen from them. Think about how significant that is to Americans, again, you’re right, over 70 million — I think 74 million — people voted for Donald Trump, and this wasn’t a one-off comment. It wasn’t one time,” Castro said. “It was over and over and over and over and over again, with a purpose.”

Feb 12, 4:59 pm
‘There are long-standing consequences’ if Senate acquits: Plaskett

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio asked the House managers what message it will send if the Senate does not convict Trump.

“Our actions will reverberate as to what are the future consequences,” House manager Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands said. “The extremists who attack the Capitol at the president’s provocation will be emboldened, all our intelligence agencies have confirmed this.”

Plaskett, using Trump’s own words, warned that “this is only the beginning.”

“There are long-standing consequences decisions like this that will define who we are as people, who America is,” Plaskett continued.

Feb 12, 4:55 pm
Trump defense argues Senate can’t impeach former official

A clerk momentarily took over for presiding officer Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., president pro tempore of the Senate, in reading a wordy question from Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Mike Crappo on the Framers’ intentions surrounding whether a former officer can be impeached.

“The Framers were very smart men and they went over draft after draft after draft on that document and they reviewed all the other drafts of all of the state constitutions — all of them — and they picked and chose what they wanted and they discarded what they did not. And what they discarded was the option for all of you to impeach a former elected official,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said.

However, the Senate voted on Tuesday 55-45 to affirm its power that Trump trial’s is constitutional and its within their authority to proceed. Impeachment managers have argued it’s the correct course, rather than a criminal court.

Feb 12, 4:48 pm
Managers, defense bicker over whether Trump knew Pence was evacuated

Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked both Trump’s team and the House managers whether the former president knew that former Vice President Mike Pence had been escorted out of the Senate chamber for his safety when Trump sent a “disparaging tweet.” Romney was the only Republican to vote to impeach Trump in the last trial.

House manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, insisted Trump “had to know.” Castro pointed to a call the former president made to Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R.-Ala., saying that during the call, Tuberville told the president.

“And after Wednesday’s trial portion concluded, as Sen. Tuberville spoke to reporters and confirmed the call he had with the president and did not dispute Manager Cicilline’s description in any way that there was a call between he and the president around the time that Mike Pence was being ushered out of the chamber, and that was shortly after 2:00 p.m.,” Castro said. “And Sen. Tuberville specifically said he told the president, ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out. I’ve got to go.'”

However, Michael van der Veen insisted that there is no evidence presented by the House managers that the president knew Pence had been escorted out.

“There’s nothing at all on the record at this time,” van der Veen said. “Because the House failed to do even minimal amount of due diligence.”

Feb 12, 4:45 pm
Plaskett argues Trump did ‘nothing’ to stop attack

Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Tammy Duckworth asked House impeachment managers when Trump learned of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions he took to end the violence.

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, responded, “The answer is nothing.”

“Mr. President, senators, this attack was on live TV, on all major networks in real time,” Plaskett said. “He knew the violence underway. He knew the severity of the threat and he knew Capitol Police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and fighting for their lives against thousands of insurgents with weapons. We know he knew that.”

“‘This is wrong. You must go back.’ We did not hear that,” she noted.

“Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attacks for two hours after the attacks began? Why did President Trump do nothing to help protect the Capitol and law enforcement, battling the insurgents?” she asked. “The reason this question keeps coming up is because the answer is nothing.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, one of six Republicans to vote Tuesday that the trial is constitutional, asked the same question to Trump’s defense team earlier. Trump’s attorney blamed House impeachment managers for not allowing for the time to investigate Trump’s action’s during the riot.

Feb 12, 4:43 pm
GOP senators question legitimacy of trial

Sens. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., asked Trump’s defense lawyers if this wasn’t just a “political show trial” “designed to discredit Trump and his policies and shame the 74 million Americans who voted for him” because the “appropriate persons” are already being held accountable in court already.

Trump’s lawyer Bruce Castor answered by saying, “that’s precisely what the 45th president believes this gathering is about.”

Castor reiterated that federal authorities are continuing to prosecute those who invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, and that the trial has “no sanction available under the Constitution in our view” because Trump no longer holds political office.

