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CNN Live Event/Special
Trump Defense Team Starts Presenting Arguments; Trump Defense Arguments Expected to Take About Four Hours. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired February 12, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: As of now, it appears the math is in their favor no matter what they say. And so -- and this is almost a lawyers take an oath to the Constitution, doctors take an oath to do no harm. Their challenge, really, given the politics of this and the math is do no harm.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They're going to start within the next minute or two. The four lawyers, two of them we heard in their not so impressive performance earlier in the week, Bruce Castor and David Schoen.
The other two lawyers who were told will be making presentations, legal defense presentations for the former president, Michael van der Veen and William Brennan, I don't know much about either of them, but we're -- we are told they will be much more scripted and won't just be vamping off the top.
KING: All right, so you'll see questions about free speech, you'll see questions about the legality of the process.
BLITZER: Hold on a second, this -- it's about to begin.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): -- will lead the Senate in prayer.
BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Let us pray.
Mighty God, unsurpassed in both power and understanding, we worship you. Lord, when there is nowhere else to turn, we lift our eyes to you as again, this Senate chamber becomes a court and our senators become jurors. Guide these lawmakers with your wisdom, mercy and grace. Lord, infuse them with a spirit of nonpartisan patriotism. Unite them in their effort to do what is best for America. As they depend on your providence and power, may they make choices that will be for your greater glory. We pray in your sovereign name, Amen.
LEAHY: Please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.
ALL: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
LEAHY: And Senators, will you please be seated? And if there is no objection, the journal proceedings of the trial are approved to date, and I ask the sergeant at arms to make the proclamation.
HEMINGWAY: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silence on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, former president of the United States.
SCHUMER: Mr. President?
LEAHY: The majority leader is recognized.
SCHUMER: For the information of all senators, we'll plan to take short breaks approximately every two hours, and a longer dinner break around 5:00 P.M.
LEAHY: Now, pursuant to the provisions of Senate Resolution 47, the counsel for the former president has 16 hours to make the presentation of their case, and the Senate will hear the counsel now.
And I recognize Mr. Van Der Veen to begin the presentation of the case for the former president.
VAN DER VEEN: Good afternoon, Senators, Mr. President.
The article of impeachment now before the Senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance. This appalling abuse of the Constitution only further divides our nation when we should be trying to come together around shared priorities.
Like ever -- like every other politically-motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people.
The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it. No thinking person could seriously believe that the president's January 6th speech on The Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection. The suggestion is patently absurd on its face.
Nothing in the text could ever be construed as encouraging, condoning or enticing unlawful activity of any kind. Far from promoting insurrection against the United States, the president's remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights, peacefully and patriotically.
Peaceful and patriotic protest is the very antithesis of a violent assault on the nation's Capitol. The House impeachment article slanderously alleges that the president intended for the crowd at The Ellipse to quote "interfere with the joint session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election." This is manifestly disproven by the plain text of the remarks. The president devoted nearly his entire speech to an extended discussion of how legislators should vote on the question at hand. Instead of expressing a desire that the joint session be prevented from conducting its business, the entire premise of his remarks was that the Democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law, including both the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.
In the conclusion of his remarks, he then laid out a series of legislative steps that should be taken to improve Democratic accountability going forward, such as passing universal voter ID legislation, banning ballot harvesting, requiring proof of citizen -- citizenship to vote and turning out strong in the next primaries.
Not only president's -- these are not the words of someone inciting a violent insurrection. Not only President Trump's speech on January 6th but indeed his entire challenge to the election results was squarely focused on how the proper civic process could address any concerns through the established legal and constitutional system.
The president brought his case before state and federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, the state legislatures, the Electoral College and ultimately the U.S. Congress. In the past, numerous other candidates for president have used many of the same processes to pursue their own election challenges. As recently as 2016, the Clinton campaign brought multiple post-election court cases, demanded recounts and ridiculously declared the election stolen by Russia.
Many Democrats even attempted to persuade the Electoral College delegates to overturn the 2016 results. House Manager Raskin objected to the certification of President Trump's victory four years ago, along with many of his colleagues.
You will remember it was Joe Biden who had to gavel them down.
RASKIN: I have an objection because 10 of the 29 electoral votes cast by Florida were cast by electors not lawfully certified.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, D-TEXAS: I object to the votes from the state of Wisconsin, which were not -- should not be legally...
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL, D-WASH.: Mr. President, I object to the certificate from the state of Georgia on the grounds that the electoral vote was...
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: There's no debate. There's no debate.
(UNKNOWN): I object to the certificate from the state of North Carolina.
JACKSON LEE: I object to the 15 votes from the state of North Carolina. I object.
(UNKNOWN): I object to the certificate from the state of Alabama. The electors were not lawfully certified.
BIDEN: Is it signed by a senator?
RASKIN: Not as of yet, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: In that case, the objection cannot be entertained. The objection cannot be entertained. The debate is not in order.
BIDEN: There is no debate in order. Is it signed by a senator? There's no debate -- there is no debate in the joint session.
JACKSON LEE: (inaudible) in the early voting of...
