‘He just rambled’: Republicans unimpressed by Trump’s impeachment lawyers | Trump impeachment (2021)
The performance of Donald Trump’s legal team on the first day of his second impeachment trial has drawn sharp criticism from Republican senators and other onlookers, many of whom appeared unimpressed by the at times rambling and incoherent opening statements.
Two members of the former president’s legal team, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, sought on Tuesday to persuade the Senate to dismiss the trial on constitutional grounds. Castor’s performance in particular drew criticism as waffling and lacking in focus.
Several Republican senators said they didn’t understand the lawyers’ arguments. The Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy, who voted with Democrats to move forward with the trial, said Trump’s team did a “terrible job” and was “disorganized”, “random” and “did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand”.
Cassidy was not the only Republican who was displeased with Trump’s defense team.
Susan Collins, a Republican senator of Maine, said she was “perplexed” by Castor, who is Trump’s lead lawyer, saying he “did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take”.
“The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas. “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”
The Texas senator Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, said he didn’t think the lawyers did “the most effective job”, while praising the Maryland representative Jamie Raskin, who is acting as the Democrats’ lead prosecutor, as “impressive”.
Cornyn and Cruz both still voted to dismiss the trial, along with 42 other Republican senators. Six Republicans, including Cassidy and Collins, voted with Democrats to advance the trial.
Trump himself was also reportedly unhappy with his lawyers’ showing. Politico reported that sources close to the former president say he grew “increasingly frustrated” as he watched the day unfold. Other outlets, including CBS and CNN, also reported the president was disappointed, according to sources.
The trial’s opening day saw Raskin deliver an emotional speech that recounted his personal experience of the Capitol attack, describing how his daughter and son-in-law were in an office in the Capitol and hid under a desk, where they sent what they thought were their final texts. Through tears, Raskin said: “This cannot be the future of America.”
Castor opened his meandering presentation by praising senators as “patriots” and mentioning that he still gets lost in the Capitol. The speech included such cryptic lines as “Nebraska, you’re going to hear, is quite a judicial thinking place”. He spoke for 20 minutes before addressing the 6 January insurrection and failed to directly address the president’s actions that day or argue against the constitutionality of the impeachment trial.
Castor concluded his opening comments by bizarrely daring the justice department to arrest Trump if the allegations at the heart of the impeachment trial were true.
“A high crime is a felony, and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor,” Castor said. “After he’s out of office, you go and arrest him … The Department of Justice does know what to do with such people. And so far, I haven’t seen any activity in that direction.”
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman said a Trump adviser had defended the performance as a “deliberative strategy” meant to distract from Raskin’s emotional presentation – though critics pointed out that a master strategist wouldn’t need to put out a background statement explaining their strategy.
It was a performance that left many observers befuddled, with some reporters comparing the lawyer to a college student who did not do the reading before class, joking that Castor would be fired by tweet if Trump still had access to his Twitter account.
Alan Dershowitz, who served as a member of Donald Trump’s defense team during his first impeachment trial, seemed less than impressed with Castor’s rambling presentation.
“There is no argument. I have no idea what he is doing,” Dershowitz told the conservative outlet Newsmax. “I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting