A divided Senate voted 56 to 44 on Tuesday to proceed with the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, rejecting his lawyers’ argument that it is unconstitutional

Most Republicans stood with Trump and his legal team, which contended the Senate cannot convict a person no longer in office. The House impeachment managers, in pressing for the trial to proceed, said Trump had a role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and should be held accountable. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin Wednesday.

Here’s what to know:
  • The Senate voted 89 to 11 to agree to the rules of the trial. All 11 votes against the rules came from Republicans.
  • Here is the evidence being presented in Trump’s impeachment trial.
  • President Biden, who is trying to remain focused on his agenda this week, met Tuesday afternoon with leaders of several major U.S. companies about his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation.
  • Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, said during a Senate committee hearing that she regretted the tone of some of her past social media posts and pledged to work in a bipartisan fashion if confirmed.
  • A Senate committee voted to advance the nomination of Michael Regan, the top environmental regulator in North Carolina, as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
2:44 a.m.
Link copied
link

‘Disorganized, random’: Several GOP senators criticize performance of Trump’s lawyers

Several Republican senators on Tuesday criticized the performance of lawyers representing former president Donald Trump at his impeachment trial, with at least one saying that the “disorganized, random” arguments by Trump’s attorneys were what motivated him to change his mind and vote with Democrats.

After listening to opening statements, the Senate voted 56 to 44 to move forward with the impeachment trial, rejecting Trump’s legal team’s arguments that it was unconstitutional to do so. The vote mostly split along party lines and was almost identical to a similar one that was held last month.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the only Republican senator to switch his vote to support moving forward with Trump’s impeachment trial, blasted the meandering opening statements by Trump’s attorneys as incoherent and ineffective.

2:08 a.m.
Link copied
link

In self-imposed exile, Trump watches with unhappiness as second impeachment trial unfolds

As he faces his second impeachment trial, Trump has been unusually quiet.

Ensconced in his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., the former president has spent his days golfing. He has rolled through his phone, calling old friends and allies simply to check in. He has dined on the patio of his lush retreat, often accompanied by a coterie of political aides still on his payroll.

And, as Congress on Tuesday took up a second Senate trial for Trump almost exactly a year after his first, Trump has remained sanguine that an evenly divided Senate will acquit him of charges of inciting an insurrection — despite his egging on of an angry crowd that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

1:05 a.m.
Link copied
link

Analysis: When you can impeach a president, according to Trump’s defenders

As the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump began Tuesday, his attorneys played a brief video showing various Democratic elected officials calling for Trump to be impeached. Various members of the House Democratic Caucus were shown at various points of Trump’s presidency, claiming that the then-president deserved impeachment and would be subject to it — an effort by Trump’s legal team to present the current iteration of the punishment as nothing more than political point-scoring.

The irony of the video, though, was that it depicted calls to hold Trump accountable during his first and second years in office — periods which presumably would have met with approval from Trump’s allies. They, after all, have been insistent that the actual impeachment votes had regrettably occurred at moments that the Constitution or the Founding Fathers would have found hopelessly unacceptable.

1:03 a.m.
Link copied
link

Senate Judiciary Committee sets confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that it will hold a two-day confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Merrick Garland on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, setting a path for President Biden’s top law enforcement official to possibly take office.

In a joint statement, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the chair and ranking members of the committee, said the panel expected to vote on advancing the nomination the following week, on March 1, provided other lawmakers agreed. Garland would then have a clear a vote by the full Senate, where he is widely expected to be confirmed with bipartisan support.

The timetable resolves a dispute between Republicans and Democrats on the committee about when Garland would have his confirmation hearing. Before Durbin was technically in control of the Judiciary Committee and able to set a date, he had tried to press his Republican counterpart and then-chair of the panel, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), to schedule Garland’s hearing for Feb. 8. But Graham balked, in part because of what he said was the need to focus on former president Donald Trump’s impeachment.

In a statement announcing the hearing, Durbin said, “I’m pleased that we can announce that the Committee will be moving forward on a bipartisan basis with a nomination hearing for Judge Garland on February 22 and 23 … He is a consensus pick who should be confirmed swiftly on his merits.”

Grassley noted that he had agreed to waive the typical 28-day window that lawmakers typically take to review a nominee’s paperwork because of the importance of the position. Garland was among the last Cabinet officials nominated by Biden, and he only submitted the requisite paperwork in late January.

“I expect a thorough review of Judge Garland’s qualifications as well as swift and transparent responses going forward,” Grassley said.

11:11 p.m.
Link copied
link

GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, who switched vote to support impeachment trial, said Trump’s lawyers were ‘disorganized, random’

Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), the only Republican senator to switch his vote Tuesday to support moving forward with Trump’s impeachment trial, criticized the meandering opening statements by Trump’s attorney as confusing and nonsensical.