Feb 12, 4:37 pm
Plaskett: Trump ‘deliberately encouraged’ protesters to engate in violence

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., asked the House managers, “Is there evidence that President Trump knew or should have known that his tolerance of anti-semitic hate speech, combined with his own rhetoric, could incite the kind of violence we saw January 6?”

Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, argued that a series of Trump’s tweets and speeches prior “pattern and practice” of encouraging violence contributed to the violent assault on the Capitol.

“Donald Trump has a long history praising and encouraging violence, as you saw. He has espoused hateful rhetoric himself. He has not just tolerated it, but he’s encouraged hateful speech by others. He has refused, as you saw in the September debate, that interview, to condemn extremists and white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys,” Plaskett said. “And he has, at every opportunity, encouraged and cultivated actual violence by these groups.”

Plaskett argued that Trump “deliberately encouraged” protesters to engage in violence by calling them to the rally on Jan. 6.

Feb 12, 4:30 pm
Defense doesn’t say what actions Trump took to stop riot

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, one of six Republicans to vote Tuesday the trial is constitutional, asked in writing when did Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end. She also asked that they be “as detailed as possible.”

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen answered for the defense but did not provide a clear answer of Trump’s action, pointing to an afternoon tweet before slamming the managers’ case.

“With the rush to bring this impeachment, there’s been absolutely no investigation into that, and that’s the problem with this entire proceeding. The House managers did zero investigation and the American people deserve a lot better than coming in here with no evidence — hearsay on top of hearsay on top of reports that are of hearsay. Due process is required here and that was denied,” he said.

However, party leaders agreed before the trial that due process was reached, according to multiple statements from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. House managers have also argued that the senators, acting as jurors, were all witnesses to the attack.

Feb 12, 4:25 pm
Warnock asks about efforts in courts to overturn election

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., asked if it was true that in the months leading up to Jan. 6  dozens of courts, including federal and state courts, rejected Trump’s campaign efforts to overturn the election.

“That is true,” Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said. “I want to be clear though that we have absolutely no problem with President Trump having pursued his belief that the election was being stolen.”

Raskin went on to reiterate that Trump lost in 61 straight cases in federal and state courts, including courts in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin.

“When he crossed over from non-violent means, no matter how ridiculous or absurd — that’s fine, he’s exercising his rights,” Raskin added. “To inciting violence. That’s what this trial is about.”

Feb 12, 4:13 pm
GOP senators ask about politicians raising bail for rioters

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, asked Trump’s defense whether a politician raising bail for rioters encourages more rioters.

“Does a politician raising bail for rioters encourage more rioting?” the Senate clerk read.

Bruce Castor, Jr of Trump’s defense responded simply, “yes.”

Feb 12, 4:12 pm
1st question asks whether siege would have happened without Trump

The first question in writing at Trump’s second impeachment trial came from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the House impeachment managers.

“Is not the case that the violent attack and siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6 would not have happened if not for the conduct of President Trump,” read presiding officer Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., president pro tempore of the Senate.

House impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, approached the lectern on behalf of the group.

“To answer your question very directly, Donald Trump summoned the mob. He assembled the mob and he lit the flame. Everything that followed was because of his doing. And although he could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence, he never did,” Castro said. “In other words, this violent, bloody insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 would not have occurred but for President Trump.”

Castro emphasized their argument that the attack “did not happen by accident” and the “mob did not come out of thin air,” citing Trump’s repeated false claims of election fraud and calls to his supporters to “stop the steal.”

He called the situation Trump created leading up to the Jan. 6 rally “incredibly combustible.”

“He looked out the sea of thousands, some in body armor, with flagpoles, some of which beat Capitol Police with, and told them they could play by different rules,” he said. “Once the attack began, insurgent after insurgent made clear they were following president orders.”

Feb 12, 3:59 pm
Senate trial resumes with question-and-answer portion

The Senate has returned from a roughly 35-minute break following Trump’s defense team wrapping up their arguments.

