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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5:55 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Fact check: Castor inaccurately suggests "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" must be criminal offenses

From CNN's Daniel Dale 

The Constitution says presidents can be impeached for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  

Trump lawyer Bruce Castor, Jr. suggested Tuesday that “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” must be “criminal” offenses, urging the Senate to “understand” that “a high Crime is a felony and a Misdemeanor is a misdemeanor; the words haven't changed that much over the time.” 

Facts First: Castor is inaccurate. There is widespread agreement among constitutional scholars that the Framers of the Constitution did not believe “high Crimes and Misdemeanors" had to be violations of criminal law

While there is no definition of the phrase in the Constitution, which leaves it up to Congress to determine what qualifies, there is a long history of the phrase being interpreted by Congress to include abuses of the public trust that did not necessarily violate a criminal statute.  

5:54 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Republican senator gives tough criticism of Trump's defense attorney

From CNN's Manu Raju 

US Senator John Cornyn speaks to the press before the start of the trial of former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, February 9.
US Senator John Cornyn speaks to the press before the start of the trial of former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, February 9. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

GOP Sen. John Cornyn told reporters after today's impeachment proceedings that former President Trump's defense team was "not one of the finest I've seen." 

“And then I thought the President's lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument. Finally the second lawyer got around to it, and I thought, did an effective job," he said.

Attorney David Schoen, who spoke second, 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've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was not one of the finest I've seen," he added.

Six GOP senators voted with Democrats, establishing that the impeachment trial is constitutional despite calls from some Republicans to dismiss proceedings, but Cornyn was not one of them.

6:24 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump unhappy with his attorney's performance, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Former President Trump was unhappy with Bruce Castor's opening argument on the Senate floor this afternoon, according to two people familiar with his reaction.

Trump was almost screaming as Castor made meandering arguments that struggled to get at the heart of his defense team's argument, which is supposed to be over the constitutionality of holding a trial for a president no longer in office.

Given the legal team was assembled a little over a week ago, it went as expected, one of the sources told CNN. Trump's allies were flabbergasted when Trump's attorneys switched speaking slots at the last minute.

Watch here:

5:43 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

The perpetrators of the Capitol riot "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," says Sen. Romney

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, said the video presentation aired in the senate chamber by the House managers showed that the riot that occurred on Jan. 6 was “reprehensible and vile” and that the perpetrators should be prosecuted. 

"I think it, as both counsels on both sides said, the acts that occurred in this building are reprehensible and vile and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Ever polite, Romney said both sides did a good job laying out their arguments in today’s presentations.

“I think they both did a very fine job laying out the pros and cons of constitutionality,” he said. “I continue to be convinced by the preponderance of the scholarly opinion that it is constitutional to carry out a trial of an official after they left office. In this case, the President was impeached prior to leaving office. That to me is relevant and the trial continues after he's left office.”

Romney was asked whether he thinks the constitutionality vote – where six Republicans voted with Democrats – is a predictor of how a final verdict will look.

“There’s no way I can predict that,” he said.

5:28 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

How a Trump team adviser described his legal team's messy opening day

From CNN's Jim Acosta

An adviser to former President Trump's team offered a candid assessment of the messy opening day for the former president's impeachment team. 

Part of the problem for Trump, the adviser said, is that the ex-President had some trouble in assembling a legal team for the Senate trial, noting his first group of lawyers bailed on him.

The adviser said Trump could be in serious jeopardy if he finds himself charged in criminal court, given his inability to attract a high-powered legal team for the impeachment trial.

"Trump is f*cked if anyone ever charges him. No one wants to work with him," the adviser said.

The adviser responded to the incoherent presentation from defense attorney Bruce Castor, saying, "What the hell is going on?"

A separate senior adviser to Trump insisted that Castor was attempting to lower the emotional temperature in the Senate before attorney David Schoen began his presentation.

"This is about lowering the temperature following the Democrats' emotionally charged opening, before dropping the hammer on the unconstitutional nature of this impeachment witch hunt," the adviser said.

5:29 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

This GOP senator changed his vote on the constitutionality of Trump's impeachment

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Bill Cassidy
Sen. Bill Cassidy Susan Walsh/AP

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, was the only GOP senator to change his vote on the constitutionality of former President Trump's impeachment.

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

However, speaking to CNN earlier, Cassidy said he heard a “very good opening” by the House impeachment managers. 

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

“I’ve always said I would approach this with an open mind and would listen as an impartial juror to both sides,” Cassidy said.

A total of six GOP senators voted with Democrats, passing the hurdle to proceed despite some Republican calls to dismiss proceedings.

The vote was passed 56-44.

5:16 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

These are the 6 Republicans who voted that the trial is constitutional

Six GOP senators voted with Democrats, establishing that the impeachment trial is constitutional despite calls from some Republicans to dismiss proceedings.

The six senators are:

  • Bill Cassidy
  • Susan Collins
  • Lisa Murkowski
  • Mitt Romney
  • Ben Sasse
  • Pat Toomey

The question passed 56-44.

5:46 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Senate says Trump's impeachment trial is constitutional

Senate TV
Senate TV

A majority of senators said the impeachment trial of former President Trump is constitutional despite calls from some Republicans to dismiss proceedings.

A simple majority was needed to proceed.

What comes next: The House managers and Trump's defense team are each allotted up to 16 hours spread over two days to present their cases.

The House managers arguing for impeachment go first, and we know that they plan to use a lot of video from the day of the insurrection to make their points. We expect the proceedings will resume at noon ET tomorrow.

Watch the vote:

5:02 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

The Senate is voting on the trial's constitutional validity

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox

Following four hours of debate where both sides presented their arguments, the senators are now voting on the constitutionality of an impeachment trial for a president who has already left office.

A simple majority is needed to proceed.

Here's a recap of what each side said during their portion of the debate:

House impeachment managers: Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead impeachment manager, opened his presentation with a video showing disturbing footage of how protesters overran police and ransacked the Capitol. The video was spliced with former President Trump's speech on Jan. 6 ahead of the riots, showing the crowd's reaction to Trump as he urged them to head to the Capitol.

The Democrats' 13-minute video concluded with Trump's deleted tweet on Jan. 6, saying that "these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away."

"If that's not an impeachable offense, then there's no such thing," Raskin argued.

Trump's defense team: Trump's team has contended that the impeachment trial itself is unconstitutional, while arguing that Trump did not incite the rioters and that his speech about the election was protected by the First Amendment.

Trump's attorney Bruce Castor warned that a second impeachment trial in 13 months would "open the floodgates" to future impeachments, even making the unfounded rhetorically suggestion that former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder could be impeached.

After Castor deferred to Trump's other lawyer David Schoen, the tone of the defense team changed starkly. Schoen charged that Democrats were using impeachment as a political "blood sport" to try to keep Trump from running for office again.