Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is continuing Saturday for a fifth day as the Senate moves closer to a vote on whether to convict or acquit him. The former president is facing a charge of incitement of insurrection over the deadly assault by pro-Trump rioters on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Witnesses or documents may be subpoenaed Saturday, and both the House managers and Mr. Trump’s counsel will have equal time to make their final arguments, for up to a total of four hours.
In an email to his Senate Republican colleagues, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll vote to acquit Mr. Trump, according to a Senate staffer who was read the email by a GOP senator.
McConnell cited constitutional grounds for his reasoning. McConnell voted that the trial was unconstitutional before it began.
Late Friday night, a source close to Mr. Trump’s legal team confirmed that one of his attorneys, David Schoen, quit on Thursday night over a dispute in strategy about how to use the videos that aired during the defense team’s arguments on Friday. He rejoined after Mr. Trump called and asked him to.
In their opening arguments, Mr. Trump’s attorneys sought to link Democrats to political violence, repeatedly showing a long video montage of Democrats saying the word “fight” in a variety of contexts to suggest that there’s a double standard.
Democrats described the montage as “plainly a distraction,” and several appeared to be frustrated or even laughing while the video was shown. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was repeatedly shown in the video, tweeted a video montage from her rallies showing her hugging women and girls. “In case anyone is wondering what my rallies look like,” she wrote.
The videos were all part of Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen’s argument that the former president’s comments on January 6 were “ordinary political rhetoric” that is “virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years.”
During the question and answer session, Mr. Trump’s attorneys also tried to argue that it would set a dangerous precedent to impeach a former official, although Mr. Trump was impeached while he was in office and the trial is being held after he left office. Senator Marco Rubio asked if the Senate could impeach former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, if Democrats believed officials could face impeachment after leaving office.
Van der Veen said impeachment could “happen to a lot of people” if the Senate moves forward with conviction.
In another key moment, Senator Bernie Sanders asked if Mr. Trump had actually won the election. Impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett said it was clear Mr. Trump had lost the election, but van der Veen dodged, saying “in my judgment, who asked that?” Sanders answered “I did” and van der Veen responded “my judgment is irrelevant.”
Sanders then said from his desk: “You represent the president of the United States!” Senator Patrick Leahy, who is presiding over the trial, intervened and said senators can’t respond to lawyers.