The trial is now in a question-and-answer portion, where senators can ask questions of the House managers and the Trump defense team. Questions are submitted in writing by senators and read aloud by presiding officer Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., president pro tempore of the Senate.

The question-and-answer portion of the trial is not to exceed four hours over one session day.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Feb 12, 3:47 pm
Dems push back on defense claims they weren’t given trial materials, due process

A senior aide on the House impeachment managers’ team told ABC News that the Trump team was given the trial record, including all video and audio used, prior to the start of the trial, despite the Trump defense team claiming otherwise.

Trump attorney David Shoen in earlier arguments Friday said his team was not given an opportunity to review House managers’ evidence before the trial because they were not granted appropriate due process.

In addition to House managers saying all materials were given to Trump’s defense team, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released at least two public statements in advance of Tuesday’s trial saying due process was agreed to by both parties.

“Republicans set out to ensure the Senate’s next steps will respect former President Trump’s rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency. That goal has been achieved. This is a win for due process and fairness,” McConnell said in a statement on Jan. 22. “This structure has been approved by both former President Trump’s legal team and the House managers because it preserves due process and the rights of both sides,” he said in another statement Monday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a vocal ally of the former president, also tweeted this week that the trial resolution agreed upon is “fair to all concerned.”

-ABC News’ Trish Turner, Katherine Faulders and Benjamin Siegel

Feb 12, 3:33 pm
Castor says Trump innocent as there ‘was no insurrection’

Bruce Castor Jr., a lawyer for Trump’s defense team whose performance at the beginning of the trial was criticized by Republican senators and even drew ire from Trump, argued to the Senate that the former president did not incite an insurrection based on what he said is the legal definition of the term.

“Clearly, there was no insurrection. Insurrection is a term of — defined in the law. It involves taking over a country, a shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some plan on what you’re going to do when you finally take power,” Castor said. “Clearly, this is not that.”

Castor also argued that the House mangers did not put Trump’s comments into context, and that the president would not have wanted a violent riot to occur and insisted that Trump was the most “pro-police, anti-mob” president in history.

“We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur, because his long-standing 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.”

Castor argued that the House managers have misled the Senate about what Trump said at the rally outside the White House. Castor said Trump didn’t explicitly tell his supporters to storm the Capitol, Castor continued. Castor argued that the only direction he gave was to get lawmakers to “fight,” and if they didn’t, to “primary them.”

“They have used selective editing and many belated visuals to paint a picture far different from this truth,” Castor said of the House managers.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel

Feb 12, 3:21 pm
Trump defense team wraps arguments

The Senate is taking a roughly 15-minute break following roughly three hours of arguments from Trump’s defense team.

The trial will move forward with the question and answer portion after the break.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel

Feb 12, 3:20 pm
A look inside the chamber

The video montages from Trump’s defense team cut some of the tension in the chamber that had been building over the last few days as senators earlier in the trial watched the close calls with rioters and a desecrated Capitol building on Jan. 6.

Some senators, like Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, were seen giggling on Friday.

Some in the GOP appeared to appreciate and enjoy the “fight” montages. Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Rand Paul or Kentucky appeared to revel in the mashups from the defense.

Democrats, meanwhile, audibly groaned when the Trump legal team played the video montages of them using the word “fight.” Others laughed at the comparison. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spent a long time staring at the ceiling with his hands in a prayer pose, tapping the tips of his fingers together in agitated boredom.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sat slouched in his chair while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was statute-like during the presentation.

When van der Veen accused lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., of hypocrisy and gestured to him, Raskin was sitting just feet away, looked straight at him and began writing fervently in his notepad.

Every senator in the chamber was wearing a mask, according to one pool reporter, except for Paul, who hasn’t worn one at the Capitol for weeks.

Officer Eugene Goodman, who helped protect the Capitol on Jan. 6 and saved Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, from a potential confrontation with rioters — is providing security from the gallery again Friday, as he has the last few days.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner, Katherine Faulders and Adia Robinson

Feb 12, 2:51 pm
Democrat slams Trump defense team for false equivalence

During the trial recess, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., blasted Trump’s defense team for playing selective, mashup videos of Democrats telling supporters to “fight,” accusing the attorneys of “trying to draw a false, dangerous and distorted equivalence.”

