Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 4

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

Updated 9:33 PM ET, Fri February 12, 2021
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5:21 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Trump's lawyer offers false answer about whether Trump knew Pence was in danger

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Kristin Wilson

Senate TV
Senate TV

Former President Trump's lawyer Michael van der Veen said during the Q&A period that "at no point" was Trump aware that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger.  

But Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, told reporters this week that he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 and told him that Pence had just been rushed away from the rioters by US Secret Service.

Tuberville told reporters:

"I said 'Mr. President, hey, they just took the Vice President out, I’ve got to go.'"

CNN has previously reported that Trump called the personal cell phone of Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Jan. 6. At that time the senators had been evacuated from the Senate floor and were in a temporary holding room, as a pro-Trump mob began breaching the Capitol.

Lee picked up the phone and Trump identified himself, and it became clear he was looking for Tuberville and had been given the wrong number. Lee, keeping the President on hold, went to find his colleague and handed Tuberville his phone, telling him the President was on the line and had been trying to reach him.

Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, with the President trying to convince him to make additional objections to the Electoral College vote in a futile effort to block Congress' certification of then President-elect Joe Biden's win, according to a source familiar with the call. The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location. In that call, Sen. Tuberville said he told Trump that Pence had been evacuated.

The timeline of that call puts it before Trump tweeted about Pence. 

Trump's tweet at 2:24 p.m. ET said: "Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!"

On Tuesday – the first day of Trump's second impeachment trial – both Sens. Tuberville and Lee briefly addressed a last minute objection that was made by Lee on the Senate floor regarding the phone call.

Lee said that the House managers “made statements attributed to me, which they repeatedly characterized – consisted of statements that I did not make.”

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin withdrew the remarks, and Lee withdrew his objection.  

Tuberville, calling the moment “unusual” said that he “wishes that it had been correct.” But when asked what was incorrect about House impeachment manager Rep. David Cicilline’s remarks about the call, Tuberville said “I don’t know, you know President Trump, you don’t get many words in, but he didn’t get a chance to say a whole lot because, I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go.’ That’s what it was.”

5:09 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

GOP senators ask when Trump knew the Capitol was breached and what actions he took to end the rioting

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Senate TV
Senate TV

During today's impeachment proceedings, senators have the opportunity to question both the House impeachment managers as well as the lawyers for former President Trump.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican representing Maine, submitted the following question on behalf of herself and her colleague, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to Trump's defense team.

"Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol? What specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end? And when did he take them? Please be as detailed as possible."

Both Collins and Murkowski were among the six Republicans who joined all of their Democratic colleagues on Tuesday to vote that the impeachment trial against Trump is constitutional.

Michael van der Veen, one of Trump's lawyers, took their question as an opportunity to suggest that the House managers failed to address this very topic.

"With the rush to bring this impeachment, there's been absolutely no investigation into that," said van der Veen, adding "and that's the problem with this entire proceeding."

Referencing an incomplete timeline dating back to December 2020, as well as a Jan. 6th tweet posted at 2:38 p.m. ET, van der Veen argued that there was "a lot of interaction between the authorities and getting folks to have security" ahead of the day's riot.

However, van der Veen maintained, the House managers "did zero investigation, and the American people deserve a lot better than coming in here with no evidence."

Calling the case again the former President "hearsay on top of hearsay, on top of reports that are of hearsay," van der Veen concluded his response to Collins' question by saying "due process is required here and that was denied."

Watch the moment:

4:42 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Photograph appears to capture planned remarks on impeachment of undecided GOP senator 

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., talks with staff in the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trials for former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Friday, February 12.
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., talks with staff in the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trials for former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Friday, February 12. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A Washington Post photographer captured what appeared to be prepared remarks by GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy. He is seen holding a typed memo that has a few lines at the top crossed out by pen marks. 

The typed copy reads, “The House Managers did not connect the dots to show President Trump knew that the attack on the Capitol was going to be violent and result in the loss of life." 

Cassidy’s communications director Ty Bofferding responded shortly afterwards in a tweet saying that Cassidy is still weighing both sides. 

"@SenBillCassidy is still weighing both sets of arguments and is reviewing memos from both points of view as part of his thought process before coming to a conclusion," he tweeted. 

More context: Six Republicans joined all of their Democratic colleagues on Tuesday to vote that the impeachment trial against former President Trump is constitutional, with Cassidy emerging as the sole Republican to switch his vote after an initial vote on constitutionality last month.

Cassidy told CNN Tuesday after the House managers' presentation that it was a "very good opening" and they made strong arguments. During their presentation, House impeachment managers showed how rioters violently breached the US Capitol and attacked police officers, invoking Trump's name as they tried to disrupt the certification of the November election.

5:22 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

GOP Sen. Romney asks how much Trump knew about Pence's safety

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, submitted a question asking just how much former President Trump knew about the safety of then Vice President Pence as rioters stormed the Capitol. 

"When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24PM regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that the Vice President had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?" asked Romney, through a question submitted to the counsel for former President Trump. 

Trump's tweet at the time disparaged Pence and falsely suggested that he had betrayed the US Constitution. His tweet said:

"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution," a 2:24 p.m. tweet read.

Impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro was the first to answer the question, arguing in detail that there was no reasonable way Trump could not have been aware of the threat to Pence, given the saturation of news coverage on Jan 6.

"There were hours of chaos and carnage and mayhem, and the Vice President and his family were still in danger at that point," Castro said. "Our commander-in-chief did nothing." 

But Trump's defense counsel, Michael van der Veen, demurred saying that Democrats had constructed a flimsy case agains the former President and not included proof that Trump was aware of the threat to Pence.

"The answer is no," he said. "At no point was the President informed that the Vice President was in any danger."

"There is nothing at all in the record on this point because the House failed to do even a minimum amount of due diligence," he added.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, told reporters this week that he spoke to Trump shortly after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 and told him that Pence had just been rushed away from the rioters by US Secret Service. That was before Trump tweeted about Pence at 2:24 p.m. ET.

4:21 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Fact check: Trump team misleadingly omits Trump remarks defending violence  

From CNN's Daniel Dale

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen highlighted comments from Democrats that he suggested had promoted or defended violence.

Trump, he argued, is different than these Democrats. “Contrast the President’s repeated condemnations of violence with the rhetoric from his opponents,” van der Veen said. He then played a video that juxtaposed clips of Trump condemning violence, and calling himself an “ally of all peaceful protesters,” with some selectively edited clips of Democrats. 

Facts FirstThis argument and video were misleading by omission. Trump has indeed condemned violence and called for peaceful protest, but he has also repeatedly applauded or defended violence and aggressive behavior. 

Among other things, Trump has done the following since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015:

  • Praised a Republican congressman for assaulting a journalist
  • Urged police officers not to worry about injuring the heads of suspects they are arresting
  • Said he would like to punch a protester in the face
  • Urged supporters to “knock the crap out of” any protester they saw holding a tomato
  • Said a kidnapping plot against Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer might not be an actual “problem”
  • Approvingly told a fake story about an early 20th century US general who massacred Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs
  • Said it was a “beautiful sight” when the authorities tossed a journalist to the ground during unrest in Minneapolis
  • Mocked a reporter who got shot with a rubber bullet
  • Applauded the Trump supporters who surrounded a Joe Biden campaign bus on the highway, an incident that prompted an FBI investigation.
4:19 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

GOP Sen. Blunt says Trump's team "did a good job"

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky and Manu Raju 

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said he sees no issue with former President Trump's defense and doesn't offer any criticism of Trump's actions.

"I thought they did a good job and didn't take much time to do it," Blunt said.

Asked by CNN's Manu Raju whether he thought it was a false equivalence to compare Democrats saying fight repeatedly to what Trump said on Jan. 6, Blunt said:

"Well, you heard what he said on January the 6th, which was not 'go down and fight.' It was that we were supposed to fight and then they'd fight us in the primary if it didn't work out that way."

Pressed on whether he faults Trump, Blunt said, "I made comments on the 6th and the 7th about his actions that I haven't changed." 

4:20 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

GOP Sen. Marshall says he's "ready to vote"

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

Senator Roger Marshall talks to reporters during a break on the fourth day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump on Friday, February 12.
Senator Roger Marshall talks to reporters during a break on the fourth day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump on Friday, February 12. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

As a sign Republicans have heard enough and are happy that the Trump legal team has rested its case, newly elected Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall said he has seen enough and is ready to vote to acquit former President Trump.

“I think the Trump legal team has knocked it out of the park,” Marshall said. “I think that they've proven exactly what I thought all the time, that President Trump lives rent free in the heads of these Democrats. I sat in the House for for four years and listened to Nancy Pelosi and Jamie Raskin just rail on President Trump, giving speech after speech on impeachment. So I think that has made them very tainted and what they presented today, it just pointed out again the hypocrisy of it,” he added.

Marshall said he has seen enough and is ready to vote. 

“I think the trial is basically over with, I'm ready to vote and and get on with life. It’s time for us to get back to the work of the people working getting vaccinations in people's arms and getting the economy open again.”

4:36 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

This was the first question asked during the Q&A portion of the trial 

Senate TV
Senate TV

The four-hour question period has just begun in the Senate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a longtime Vermont Democrat who is presiding over the trial, asked the clerk to read the first question submitted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein directed to the House impeachment managers.

"Isn't it the case that the violent attack and siege on the Capitol on January 6th would not have happened if not for the conduct of President Trump?" the clerk read.

House impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro answered the question, pointing to some of the arguments he and his colleagues raised during their presentations earlier this week.

"To answer your question very directly, Donald Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob. Although he could have forcefully intervened to stop the violence, he never did. In other words, this violent, bloody insurrection that occurred January 6th would not have occurred but for President Trump," Castro said.

More on this portion of the trial: Each party is limited to up to 5 minutes to answer each question. If questions are directed to both parties, the time will be equally divided. 

Watch the moment:

5:08 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Trump's defense team is nervous about questions about election fraud 

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

As the Senate begins the question-and-answer portion of the impeachment trial, former President Trump's attorneys have voiced concern about a few questions they could field from senators – namely ones about whether or not the election was stolen – and others related to Trump's false voter fraud claims. 

Attorney Bruce Castor happily waded into those claims a few moments ago, but Trump advisers have been concerned it could throw off their appeal to moderate Republicans when it comes to the constitutionality argument.