“It was disorganized, random,” Cassidy told reporters after Tuesday’s proceedings. "[Trump’s lawyers] talked about many things but didn’t talk about the issue at hand. … The issue at hand, is it constitutional to impeach a president who’s left office? And the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not.”

Cassidy was one of six Republican senators to vote with Democrats to say that it was constitutional to impeach a former president even after he has left office. The other five Republican senators had done so in a similar vote last month.

Cassidy said at one point that, as one of Trump’s lawyers was speaking, he leaned over, confused, to ask Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) if he was missing something.

“If I’m there as an impartial juror, respecting my oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the U.S., and one side makes the argument, and the other side does everything but make the argument, then to live with myself, I make that vote. I’ve always said I’m approaching this as an impartial juror,” he said.

Over the weekend, Cassidy hinted that his vote Tuesday might not be the same as it was in late January.

“I will listen to both sides and be objective,” Cassidy told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday on NBC. “So Chuck, I’m sorry, but everybody wants you to commit to how you’re going to vote before you actually have the hearing. And so I’ve been trying to studiously avoid doing so.”

Cassidy added that January’s vote was “a vote in a moment of time … based upon what senators knew at that point.”

“But we will now have, hopefully, presentations from both sides, and we will consider the evidence as impartial jurors,” Cassidy told Todd.

Cassidy’s vote drew criticism from the Louisiana Republican Party, which said it was “profoundly disappointed." Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a Trump ally who said he was part of the Trump team’s “war room,” said he was surprised by Cassidy’s vote.

“I have not spoken to him but I can tell you a lot of people from back home are calling me about it right now," Johnson told reporters.

11:04 p.m.
Link copied
link

Republican senators pan Trump lawyer Castor’s performance: He ‘just rambled on and on’

Several Senate Republicans criticized the performance of Trump lawyer Bruce L. Castor Jr. during Tuesday’s impeachment trial, describing his 48-minutes worth of opening remarks as incoherent and ineffective.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is among Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill, said he has seen “a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments,” and Castor’s “was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”

“I thought the president’s lawyer — the first lawyer — just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument,” Cornyn told reporters at the Capitol after the day’s proceedings had concluded. “Finally, the second lawyer got around to it and, I thought, did an effective job.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who joined five other Republicans in voting to proceed with the trial, said she thought the House impeachment managers presented a “pretty good legal analysis,” but that she was “really stunned at the first attorney who presented for former president Trump.”

“I couldn’t figure out where he was going — [he] spent 45 minutes going somewhere, but I don’t think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this,” Murkowski said.

She added that she thought Trump’s other attorney, David Schoen, “did a better job,” but that Castor’s remarks were “a missed opportunity.”

Asked whether he agreed with Murkowski, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) declined to call it a “missed opportunity” but expressed confusion at Castor’s performance.

“Well, I think I — I thought I — I really didn’t know — I thought I knew where he was going,” Graham told reporters. “And I really didn’t know where he was going.”

He added that “nobody’s mind was changed one way or the other,” perhaps with the exception of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who joined Democrats in voting to proceed Tuesday after siding with Republicans during a key test vote last month.

Asked about his performance, Castor told reporters, “I thought we had a good day.” Pressed about Cassidy’s switch, Castor said, "I don’t make anything of it. If it leaks down to 34 then I’ll start to worry.”

10:32 p.m.
Link copied
link

Six Republicans join Democrats in voting to proceed with Trump impeachment trial

The Senate on Tuesday voted 56 to 44 to move ahead with Trump’s impeachment trial, dismissing the arguments of the former president’s legal team that the proceedings are unconstitutional.

Most Republicans stood with Trump and his attorneys, who contended that the Senate cannot convict a person who is no longer in office.

The vote was similar to last month’s key test vote on the same issue. A handful of Republicans joined Democrats in voting to proceed; Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who last time voted “no,” instead joined the Democrats on Tuesday.

In total, six Republicans crossed party lines Tuesday to vote in favor of proceeding with the trial: Cassidy and Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.).

The House impeachment managers, in pressing for the trial to proceed, said Trump had a role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and should be held accountable. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin Wednesday.

In an exchange with reporters earlier Tuesday, Cassidy said he believed the House impeachment managers delivered “strong arguments” on the constitutional question in their opening remarks.

“I’m trying to digest facts,” Cassidy said, adding: "Clearly, we have to hear the opposition, but they presented very good arguments. ... I’ve always said that I was approaching this with an open mind, and I’m there to listen as an impartial juror to both sides.”