BIDEN: There is no debate -- there is no debate...
JACKSON LEE: ... sixteen to one...
BIDEN: There is no debate.
JACKSON LEE: ... and the Massachusetts...
BIDEN: Will you please come to order?
JACKSON LEE: ... people (inaudible) senator...
BIDEN: Your objection cannot be received.
JACKSON LEE: But the Russian (inaudible)...
BIDEN: Section 19, Title 3 of the United States Code prohibits debate in the joint session.
REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIF.: I do not wish to debate. I wish to ask, is there one United States senator who will join me in this letter of objection?
BIDEN: There is no debate. ere is no debate.
WATERS: Just one?
BIDEN: The gentlewoman will suspend.
VAN DER VEEN: In 2000, the dispute over the outcome was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately rendered a decision. To litigate questions of an election integrity within this system is not incitement to resurrection; It is the democratic system working as the founders and lawmakers have designed.
To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encourage lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie. In fact, the first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion of the Capitol began were, "Stay peaceful and no violence, because we are the party of law and order."
The gathering on January 6th was supposed to be a peaceful event -- make no mistake about that -- and the overwhelming majority of those in attendance remained peaceful. As everyone knows, the president had spoken at hundreds of large rallies across the country over the past five years. There had never been any mob-like or riotous behaviors, and in fact, a significant portion of each event was devoted to celebrating the rule of law, protecting our Constitution and honoring the men and women of law enforcement.
Contrast the president's repeated condemnations of violence with the rhetoric from his opponents.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am your president of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.
BIDEN: The vast majority of -- of the protesters have been peaceful.
TRUMP: Republicans stand for law and order, and we stand for justice.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I just don't even know why there aren't uprisings all over the country, and maybe there will be.
TRUMP: My administration will always stand against violence, mayhem and disorder.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY, D-MASS.: There needs to be unrest in the streets for as long as there's unrest in our lives.
TRUMP: I stand with the heroes of law enforcement.
WATERS: And you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.
TRUMP: We will never defund our police. Together, we will ensure that America is a nation of law and order.
BIDEN: If we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.
TESTER: But I think you need to go back and -- and punch him in the face.
BOOKER: I feel like punching him. TRUMP: We just want law and order. Everybody wants that.
SCHUMER: I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.
TRUMP: We want law and order. We have to have law and order.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful?
TRUMP: We believe in safe streets, secure communities, and we believe in law and order.
VAN DER VEEN: Tragically, as we know now, the January -- on January six -- 6th, a small group who came to engage in violent and menacing behavior hijacked the event for their own purposes. According to publicly-available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol. One of the first people arrested was a leader of Antifa. Sadly, he was also among the first to be released.
From the beginning, the president has been clear: The criminals who infiltrated the Capitol must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. They should be in prison for as long as the law allows.
The fact that the attacks were apparently premeditated, as alleged by the House managers, demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegation against the president. You can't incite what was already going to happen.
Law enforcement officers at the scene conducted themselves heroically and courageously, and our country owes them an eternal debt. But there must be a discussion of the decision by political leadership regarding force posture and security in advance of the event. As many will recall, last summer the White House was faced with violent rioters night after night. They repeatedly attacked Secret Service officers and at one point pierced a security wall culminating in the clearing of Lafayette Square.
Since that time there has been a sustained negative narrative in the media regarding the necessity of those security measures on that night even though they certainly prevented many calamities from occurring.
In the wake of the Capitol attack it must investigated whether the proper force posture was not initiated due to the political pressures stemming from the events at Lafayette Square. Consider this, on January 5 the Mayor of the District of Columbia explicitly discouraged the National Guard and federal authorities from doing more to protect the Capitol saying, and I quite, "The District of Columbia is not requesting other federal law enforcement personnel and discourages any additional deployment." This sham impeachment also poses a serious threat to freedom of speech for political leaders of both parties at every level of government. The Senate should be extremely careful about the President - the precedent this case will set. Consider the language that the House impeachment article alleges to constitute incitement.
If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore. This is ordinary political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years. Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles.
Joe Biden's campaign slogan was "Battle for the soul of America". No human being seriously believes that the use of such metaphorical terminology is incitement to political violence. While the President did not engage in any language of incitement there are numerous officials in Washington who have indeed used profoundly reckless, dangerous, and inflammatory rhetoric in recent years.
The entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked. And falsely and absurdly claimed the President of the United States was a Russian spy.
Speaker Pelosi, herself, said that the 2016 election was hijacked and that Congress has a duty to protect our Democracy. She also called the President an impostor and a traitor and recently referred to her colleagues, in the House, as the enemy within. Moreover many Democrat politicians endorsed and encouraged the riots that destroyed vast swathes of American cities last summer. When violent left wing anarchists conducted a sustained assault on a federal court house in Portland, Oregon, Speaker Pelosi did not call it an insurrection instead she called the federal law enforcement officers protecting the building storm troopers.
