Tensions rose in the Senate on Friday night as senators asked questions of attorneys for Donald Trump and the House impeachment managers seeking to convict the former president on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Defense attorneys, seeking to downplay the former president’s role in the violent attack, accused House impeachment managers of being motivated by hatred of Trump and showed selectively edited video of Democrats using the word “fight.” Impeachment managers insisted that Trump perpetuating the “big lie” that the election was rigged drove his supporters to attack the Capitol.

At the conclusion of the question-and-answer period, the Senate voted unanimously to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Officer Eugene Goodman, whose actions Jan. 6 are credited with saving the lives of members of Congress.

Barring a vote to call witnesses, the trial could end Saturday with lawmakers deciding whether to acquit or convict.

Here’s what to know:
  • As the drama unfolds on Capitol Hill, President Biden continues to try to focus on his agenda. On Friday, he met with governors and mayors at the White House to discuss his coronavirus relief package.
  • House Democrats closed their impeachment case against Trump on Thursday by linking his history of incendiary rhetoric and his months-long campaign to undermine the election to the statements of rioters who stormed the Capitol. They also raised the prospect of future violence without a conviction.
  • The impeachment charge against Trump alleges that he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”
  • Trump’s speech before the riot contained no overt calls for his supporters to enter the Capitol or resort to violent means. But it included plenty of allusions to the idea that Congress accepting Biden’s victory was a result that must be stopped.
12:39 a.m.
Link copied
link

Senate votes to award Officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal

The Senate ended Friday’s impeachment trial proceedings with a unanimous vote to award U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who directed the violent mob away from the Senate chamber, the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

“Here in this trial, we saw a new video, powerful video showing calmness under pressure, his courage in the line of duty, his foresight in the midst of chaos, and his willingness to make himself a target of the mob’s rage so that others might reach safety,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, before recognizing Goodman, who was sitting in the back of the chamber.

He was met with a standing ovation from the senators, whom he saved from danger on Jan. 6. Goodman joined in the applause when Schumer mentioned the heroism of other law enforcement officers that day.

11:46 p.m.
Link copied
link

Rubio suggests Hillary Clinton could be subject to impeachment as a former official

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested that proceeding with the impeachment trial of a former official could lead, for instance, to the future impeachment of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Rubio’s question did not mention Clinton by name, but he alluded to the “Lock her up!” chants targeting Clinton that Donald Trump encouraged as a candidate in their 2016 presidential contest.

“Is it not true that under this new precedent, a future House facing partisan pressure to ‘lock her up’ could impeach a former secretary of state, and a future Senate forced to put her on trial and potentially disqualify from any future office?” Rubio asked the impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys.

In response, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) noted that Trump was impeached while still in office for conduct while he was the president. The hypothetical, he said, “has no bearing on this case.”

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen disagreed, warning that voting to convict a former president would lead to impeachment proceedings against other ex-officials.

“It could happen to a lot of people. And that’s not the way this is supposed to work,” van der Veen said.

11:38 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump lawyer dismisses Sen. Tuberville’s statement about Trump call as ‘hearsay,' claims former president was ‘very much’ concerned about Pence

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen on Friday rejected Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) claim that he spoke with Trump by phone while the Capitol was under attack, dismissing the senator’s statement as “hearsay.”

Tuberville told reporters Thursday that he had spoken with Trump on the phone shortly after Vice President Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber on Jan. 6.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took our vice president out, they’re getting ready to drag me out of here. I got to go,’ ” Tuberville said he told Trump during the brief call.

But van der Veen said Friday that “we’re not going to know” whether Tuberville’s call with Trump actually happened, because the senator confirmed the call to reporters and not as part of any formal investigation into the events surrounding last month’s attack on the Capitol.

Van der Veen made the comment in response to a question from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who asked whether Trump’s call with Tuberville at 2:15 p.m., and Trump’s tweet disparaging Pence at 2:24 p.m., meant that Trump “did not care that Vice President Pence was endangered or that law enforcement was overwhelmed.”

“Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?” Cassidy asked.

Van der Veen replied, “Directly, no. But I dispute the premise of your facts.”

He continued: “Unfortunately, we’re not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on. We’re trying to get hearsay from Mr. Tuberville. There was hearsay from Mr. [Mike] Lee, I think it was two nights ago, when we ended, where Mr. Lee was accused of making a statement that he never made.”

Confusion about the phone call could be cleared up if Lee and Tuberville both provided detailed firsthand accounts of the episode. Senators in both parties, however, said they do not expect witnesses to be called during the trial.

Van der Veen on Friday mischaracterized the nature of the senators’ remarks, declaring: “It was a report from a reporter, from a friend of somebody who had some hearsay that they heard the night before at a bar somewhere.”

Asked Friday night about van der Veen’s “hearsay” comment, Tuberville said he stands by his account of the phone call and reiterated that he told Trump “they’ve taken the vice president out” and that he had to go.

“I’m probably the only guy in the world who’s hung up on the president of the United States,” Tuberville joked. He said he doesn’t remember if Trump had any reaction “because they were dragging me; they had me by the arm.” He also told reporters he wasn’t certain about the time of the call, and that he hasn’t spoken about it with any members of Trump’s legal team.

During his remarks Friday, van der Veen also emphasized that Trump and Pence “have had a very good relationship for a long time.”

“I’m sure Mr. Trump very much is concerned and was concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Pence and everybody else that was over here,” he said.

Despite van der Veen’s assurances, Trump did not call Pence to check on his well-being on Jan. 6 — or for five days after that — and Pence’s team does not agree with the assessment that Trump was concerned about Pence’s safety.

Five days after the attack, on Jan. 11, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, approached Pence’s team and said Trump wanted to talk with the vice president for the first time.

Trump and Pence met in person in the Oval Office that day for a lengthy meeting that was officially dubbed “a good conversation” but privately described as stilted and uncomfortable, according to several people familiar with the matter.

11:01 p.m.
Link copied
link

‘How gullible do you think we are?’ Rep. Raskin asks as tensions rise

The exchanges between opposing lawyers intensified Friday night as the two sides took turns answering senators’ questions.

Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) reacted in disbelief to assertions from Trump’s lawyers that the president’s remarks at the Jan. 6 rally were “totally appropriate” and said the Senate must act to ensure a violent insurrection at the Capitol never happens again.

Come on, get real. We know that this is what happened,” Raskin said.

Raskin reminded senators of the series of events and rallies held by the president in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

“Violence all over the rallies. The president cheering it on, delighting in it, reveling in it, exulting in it. Come on! How gullible do you think we are?” Raskin said, his voice rising. “We saw this happen. We just spent 11 or 12 hours looking at all of that.”

In response, Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen took issue with Raskin’s analysis and said sarcastically that the former constitutional law professor had relied on a “newly created Raskin doctrine” on the First Amendment.

Trump’s lawyer pointed to the key Supreme Court ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio that created a high bar for finding incitement in order to protect political speech.

There’s no evidence, he said, that Trump’s words led directly to the violent siege and “it’s ludicrous to believe that would be true,” van der Veen said.

But there’s a difference between what is impeachable and what is illegal. While Trump’s fiery words might not rise to the level of incitement in a traditional courtroom, constitutional scholars say, the same legal protections do not apply at an impeachment trial, where Trump is accused of violating his oath as a public official.

10:23 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump lawyer declines to say whether Trump won or lost the 2020 election

Counsel for former president Donald Trump Michael T. van der Veen on Feb. 12 declined to answer if the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. (The Washington Post)

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen declined to say whether Trump won or lost the 2020 presidential election, declaring that his own judgment of the matter is “irrelevant.”

Van der Veen’s statement came in response to a question submitted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“The House prosecutors have stated over and over again that President Trump was perpetrating a big lie when he repeatedly claimed that the election was stolen from him and that he actually won the election by a landslide. Are the prosecutors right when they claim that Trump was telling a big lie? Or in your judgment, did Trump actually win the election?” Sanders asked in his question, which was read by the House reading clerk.

“My judgment?” van der Veen replied. “Who asked that? My judgment’s irrelevant in this proceeding.”

After a brief outburst among some senators in the chamber, van der Veen asked for the question to be read again.

“In my judgment, it’s irrelevant to the question before this body,” he said. “What’s relevant in this impeachment article is, were Mr. Trump’s words inciteful to the point of violence and riot? That’s the charge. That’s the question.”

10:14 p.m.
Link copied
link

Republican senators target wavering GOP colleagues to vote to acquit Trump

Key Republican senators are expected to tell wavering GOP colleagues that they can still vote to acquit the former president over lingering concerns about the constitutionality of the Senate trial, according to a person familiar with the plans of leading Senate Republicans.

These lawmakers are prepared to make the case that it does not matter that a Senate majority voted this week to proceed with Trump’s trial and rejected constitutional concerns, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Because an impeachment proceeding is not a typical criminal or civil trial, the lawmakers will argue, individual senators can use any justification in deciding whether to convict or acquit the former president.

Most legal scholars who have studied the constitutional issue think post-presidential impeachment, conviction and disqualification are allowed based on history and past practice in Congress. More than 150 constitutional law experts, including a founding member of the conservative Federalist Society, signed a letter saying Trump can be convicted after being impeached while still in office.

But most GOP lawmakers have embraced Trump’s position. All but six Republicans sided with Trump and his legal team in the vote Tuesday in saying it is unconstitutional to put Trump on trial because he is no longer president.

