The House team opened with a video presentation that narrated just some of the moments from the event on January 6th. Even to those who had been there that day or watched the events on television, the video was shocking. Compiled primarily from camera and cell phone, the video spoke to the anger and ferocity of Trump supporters as they shot past police and made their way into the Capitol. By interspersing the images with footage from the chambers of the House and Senate, the video also made the timeline of events clear.
Overall, the presentation was exciting. The Senate Chamber was absolutely silent when the video played, and most of the senators were captivated 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 desks.
After the video presentation, the House of Representatives team explained both reasons why the Senate trial against Trump was absolutely constitutional. This included both quotations that went back to British common law and turned to the most prominent cases of impeachment in the 19th century.
As the property managers sat down, it was time for Trump attorney Bruce Castor to stand up, and … what happened next is hard to summarize. Castor gave the Senate an hour to talk, for which even the word “hiking” does not seem to apply. At times Castor praised the caretaker. At least twice, he insisted that the entire event was pointless as voters had already made a new election and picked Joe Biden. At other times, he appeared to threaten the Senate with vague action. This was particularly true during an enigmatic sequence in which Castor approached Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse, apparently announcing that a court in his home state was preparing to take action against him. It was a sequence that completely confused everyone, especially Sasse.
Having achieved nothing that seemed to be taken as a conclusion and not even getting close to the question of the constitutionality of the trial, Castor sat down and turned it over to Trump’s second lawyer, David Schoen. In a seemingly distracted cop / angry cop-paring, Schön spent the next hour pestering the Senate with a presentation that included lengthy distractions on topics like assassinations that bordered on Giuliani-esque without falling below a boiling point of mixed contempt and Disgust for his audience.
The best view of how the Trump team fared might be Rep. Raskin’s answer. Raskin had 30 minutes to respond to Trump’s attorney’s testimony, saying only that he didn’t see the need. Instead, he gave back his time and allowed the Senate to vote. In that vote, six Republicans voted with all Democrats to continue the process. That was a win of one since the last Senate vote on the constitutional question. In addition to Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Patrick Toomey, Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana was added to Tuesday’s vote.
It’s a long way from six to the 17 Republicans it takes to actually condemn Trump. But then the process is only just beginning. If the performance of the two legal times continues to go so wrong, there could be surprises.