9:47 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump attorney David Schoen accuses House impeachment managers of ‘pure, raw, misguided partisanship’

Trump attorney David I. Schoen defended former president Donald Trump on the first day of his second impeachment trial on Feb. 9. (The Washington Post)

After a meandering, 48-minute opening statement from Castor, fellow Trump attorney Schoen took over with fiery remarks that accused House impeachment managers of using “pure, raw, misguided partisanship” to divide the country further.

“This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history,” Schoen said, alluding to the Civil War.

Taking issue in particular with a video that House impeachment managers showed in their opening statement, he accused Democrats of engaging in “a blood sport of sorts,” saying it shouldn’t have been necessary to actually show the insurrection, which resulted in five deaths, in such graphic detail.

Schoen at times shouted into the microphone and frequently turned to glare at lawmakers on both sides of the chamber. His argument, in a sense, was an angrier reiteration of the one that many Republican members of Congress had been using publicly for weeks — that, in the name of “unity,” the Senate should not move forward with Democrats’ efforts to hold Trump accountable.

“This is about lowering the temperature following the Dems’ emotionally charged opening, before dropping the hammer on the unconstitutional nature of this impeachment witch hunt,” according to a person familiar with the Trump legal strategy who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss private conversations.

Schoen also attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the “streamlined” impeachment process in the House, arguing that Trump was not afforded due process — though Trump himself had refused to appear as a witness.

Schoen also said that House impeachment advocates had contradicted themselves by citing urgency to expedite the process, impeaching Trump on Jan. 13, then withholding transmission of the article of impeachment to the Senate for 12 days. Schoen did not mention that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had said when the House impeached Trump that the Senate would not reconvene before Jan. 19.

9:24 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump attorney heaps praise upon senators, acknowledges Biden won the election

Bruce Castor, an attorney for Donald Trump, made a rambling opening statement during the former president’s impeachment trial on Feb. 9. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

In a meandering 48-minute speech, Trump attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. praised senators, argued that Trump should not be punished for “political speech” and — in a move that is likely to displease the former president — acknowledged that Trump lost the 2020 election.

“President Trump no longer is in office,” Castor said. “The object of the Constitution has been achieved. He was removed by the voters.”

While the House impeachment managers focused their remarks on constitutional arguments and historical precedent, Castor spent most of his opening remarks on other topics. He hailed senators for their “reputation for coolheadedness” and said Americans feel a “sense of pride” in them.

“Senators are patriots. Senators are family men and women. They’re fierce advocates for the great state which they represent. And somewhere far down that list of attributes … senators have some obligation to be partisans,” Castor said.

He then argued that Trump’s remarks Jan. 6 were simply a matter of “free and robust political speech” rather than incitement of insurrection, “and if people go and commit lawless acts as a result of their beliefs and they cross the line, they should be locked up.”

Castor offered to defend any lawmaker from across the aisle if they are one day persecuted by the federal government for their remarks, even if he doesn’t agree with them.

“This trial is not about trading liberty for security,” Castor said. “It’s about suggesting that it is a good idea that we give up those liberties that we have so long fought for. We have sent armies to other parts of the world to convince those governments to implement the freedoms that we enjoy. This trial is about trading liberty for the security from the mob? Honestly, no. It can’t be. We can’t be thinking about that.”

A person familiar with the Trump legal strategy said that Castor’s speech was part of the defense team’s efforts to neutralize the arguments made by the House impeachment managers.

“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,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the team’s legal strategy.

At one point in his remarks, Castor himself acknowledged that Trump’s legal team changed its approach at the last minute after hearing the presentations that were made by the House impeachment managers.

“I’ll be quite frank with you," Castor said. "We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done. And I wanted you to know that we have responses to those things.”

Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

9:07 p.m.
Link copied
link

Biden says he has no plans to watch Trump’s impeachment trial

President Biden on Feb. 9 said that he is sure the Senate will "conduct themselves well" during the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump. (The Washington Post)

Biden said Tuesday that he isn’t planning to watch the televised impeachment trial of Trump.

“Are you going to watch the trial?” Biden was asked by a reporter during a coronavirus-related meeting with business leaders. “I am not,” Biden replied.

“Look, I told you before that I have a job. My job is to keep people,” Biden said, meaning to keep them alive as the pandemic continues. “We have already lost over 450,000 people, and we could lose a whole lot more if we don’t act and act decisively and quickly,” Biden said. “A lot of people, as I have said before, children are going to bed hungry. A lot of families are food insecure. They are in trouble.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has sought for days to divert reporters’ questions about Trump’s impeachment, arguing that while the event is a “big story,” it is distinct from Biden’s mandate.

