The House team opened with a video presentation that recounted just a few of the moments from the Jan. 6 event. Even for those who had been there on the day, or watched the events unfold on television, the video was shocking. Compiled mostly from on the ground camera and cell phone footage, the video spoke to the anger and ferocity of Trump supporters as they beat their way past the police and smashed their way into the Capitol. By interspersing the images with shots from inside the House and Senate chambers, the video also made the timeline of events clear.
Overall, the presentation was enthralling. The Senate chamber was absolutely silent as the video unfolded, with most senators transfixed by the images. However, some Republicans—notably Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul—made a point of not looking at the screen, spending their time scribbling or pretending to read the papers on their desk.
Following the video presentation, the House team went on to lay out both their case for why the Senate trial of Trump was absolutely constitutional. That included both citations going back into British Common Law and moving forward to the most well-known cases of impeachment in the 19th century.
When the House managers sat down, it was time for Trump attorney Bruce Castor to rise and … what happened next is difficult to summarize. Castor provided the Senate with an hour of talking for which even the word “rambling” doesn’t seem to apply. At times Castor praised the House managers. On at least two occasions he insisted that the whole event was pointless because the voters had already made a new choice and selected Joe Biden. At other times, he seemed to be threatening the Senate with some vague action. This was particularly true during a puzzling sequence in which Castor addressed Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse and appeared to announce that some court in his home state was preparing to move against him. It was a sequence that left everyone, especially Sasse, completely puzzled.
Finally, after reaching nothing that appeared to be a conclusion, and not even coming close to the question of the constitutionality of the trial, Castor sat down and handed things over to Trump’s second attorney David Schoen. In what was apparently a distracted cop/angry cop paring, Schoen spent the next hour haranguing the Senate with a presentation that featured lengthy diversions into topics such as bills of attainder, that verged on Giuliani-esque while never dropping below a boiling point of mixed disdain and disgust for his audience.
The best view of how the Trump team did may be in the response of Rep. Raskin. Given thirty minutes to reply to the statements from Trump’s attorneys, Raskin simply said that he didn’t see the need. Instead, he handed back his time, allowing the Senate to move on to a vote. In that vote, six Republicans joined with all Democrats to vote in favor of continuing the trial. That meant a gain of one from the last time the Senate voted on the constitutional question. In addition to Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and Patrick Toomey, the vote on Tuesday added Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
It’s a long way from six to the 17 Republicans necessary to actually convict Trump. But then, the trial is just starting. If it continues to be this lopsided in the performance of the two legal times … there could be surprises ahead.
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