Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 1

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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4:52 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's defense lawyer calls impeachment an effort "to disenfranchise 74 million-plus American voters"

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

David Schoen speaks on the Senate floor.
David Schoen speaks on the Senate floor. Senate TV

Trump's defense lawyer is making the case that the second impeachment trial against the former President is unconstitutional, saying the proceedings have been falsely disguised as an effort to garner accountability for the events of Jan. 6.

"They say you need this trial before the nation can heal," said David Schoen. "I say our nation cannot possibly heal with it."

Schoen suggested the trial would "open up new and bigger wounds across the nation," and said Democrats are looking to discount those who voted for Trump in 2016.

"Many Americans see this process for exactly what it is: a chance by a group of partisan politicians seeking to eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene and seeking to disenfranchise 74 million-plus American voters," he said.

Schoen called those pushing for the second impeachment trial "elitists" who failed to accept the results in 2016, and called the trial an attempt to further a left-leaning political agenda.

"At the end of the day, this is not just about Donald Trump or any individual. This is about our Constitution and abusing the impeachment power for political gain," he said. 

Schoen said the trial would not unite the nation, rather it will "tear the country in half, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling left out of the nation's agenda."

Noting that House impeachment managers enlisted the help of a movie company to produce a video recapping the Capitol riot, Schoen criticized the tactic as an effort to "chill and horrify" those who will view it.

"They want to put you through a 16-hour presentation over two days focusing on this as if it were some sort of blood sport. And to what end?" he asked, adding, "for healing? For unity? For accountability? Not for any those."

Instead, he dubbed it a "pure, raw, misguided partisanship that makes them believe playing to our worst instincts somehow is good."

Hear Trump lawyer David Schoen's argument:

4:22 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's lawyers swapped speaking slots at the last minute

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Senate TV
Senate TV

Attorney David Schoen, who is speaking on the Senate floor now, was supposed to present first, not Bruce Castor, according to two people familiar with the plan.

As he closed his opening argument, Castor said they changed the order because the House managers did such a good job. 

"I'll be quite frank with you. We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers' presentation was well done," he said.
5:11 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

How Sen. Ben Sasse reacted when Trump's lawyer called him out today

From CNN's Manu Raju and Caroline Kelly

Former President Trump's attorney Bruce Castor, Jr. called out Republican Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska in his opening statement today.

Sasse recently released a video message to the Nebraska GOP and urged the party to accept critics of the former President and remain true to conservatism as the party's future.

"Let's be clear: The anger in this state party has never been about me violating principle or abandoning conservative policy -- I'm one of the most conservative voters in the Senate -- the anger's always been simply about me not bending the knee to one guy," Sasse said.

Sasse's comments came as the Republican Party at large grappled with warring factions at odds over whether to continue the party in Trump's likeness or forge a new path veering from the former President's legacy.

Today, Castor, Trump's attorney, claimed that Sasse has faced backlash. Sasse and other key Republican senators voted with the Democrats that the trial was constitutional: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

"The political party was complaining about a decision he made as a United States senator," Castor said. "You know, it's interesting because I don't want to steal the thunder from the other lawyers, but Nebraska, you're going to hear, is quite a judicial thinking place, and just maybe Sen. Sasse is on to something. You'll hear about what it is that the Nebraska courts have to say about the issue that you all are deciding this week. There seem to be some pretty smart jurists in Nebraska and I can't believe that a United States senator doesn't know that. A senator like the gentleman from Nebraska whose Supreme Court history is ever present in his mind and rightfully so. He, he faces the whirlwind even though he knows what the judiciary in his state thinks." 

He continued: "People back home will demand their House members continue the cycle as political fortunes rise and fall."

According to a press pool report from inside the Senate chamber, Sasse appeared to "befuddled by Castor's Nebraska riff." He and senators seated nearby appeared confused by Castor's remarks.

4:08 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump once suggested impeaching Obama after he was out of office

From CNN's Jim Acosta

As senators debate the constitutionality of the impeachment proceeding against former President Trump, it's worth noting that as President, Trump once suggested impeaching his predecessor, Barack Obama, even though he was out of office. 

At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Feb. 10, 2020, Trump said Obama should be impeached for saying Americans could keep their doctors under Obamacare. 

"Remember President Obama? 'You can keep your plan, you can keep.. 28 times.. your doctor?' That didn't turn out very good," Trump said.

"We should impeach him for that. Why aren't we impeaching him? 28 times ' you can keep your doctor.' We should impeach President Obama," the former President continued.

  Watch the moment:

4:19 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Defense lawyer says Democrats are pursuing trial to prevent Trump being a "political rival in the future"

Senate TV
Senate TV

Former President Trump's defense lawyer Bruce Castor Jr. laid out his argument against the constitutionality of the impeachment trial.

In a lengthy speech from the Senate floor, Castor deflected the blame from Trump, and said the reason for this impeachment trial is to prevent Trump from running for office again.

"We are really here because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future. That's the real reason we're here, and that's why they have to get over the jurisdictional hurdle, which they can't get over," Castor said.