Biden won in November in part because many Americans no longer trusted Trump to handle the pandemic, which spiraled on his watch. The success of Biden’s presidency will be measured by how he changes the course of the pandemic, rolls out lifesaving vaccines and begins to repair the economy.

“That’s my job,” Biden said. “The Senate has their job, and they are about to begin it, and I am sure they are going to conduct themselves well. That’s all I am going to have to say about impeachment.”

8:50 p.m.
Link copied
link

One of Trump’s impeachment lawyers sued him last year — and accused him of making claims about fraud with ‘no evidence’

Last year, Philadelphia lawyer Michael T. van der Veen filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump accusing him of making “repeated claims” that mail voting is ripe with fraud “despite having no evidence in support of these claims.”

This week, van der Veen is adopting a different posture as part of the team of attorneys defending Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in his Senate impeachment trial.

How a longtime personal-injury lawyer found himself at the center of that trial, which opened Tuesday, may say more about his client than his own legal career. Trump struggled to find lawyers to take on his case, parting ways with several who were unwilling to claim that the 2020 election was stolen, as the president is said to have wanted them to do.

Van der Veen’s route to Trump’s legal team began when the firm he founded hired Bruce L. Castor Jr. in December. Castor, a former prosecutor from suburban Philadelphia, in turn was recommended to Trump aides and hired last month.

8:40 p.m.
Link copied
link

Inside the chamber: Note taking and rapt attention for Rep. Raskin

In the first hours of the trial, almost all senators remained in their desks, listened and took notes. Several Republicans appeared to have been reviewing unrelated documents and did not uniformly pay attention but did look up at key points.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) remained the only senator without any mask at all, though Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) let the mask sag below his mouth for much of the time. Neither Schumer nor McConnell took notes, though both paid close attention. McConnell sat upright with his hands in his lap; Schumer slumped in his seat. At one point an aide handed him a legal pad but he handed it back.

As Rep. David N. Cicilline (D.-R.I.), one of the House managers, wrapped up, attention — particularly on the GOP side of aisle — started to wander a bit. But when Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) returned to the rostrum and spoke about the personal events of Jan. 6, almost all senators snapped back to attention — including Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who sat together and spent much of the proceedings scribbling notes and reviewing documents.

Senators chuckled when Raskin mentioned his daughter Tabitha’s elopement. After Raskin’s emotional close, he was immediately greeted by a number of Democratic senators — starting with Sen. Alex Padilla (Calif.), followed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), and Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who patted his heart in recognition. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) left the podium and greeted Raskin, who then had a longer conversation with Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). Meanwhile, Paul visited the defense table, where he had a short conversation with one of the lawyers

8:22 p.m.
Link copied
link

Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, on Capitol Hill with Trump attorneys

Mark Meadows, the former Trump chief of staff, was spotted on Capitol Hill, meeting with Trump’s attorneys.

“I’m just coming over to meet with the impeachment team,” Meadows told reporters. He said he’d be there “sporadically” during the trial.

Meadows said he talks to Trump on a “regular basis,” but didn’t know if the former president had watched the Democrats’ opening arguments. He said the managers’ case was “expected” and reiterated the Trump defense that the process is “unconstitutional.”

He and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who also huddled with Trump’s lawyers, are acting as advisors to the defense team.

Meadows has stood by Trump and defended his former boss against charges that he incited the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

On Sunday, Meadows appeared on a Fox News show and attacked Democrats and the impeachment trial proceedings, accusing the House managers of seeking “political vengeance” and wanting a “viral moment.”

8:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Raskin, overcome with emotion, pleads: ‘People died that day. ... Senators, this cannot be our future.’

During the Feb. 9 impeachment trial, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) talked about having his family present at the Capitol on the day of the insurrection. (The Washington Post)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), his voice quivering and at times breaking, closed the House managers’ opening arguments with a personal reflection on Jan. 6, the day after he had buried his son, who had died by suicide days earlier.

In an extraordinarily raw recounting of what he experienced, Raskin shared how his daughter and son-in-law had come with him to Capitol Hill that day, wanting to remain close in their grief. He gave a speech on unity as his children watched from the gallery above.

His children were in an office off the House floor when the attack occurred and he couldn’t get to them. All around him lawmakers were calling loved ones and saying their goodbyes. From the floor, he could hear “the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram,” which he described as the “most haunting sound I ever heard.”

His daughter and son-in-law were barricaded inside the office, “hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes. They thought they were going to die.

When it was all over and they were reunited, Raskin’s daughter told him she never wanted to come back to the Capitol. Repeating her words, Raskin’s voice broke and filled with tears.

He described in detail the torture and abuse that law enforcement endured that day: “People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives,” Raskin said, his voice breaking again.

Senators, this cannot be our future,” Raskin pleaded. “This cannot be the future of America.”