House impeachment executives began the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday by making legal and emotional arguments as to why Trump must be held accountable for his role in promoting a Jan. 6 riot that followed aims to overcome his loss of election. Meanwhile, one of Trump’s leading lawyers opened with a presentation that looked more like an open microphone night.
That attorney, Bruce Castor, delivered a sweeping defense of Trump that included unfathomable lines like, “Nebraska, as you will hear, is a legal place of thought,” and concluded with a challenge to the Justice Department to arrest Trump if it really is that he has committed high crimes and offenses.
At times his utterances – which began with buttering senators as “extraordinary people” – had the taste of an improvisational set and it was hard to figure out what point he was aiming at.
There may have been a method for Castor’s apparent madness. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that Castor’s goal was to bring the temperature down in the room when he came in shortly after Rep. Jamie Raskins (D-MD) heard the heartbreaking report of the riot’s impact on his family.
FWIW: A Trump adviser tells me that Castor is deliberately trying to reduce the emotions in the room after the property managers fall. Call it a “reasoning strategy”.
– Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 9, 2021
Castor nodded once at this strategy and said, “I’ll be very frank with you, we changed what we were going to do because we thought the property manager’s presentation was well done.”
Still, the arguments Castor put forward on the matter were so muddled that his performance was planned by Alan Dershowitz, a staunch Trump supporter who was part of Trump’s legal team during his first impeachment trial.
“There’s no argument – I have no idea what he’s doing,” Dershowitz said during a Newsmax interview that took place while Castor was speaking in the Senate.
Other rights also gave Castor a thumbs down. Washington Examiner’s chief correspondent Byron York described his speech on Twitter as a “waste of time,” and conservative pollster Frank Luntz criticized both the look and substance of the presentation.
Has anyone instructed Trump’s attorney not to wear a black pinstripe suit?
You make viewers think of the Mafia – and what you wear affects what people think.
On the other hand, judging by his comments, this lawyer probably doesn’t know what people are thinking.https: //t.co/dNrVpIRZqg
– Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) February 9, 2021
Unsurprisingly, liberal attorneys like Norm Eisen (who acted as an advocate for Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment) were even more unforgiving.
That was perhaps the worst argument I’ve ever heard from a lawyer.
– Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) February 9, 2021
A notable tidbit of Castor’s speech came when he acknowledged Trump had lost the election fair and the seat – a comment that may not have fitted well with his client, who reportedly called on a former group of attorneys working on his impeachment defense to advance long-exposed lies about electoral fraud and cause them to step down from the case.
Elsewhere, Castor responded to a procedural argument that the constitution does not allow presidents who have resigned to be convicted of impeachment proceedings.
This argument is dubious both in terms of the Constitution and common sense. If accused presidents can simply resign from office and undermine Congress’ ability to prohibit them from taking office again, Congress cannot really hold them accountable. but it will likely suffice for a critical mass of Republican senators.
All but six voted at the end of the trial on Tuesday to end Trump’s impeachment process for his alleged unconstitutionality. Those 44 votes weren’t enough, but since the conviction requires two-thirds of the votes, it would be enough to secure Trump’s acquittal.
One of the Republican senators who voted to end the trial – John Cornyn of Texas – admitted that Castor’s case left much to be desired.
CORNYN: “The President’s lawyer went on and on … I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and it wasn’t one of the best I’ve seen.”
– Julie Tsirkin (@JulieNBCNews) February 9, 2021
Yet Cornyn and 43 of his colleagues ultimately voted to confirm it.
Correction, February 9th: In an earlier version of this article, the 56-44 vote was mischaracterized to proceed with impeachment at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.
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