Democrats in the House of Representatives charged Trump with "incitement of insurrection" but Castor defended Trump's remarks before the Capitol riot.  

"We can't be possibly suggesting we punish people for political speech in this country and that people go and commit lawless acts as a result of their beliefs, and they cross the line. They should be locked up," Castor said.

Remember: Barring Trump from further office would require a second vote by senators, although it probably would not require two-thirds agreement.

Listen to Trump's defense lawyer Bruce Castor Jr.:

4:03 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Lawyer who defended Trump in first impeachment trial says he has "no idea" what new attorney is doing

From CNN's DJ Judd 

 

Alan Dershowitz speaks to the press during Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020.
Alan Dershowitz speaks to the press during Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Alan Dershowitz, who served on former President Trump’s impeachment defense team during last year’s trial, blasted attorney Bruce Castor for his opening remarks during today’s impeachment proceedings, telling Newsmax, “I have no idea what he’s doing.” 

Castor is leading Trump's defense during this second impeachment trial. He's currently giving opening statements in the case.

“Maybe he'll bring it home, but right now, it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy,” Dershowitz told the conservative cable news outlet in an interview Tuesday. “He may know the senators better than I do, maybe they want to be buttered up, maybe they want to be told what great people they are and how he knows two Senators, but it's not the kind of argument I would have made, I have to tell you that.”

Dershowitz said he would have focused on a First Amendment defense, telling Newsmax, “You cannot abridge the freedom of speech, and whatever you might think of the President's speech, and I don't think very much of it, it can't be the basis for an impeachment if it's constitutionally protected.” 

“I would have gotten right to that, but again, different strokes for different folks, different styles for different lawyers,” Dershowitz said. “And he's a folksy lawyer, and folksy lawyers sometimes do very, very well with juries.”

3:35 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's former chief of staff is on Capitol Hill to meet with the impeachment team

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows arrives on Capitol Hill on February 9.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows arrives on Capitol Hill on February 9. Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that the Democrats opening argument was “pretty much what I was expecting” and that “it’s hard to make a good case when you have an unconstitutional process.”

He said he’s spoken with former President Trump on a “regular basis” but had not spoken with him about the opening arguments at the Senate trial.

When asked why he was on Capitol Hill, he said, “I'm just coming over to meet with the impeachment team” and said that he will be with them sporadically over the course of the trial.

3:28 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's defense team is speaking on the Senate floor. Here are key things to know about his lawyers.

From CNN's Devan Cole

Bruce L. Castor Jr. speaks on the Senate floor.
Bruce L. Castor Jr. speaks on the Senate floor. Senate TV

Former President Trump's lawyers are arguing now on the Senate floor against the constitutionality of the impeachment trial.

The lawyers who signed on to lead Trump's impeachment defense team bring a curious history of experience. David Schoen, a seasoned civil and criminal lawyer, and Bruce L. Castor, Jr, a well-known lawyer and the former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney, are defending him in the trial.

The lawyers, both of whom have legal careers peppered with curiosities, joined Trump's team a day after five members of his defense left, effectively collapsing the team.

Trump’s lawyers are tasked with devising a defense strategy for a former President who faces the impeachment charge of inciting a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, something that if convicted could also result in him being barred from holding federal office ever again.

For Schoen, whose website says he "focuses primarily on the litigation of complex civil and criminal cases before trial and appellate courts," Trump is just the latest controversial figure his career has brought him to in recent years.

Schoen was on the team of lawyers representing Roger Stone, Trump's longtime friend and former adviser, in the appeal of his conviction related to issues Stone took with the jury. Stone dropped that appeal after the then-President commuted his prison sentence, but before Stone received a full presidential pardon for convictions, including lying to Congress to protect Trump.

Schoen, who holds a master of laws from Columbia University and a juris doctorate from Boston College, according to his biography, serves as chair of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee.

Castor, meanwhile, served as Montgomery County district attorney from 2000 to 2008, before serving two terms as the county commissioner, according to a release from Trump's office.

He was involved in at least one high-profile case as district attorney, when he declined in 2005 to prosecute Bill Cosby after Andrea Constand reported the actor had touched her inappropriately at his home in Montgomery County, citing "insufficient credible and admissible evidence."

Cosby was later tried and convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home in 2004, despite the fact that Castor argued during a pre-trial hearing that he'd already committed the state to not prosecuting the actor.

Read more about the lawyers here.

3:16 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

GOP senator says impeachment managers made "very good argument" on constitutional question

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. Bill Cassidy walks in the US Capitol on Tuesday.
Sen. Bill Cassidy walks in the US Capitol on Tuesday. Susan Walsh/AP

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, told CNN it was a “very good opening” by the House impeachment managers. 

He said they made “very good arguments” on the constitutional question and he wants to hear from the other side.

Asked if he is now open to considering the managers’ argument, he said, “I’ve always said I would approach this with an open mind and would listen as an impartial juror to both sides.”

Remember: Cassidy voted in favor of GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s recent motion that impeachment after former President Trump left office is unconstitutional.

Bruce Castor Jr., one of Trump's defense lawyers, is currently making his case to the Senate.