When violent mobs destroyed public property she said, people will do what they do. The attorney general of the state of Massachusetts stated, "Yes, America is burning but that's how forests grow." Representative Ayanna Pressley declared, "There needs to be unrest in the streets for as long as there is unrest in our lives."
The current vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, urged supporters to donate to a fund that bailed out violent rioters and arsonists out of jail. One of those was released, and went out and committed another crime -- assault. He beat the bejesus out of somebody.
She said, of the violent demonstrations, "Everyone beware, they're not going to stop before Election Day in November, and they're not going to stop after Election Day. They're not going to let up, and they should not."
Such rhetoric continued even as hundreds of police officers across the nation were subjected to violent assaults at the hands of angry mobs. A man claiming to be inspired by the junior senator from Vermont came down here to Washington, D.C. to watch a softball game and kill as many senators and congressmen as he could. It cannot be forgotten that President Trump did not blame the junior senator.
The senior senator from Maine has had her house surrounded by angry mobs of protesters. When that happened, it unnerved her. One of the House managers -- I forget which one -- tweeted, "Cry me a river."
Under the standards of the House impeachment article, each of these individuals should be retroactively censored, expelled, punished or impeached for inciting violence by their supporters.
Unlike the Left, President Trump has been entirely consistent in his opposition to mob violence. He opposes it in all forms, in all places. Just as he has been consistent that the National Guard should be deployed to protect American communities wherever protection is needed.
For Democrats, they have clearly demonstrated that their opposition to mobs and their view of using the National Guard depends upon the mob's political views.
Not only is this impeachment case preposterously wrong on the facts, no matter how much heat and emotion is injected by the political opposition, it is also plainly unconstitutional. In effect, Congress would be claiming that the right to disqualify a private citizen -- no longer a government official -- from running for public office.
This would transform the solemn impeachment process into a mechanism for asserting congressional control over which private citizens are and are not allowed to run for president.
In short, this unprecedented effort is not about Democrats opposing political violence, it is about Democrats trying to disqualify their political opposition. It is constitutional cancel culture. History will record this shameful effort as a deliberate attempt by the Democrat Party to smear, censor and cancel not just President Trump, but the 75 million Americans who voted for him.
Now is not the time for such a campaign of retribution. It is the time for unity and healing and focusing on the interests of the nation as a whole. We should all be seeking to cool temperatures, calm passions, rise above partisan lines. The Senate should reject this divisive and unconstitutional effort and allow the nation to move forward.
Over the next -- over the course of the next three hours or so, you will hear next from Mr. Schoen, who's going to talk about due process and a couple other points you'll be interested to hear. I'll return with an analysis of why the First Amendment must be properly applied here. And then Mr. Castro will discuss the law as it applies to the speech of January 6th, and then we'll be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you. SCHOEN: Mr. President (inaudible)...
LEAHY: Mr. Schoen?
SCHOEN: ... leaders (ph), senators.
Throughout the course of today, my colleagues and I will explain in some detail the simple fact that President Trump did not incite the horrific, terrible riots of January 6th. We will demonstrate that, to the contrary, the violence and looting goes against the law and order message he conveyed to every citizen of the United States throughout his presidency, including on January 6th.
First, though, we would like to discuss the hatred, the vitriol, the political opportunism that has brought us here today.
The hatred that the House managers and others on the Left have for President Trump has driven them to skip the basic elements of due process and fairness, and to rush an impeachment through the House, claiming, quote, "urgency," close quotes.
But the House waited to deliver the articles to the Senate for almost two weeks, only after Democrats had secured control over the Senate. In fact, contrary to their claim that the only reason they held it was because Senator McConnell wouldn't accept the article, Representative Clyburn made clear that they had considered holding the articles for over 100 days, to provide President Biden with a clear pathway to implement his agenda.
Our Constitution and any basic sense of fairness require that every legal process with significant consequences for a person's life, including impeachment, requires due process under the law, which includes fact-finding and the establishment of a legitimate evidentiary record with an appropriate foundation.
Even last year's impeachment followed committee hearings and months of examination and investigation by the House. Here, President Trump and his counsel were given no opportunity to review evidence or question its propriety. The rush to judgment for a snap impeachment in this case was just one example of the denial of due process.
Another perhaps even more vitally significant example was the denial of any opportunity ever to test the integrity of the evidence offered against Donald J. Trump in a proceeding seeking to bar him from ever holding public office again, and that seeks to disenfranchise some 75 million voters. American voters.
On Wednesday this week, countless news outlets repeated the Democrat talking point about the power of never-before-seen footage.
Let me ask you this. Why was this footage never seen before? Shouldn't the subject of an impeachment trial, this impeachment trial, President Trump, have the right to see the so-called new evidence against him?
More importantly, the riot and the attack on this very building was a major event that shocked and impacted all Americans. Shouldn't the American people have seen this footage as soon as it was available? For what possible reason did the House managers withhold it from the American people and President Trump's lawyers? For political gain? How did they get it? How are they the ones releasing it?
It is evidence in hundreds of pending criminal cases against the rioters. Why was it not released through law enforcement or the Department of Justice? Is it the result of a rushed, snap impeachment for political gain without due process?