Former President Trump’s lawyers wrapped up their defense in three hours on Friday, marking the fourth day of the impeachment trial in the Senate.
The defense consisted of accusations that the House impeachment managers were taking the ex-president’s statements out of context, and that Trump’s exhortations to his followers to “fight” amounted to little more than run-of-the-mill political rhetoric and were not, as the managers contend, orders to storm the Capitol. Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers, specifically pointed to the line “marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” in Trump’s January 6 speech as proof that he was not urging violence.
The team of lawyers also tackled the House managers’ case, which had presented compelling video testimony and evidence of the attack on the Capitol, by showing their own video presentation claiming to show what really happened. Some of the videos were split screen, with one side showing footage from the House managers’ presentations and videos of last summer’s nationwide protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd while the other had footage of Trump calling for “law and order.”
There was also a nine-minute montage of Democratic lawmakers and celebrities using the word “fight.” Trump attorney David Schoen said, “It’s a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy,” claiming that Trump’s use of the word both in his January 6 speech as well as in the days and weeks leading up to it was harmless. Another of Trump’s lawyers, Michael T. van der Veen, said that the ex-president had been denied due process in the House’s rush to impeach him.
The impeachment process is political not judicial, however, and does not follow typical courtroom procedure. A stark example of this difference came Thursday after the day’s hearing, when three Republican senators, Mike Lee (R-Utah.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), met behind closed doors with Trump’s defense team. Senators act as jurors in an impeachment trial, but if jurors in a normal trial met with either party’s attorneys during the proceedings a judge would declare an immediate mistrial.
Closing arguments are set to begin on Saturday and could lead to a vote as early as Saturday afternoon, unless the Senate approves a motion to call for witnesses, in which case the hearings will continue.