10:06 p.m.
Link copied
link

Democrats have not proved Trump knew Pence was in danger when he attacked him online, defense attorney argues

Attorney Michael T. van der Veen said Democrats did not prove President Donald Trump knew Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in danger when he attacked him online during the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

Asked whether Trump did know, van der Veen said, “The answer is no.”

“At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger,” he said. “Because the House rushed through this impeachment in seven days with no evidence, there is nothing at all in the record on this point.”

Trump’s decision to tweet that Pence lacked “courage” — a missive sent shortly after the vice president had been rushed off the Senate floor — underscores how he delayed taking action to stop his supporters as they ransacked the Capitol.

Trump’s tweet came at 2:24 p.m. that day — only 11 minutes after live television coverage showed Pence being hustled from the Senate floor because rioters were streaming into the building one floor below. The Senate then abruptly went into recess.

Shortly after Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) spoke to Trump on the phone and told him about Pence’s hasty exit, Tuberville told reporters Thursday.

The exact time of their conversation is unknown, but Pence was pulled from the room by the Secret Service at 2:13 p.m. and senators had fully evacuated the chamber by around 2:30 p.m.

Trump’s spokesman has not responded to questions on this point.

9:57 p.m.
Link copied
link

Cassidy seen holding draft statement indicating support for Trump’s acquittal

On Feb. 12, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) posed a question to both sides in the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump. (The Washington Post)

A Republican senator who expressed doubts about former president Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team and suggested he might ultimately vote to convict him was seen in the Capitol on Friday holding the draft of a statement indicating he planned to acquit Trump.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters Tuesday that “one side is doing a great job and the other side is doing a terrible job,” just moments after breaking with most Republicans in voting to confirm the constitutionality of trying an ex-president on impeachment charges — buoying hopes of House managers that at least some GOP votes could be shifted.

On Friday, however, Cassidy held a document in public view that appeared to indicate he may have made up his mind.

9:41 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump lawyer cannot answer when former president first learned of Capitol breach

Trump’s lawyers could not answer Friday when exactly the former president first learned of the breach of the Capitol or what specific actions he initially took to bring an end to the rioting.

Trump’s attorney Bruce Castor blamed House Democrats for not doing a more thorough investigation.

“The House managers have given us absolutely” no information about that, Castor said in response to a question from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) about Trump.

“There’s been absolutely no investigation into that. And that’s the problem with this entire proceeding,” he said.

In response, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) said Trump was well aware the attack was underway, knew about the severity of the threats and knew that police officers were outnumbered.

“This attack was on live TV, on all major networks in real time,” she said.

Plaskett emphasized that Trump did not quickly tell the rioters to stop.

“We did not hear him tell those individuals, ‘stop, this is wrong, you must go back!’”

9:17 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump ‘summoned the mob’ and ‘lit the flame,’ Rep. Castro says

The violent attack on the Capitol would not have happened if not for Trump’s conduct, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said in response to the first of what is expected to be up to four hours of questions from senators on Friday.

“Donald Trump summoned the mob, he assembled a mob and he lit the flame. Everything that followed was because of his doing,” Castro said in response to the question from Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “And although he could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence, he never did.”

Castro said the siege was not the result of a single speech, but of the president’s effort to spread false claims for weeks about the 2020 election results. Social media posts ahead of Jan. 6 confirmed that Trump’s supporters viewed the confirmation of the election in Congress as their last chance to stop the transfer of power, Castro said.

Some of the rioters inside the Capitol, Castro added, made clear in interviews and in their own social media posts that they were in Washington because Trump had invited them and were “following his orders.”

9:13 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump lawyer defends former president’s phone call with Georgia secretary of state

In his presentation Friday, Trump attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. defended the former president’s Jan. 2 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), during which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” for him and hand him an election win in the state.

The phone call is mentioned in the article of impeachment against Trump.

The article states: “President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to 'find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”

“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” the article reads.

Castor argued Friday that the House impeachment managers “ignored” the fact that the call was private and was not made public by Trump, so it therefore “cannot really be the basis to claim that the president intended to incite a riot.”

But the article of impeachment cites the phone call not as evidence of Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but rather as part of his efforts to overturn the election result.

“He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government,” the article states.

Castor also mispronounced Raffensperger’s name. And he argued that Trump’s use of the word “find” in his conversation with the secretary of state was “solely related to his concerns with the inexplicable dramatic drop in Georgia’s ballot rejection rates.”

He did not address why Trump specifically asked Raffensperger to “find” the precise number of votes that would overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

Gabriel Sterling, a voting systems manager for Raffensperger, responded to Castor’s argument in a tweet Friday afternoon.