“I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump inviting the mob to Washington, knowing it was armed, changing the route and the timing so as to incite them to march on the Capitol and then reveling, without remorse, without doing anything to protect his own vice president and all of us,” Blumenthal said.

“I think that the case is even more powerful after this very distorted talk,” he added.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Feb 12, 2:41 pm
‘Table’s turned’ during the defense presentation: ANALYSIS

During the recess, ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran noted that “the table’s turned” during Trump’s defense presentation.

“It is really what our partisan politics are all about right now,” Moran said. “It is less about what you believe than who you hate.”

As a part of the defense, Trump’s lawyers showed clips of videos of Democrats using fighting language during their own political speeches, drawing a comparison to the former president.

“Counter attacking with what about-ism is basically what partisan politics has come to in the United States,” Moran continued.

ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent, Jonathan Karl said this defense was considerably more effective due to the audience of the trial and who needs to be swayed, mainly Republican senators.

“They put it back very much on a partisan line, describing this as a political act of vengeance — this impeachment trial — and playing all those Democrats saying things that could be seen as incendiary,” Karl said.

Feb 12, 2:36 pm
Senate trial resumes

The Senate has returned from a roughly 40-minute break to resume arguments from Trump’s defense team.

Feb 12, 2:33 pm
Psaki cites House managers’ performance as a takeaway from trial

As Trump’s lawyers get their defense presentation underway, ABC News White House Correspondent MaryAlice Parks asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki what message she thinks Americans should have learned from the Senate trial this week.

Psaki said that Americans “learned about the power of some individuals in the House they might not have known before,” perhaps referring to Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, who had a strong presentation that prompted chatter that she is a rising Democratic star.

“They certainly saw some — some powerful footage that was a reminder of the shocking events that happened on January 6th. And you know, I think they saw, as the president has said, that that day was an assault on our democracy and it was a reminder of why it can never happen again,” Psaki continued.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Feb 12, 2:30 pm
Van der Veen focuses on text of Trump’s Jan. 6 speech without context

Trump defense attorney Michael van der Veen broke down Brandenburg v. Ohio, a case House managers raised Thursday. Van der Veen cited the “landmark case on the issue of incitement speech” to argue that Trump didn’t intend for supporters to attack the Capitol.

A displayed slide read that the Brandenburg test “precludes speech from being sanctioned as incitement to riot unless: 1) the speech explicitly or implicity encouraged use of violence or lawless action, 2) the speaker intends that his speech will result in use of violence of lawless action and 3) the imminent use of violence or lawless action is likely to result from the speech.”

He called Trump’s uses of the words “fight” in the speech “metaphorical.” However, he did not address the impeachment managers’ assertions that Trump had primed his supporters with a “big lie” of a stolen election.

“Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation. It’s a term used over and over and over again by politicians on both sides of the aisle,” van der Veen said, honing in on arguments of “whataboutisms” of Democrats.

“The reality is Mr. Trump was not in any way shape or form instructing these people to fight or to use physical violence. What he was instructing them to do was to challenge their opponents in primary elections to push for sweeping election reforms, to hold big tech responsible,” he said.

However, at least 15 individuals who stormed the building have since said that they acted based on Trump’s encouragement, including some of those accused of the most violent and serious crimes. House managers also argued in their time that Trump’s oath of office to protect the country supersedes his First Amendment rights.

Trump’s defense team has also played extended video of Trump’s speech at the Jan. 6 rally, in which the former president repeated false claims that the election was stolen and encouraged Republican lawmakers to vote to overturn the Electoral College results.

Feb 12, 2:07 pm
Trump’s legal team argues for ‘unity,’ while attacking Democrats

“It is the time for unity and healing and focusing on the interests of the nation as a whole,” Trump attorney David Schoen said. “We should all be seeking to cool temperatures, calm passions, rise above partisan lines.”