“OK...piecing this together. The initial absentee rejection rate for signature issue was about double in 2020 as 2018. There is a cure period now and the final rate was 0.15% in both years. So...shockingly, the disinformation continues,” he said.

8:43 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump ‘did not cause the riots,’ says his lawyer, who doesn’t mention ex-president’s invitation for his supporters to come to D.C.

On Feb. 12, former president Trump’s legal team argued for his acquittal, saying his words were protected by free speech. (The Washington Post)

In concluding his defense of the former president, Trump’s lawyer Bruce L. Castor Jr. tried to distinguish between the physical attack on the Capitol and the former president’s words to his supporters that day.

He laid out a timeline that he said showed the siege was planned and distinct from Trump’s false claims about Biden’s election victory. Some of Trump’s supporters had gathered outside the Capitol, he noted, even before the president’s speech began.

“All of these facts make clear the January 6th speech did not cause the riots. The president did not cause the riots. He neither explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action,” said Castor, who emphasized Trump’s call to “peacefully and patriotically” march down Pennsylvania Avenue to stop the certification of the election.

Castor, however, did not mention that Trump had essentially invited supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6 in an earlier tweet in which he said: “Be there, will be wild.”

He also left out that more than an hour after police reported that the Capitol had been overwhelmed by the angry mob, Trump tweeted criticism of his vice president, who was presiding over the election certification.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution … USA demands the truth!” Trump tweeted.

8:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Democratic senators pan Trump defense arguments: ‘Plainly a distraction’

Some Democratic senators on Friday panned the arguments of Trump’s defense lawyers, saying that they presented distorted evidence and sought to distract attention away from the former president’s alleged incitement of insurrection.

“Donald Trump was told that if he didn’t stop lying about the election, people would be killed,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told reporters. “He wouldn’t stop, and the Capitol was attacked, and seven people are dead who would be alive today had he just followed their advice.”

Kaine, who had previously floated the idea of a resolution to censure Trump instead of an impeachment trial, said that he has been unable to garner enough Republican support.

“There’s not enough Republicans who want to put any hurdle in Donald Trump’s way. So, the version I have is more than a censure. It’s also two factual findings that would put, you know, a hurdle in his way to running for office again. And as of now, there’s not enough who are interested,” Kaine said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the Trump defense team is “trying to draw a false, dangerous and distorted equivalence” between the former president’s actions and the actions of Democrats.

“And I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump’s inviting the mob to Washington; knowing it was armed; changing the route and the timing so as to incite them to march on the Capitol; and then reveling, without remorse, without doing anything to protect his own vice president and all of us,” Blumenthal told reporters at the Capitol. “I think that the case is even more powerful after this very distorted and false argument.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) took issue with the Trump defense team’s focus on Democrats’ past use of the word “fight.”

“Being out there and saying you’re fighting [to] pass the Affordable Care Act, and we’ve got to get out there and … fight to have a fair economy, is different than for months seeding the big lie that you’ve been cheated out of an election, and then directing people — who you know are, include white supremacists and others — toward the Capitol,” Van Hollen said.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) said: “Show me any time that the result was our supporters pulled someone out of the crowd, beat the living crap out of them and then we said, ‘That’s great, good for you, you’re a patriot.’ ”

“He did nothing to stop it, nothing to check on the safety of his own vice president, nothing to dispatch aid or help,” Coons said of Trump. “Simply saying once you should march peacefully and patriotically doesn’t allow you to then overlook the entire context of his history as a candidate and president, of the context and his role in summoning that crowd and who was in it and what their intent was and then failing to do anything to stop the breach of the Capitol.”

Some Republicans, meanwhile, gave the Trump defense team warmer reviews than they did earlier this week.

“I think that we’re seeing a much stronger presentation from the defense today,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said. “I think that they have been very organized in what they’ve presented and how they’ve done it.”

7:59 p.m.
Link copied
link

House impeachment managers reject Trump’s claim of withholding evidence, altering text of tweets

House impeachment managers rejected the assertion from Trump’s attorney that the impeachment team had withheld new evidence from the former president’s defense lawyers or selectively edited tweets and videos shown during the trial.

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen suggested earlier Friday that the gripping new video footage from surveillance cameras inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 had been deliberately withheld from the public and Trump’s team ahead of the Senate trial.

“For what possible reason do the House managers withhold it from the American people and President Trump’s lawyers? For political gain? How did they get it?” van der Veen asked.

But a senior aide to the House Democratic managers said Friday that Trump’s team was given the full trial record, including all video and audio, before the start of the trial. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the managers’ actions.

Trump’s lawyer also highlighted a tweet from the former president that he suggested was altered for the Senate presentation. The House aide, who was not authorized to speak for attribution, said in a statement that while the tweet was formatted and enlarged for display at trial, the text of the tweet is “entirely unchanged.”