It’s worth noting that Trump’s attorneys have repeatedly singled out Democrats, both in the Senate, and the House managers themselves, and made increasingly personal criticisms in their effort to pugnaciously defend Trump, after Democrats went out of their way not to impugn GOP senators who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Democrats in the House and Senate were featured in edited videos used by Trump’s legal team.

“If it is not about the words but about the big lie of a stolen election, then why isn’t House manager Raskin guilty since he tried to overturn the 2016 election?” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen asked.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel

Feb 12, 1:55 pm
Senate takes short break

The Senate is taking a roughly 15-minute break before continuing with arguments from Trump’s defense team.

Feb 12, 1:54 pm
GOP senator questions effectiveness of using Dems’ fiery rhetoric

Ahead of the trial resuming on Friday, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota — the No. 2 in GOP leadership — questioned the effectiveness of the defense team using videos of Democrats saying similar words that Trump has used. He said he isn’t sure “that it bears a lot on this case.”

However, it’s a strategy the defense team is leaning into with its arguments.

“They may show some videos of other similar incidents, which I don’t know if that’s an effective strategy,” Thune said.

Asked if there was an equivalency to what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and Democrats’ past rhetoric, Thune didn’t express confidence that Trump’s attorneys would make that case.

“Well, that’s what I’m saying, I don’t know, I think we will see. It depends, I suppose, on how they tie it all together,” he said.

Looking past the trial, Thune said he might be supportive of a censure to the former president and said it depends on if that measure could be “effective.”

“I know there were a couple of resolutions out there,” Thune said, adding that at least a couple “could attract some support.”

He said he didn’t think resolutions to bar Trump from running again would “go anywhere.”

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Feb 12, 1:43 pm
Van der Veen argues Trump’s words covered by 1st Amendment

The former president’s legal team argued that the increased “hatred” in politics has led to more incendiary political language and that the First Amendment protections must be applied evenly across all political language.

“Will the Senate then have to deal with constant articles of impeachment by a majority party accusing minority presidents or other elected officials of so-called ‘inciteful’ or false speeches?” Michael van der Veen said. “You can see where this would lead.”

Van der Veen argued that Trump’s speech and the speech of other politicians is protected by case law and the Constitution, and accused House managers of urging senators to ignore that.

“They astoundingly urge you to disregard your oath by ignoring the First Amendment of the Constitution. They also ignore landmark binding United States Supreme Court cases … which unequivocally hold that elected officials have core First Amendment rights to engage in the exact type of political speech which Mr. Trump engaged in,” van der Veen said.

Feb 12, 1:32 pm
Defense team uses mashup videos to argue normalcy of Trump speech

Arguing Democrats are setting a “dangerous double standard,” Trump attorney David Schoen played several mashup videos of notable Democratic figures calling for supporters to “fight” and clips of them questioning election results in years past, in an effort to paint Trump’s rhetoric as normal political speech.

“Every single one of you and everyone of you, that’s OK. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s a word people use but please stop the hypocrisy,” Schoen said.

Schoen argued that the Trump team was denied due process and that the reason for the impeachment is because of Democrats’ strong dislike of Trump and the Republican Party.

“The House managers’ position really is that when Republican candidates for office claim an election is stolen or the winner is illegitimate it constitutes inciting an insurrection and the candidate should know it. But Democratic Party candidates for public elected office are perfectly entitled to claim the election was stolen or that the winner is illegitimate or to make any other outrageous claim they can. It is their absolute right to do so,” he said, pointing to claims around the 2016 election.

-ABC News’ Allison Pecorin

Feb 12, 9:45 am
Tensions arise on Trump’s legal team as impeachment defense prepares to get underway: Sources

Just hours before Donald Trump’s attorneys are to launch their defense of the former president in his Senate impeachment trial, sources tell ABC News that there is growing tension within the legal team.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell ABC News that Trump wants attorney Bruce Castor to have a reduced role in the presentation in favor of co-counsel David Schoen, which they say is leading to some infighting. Multiple sources close to Trump say they are hoping that Schoen takes control and wraps up the defense’s presentation on Friday.

Neither Castor, Schoen or representatives of the former president immediately responded to inquiries from ABC News seeking comment.

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