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Only An Arsonist Lets A Fire Burn; Trump's Previous Incitement Case; The Other Time Trump Was Charged With Incitement; WAPO: Majority Of Defendants Have History Of Financial Trouble; Soon: Day 5 Of Trump's Second Impeachment Trial Begins; Results Of Smerconish.com Survey. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired February 13, 2021 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: What did Trump know? And when did he know it? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. The single article of impeachment against Former President Donald Trump accuses him of "Inciting violence against the government of the United States".
Now, in that article, there's brief discussion of Trump's conduct before January 6th, and his words during the speech he delivered on that day. The question now is whether he committed treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
By referencing treason and bribery the framers were telling us what type of high crimes and misdemeanors they had in mind, those that threatened the functioning of the state. In answering that question, I find most illuminating not what Trump said or did before January 6th, or even his remarks that day, but rather what came immediately thereafter.
The timeline tells you all you need to know. First, the date, why hold a rally on January 6th? Because that was the day Congress was to perform an important but perfunctory role in certifying the Electoral College results to hold a rally on say January 5th, or January 7th, would not have carried the prospect of stopping that process.
Then there's the timing of his speech. Trump was to begin speaking at 11 am but instead, he began at 11:55 am, perhaps so as to make easier that his remarks would conclude just as the Congress convened for maximum impact, the entire purpose was to stop what was about to happen.
Thereafter, on the 6th, ask yourself, was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded shortly after 1 pm just as Trump was finishing his speech on the ellipse, protesters were pushing through barriers along the perimeter of the Capitol.
It was game on. So, let's take a look at Trump's response. At 1:49 pm Trump tweeted a link to a video of his remarks from the ellipse at 2:12 pm rioters breached the Capitol Building, entering through a shattered window on the first floor. It had been about an hour since Trump finished his speech, but
publicly, he said nothing about the Mayhem. As the violence escalated at 2:13 pm off camera Vice President Mike Pence was ushered off the Senate floor into a holding area inside a nearby office.
Still, there was no public condemnation from the Commander in Chief. Instead, sometime between 2 and 2:15 pm, Trump accidentally called Senator Mike Lee while trying to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville in an attempt to get the new Senator from Alabama to continue objecting to the election results, he wanted to bite time.
On Wednesday, Tuberville revealed he told Trump that Pence had been taken out of the Senate for his own safety. He confirmed this again yesterday after Trump's lawyer denied it. This information from Tuberville is very significant.
It demonstrates that Trump knew of the danger to the Congress, the vice president and others and failed in his duties first, to take all steps to urge the riders to stop second to take care of that the laws be obeyed third as Commander in Chief to use force to protect the nation and its citizens.
This conduct is also probative of his intention to cause violence when minutes earlier he urged the same people to fight. When Trump finally did tweet, it was to criticize Pence. At 2:24 pm he tweeted that "Pence didn't have the courage to overturn the election".
And now the new details during the attack, President Trump was also engaged in a shouting match over the phone with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, that we don't know the exact time this occurred.
Lawmakers who were briefed on the call by McCarthy quote the president as saying, well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are. As rioters broke into his office, a furious McCarthy reportedly begged Trump to call off his supporters to no avail.
The Trump/McCarthy exchange evidence is Trump's state of mind it shows he knew and approved of his supporters rioting and did nothing. Instead, the violence continued. Members of Congress were running and hiding for their lives.
Capitol police officers were being beaten. They were overwhelmed. And at the White House, the clock just ticked. Finally, at 2:38 pm Trump tweeted please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement. They are truly on the side of our country. Stay peaceful.
SMERCONISH: That public comment came more than 90 minutes after the mayhem began. Yesterday during the question and answer period of the impeachment trial, GOP Senators Murkowski, and Collins asked the critical question, the Howard Baker question, if you will, what did Trump know? And when did he know it?
Specifically, they asked exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions did, he take to bring the rioting to an end? And when did he take them? And please be as detailed as possible? Well, here was the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER: The House Managers have given us absolutely. Yes, they're on to that question. We're able to piece together a timeline. And it goes all the way back to the December 31st. January 2nd, there is a lot of interaction between the authorities and getting folks to have security beforehand on the day.
We have a tweet at 2:38 pm. So, it was certainly some time before then with the rush to bring this impeachment. There's been absolutely no investigation into that. And that's the problem. With this entire proceeding, the House Managers did zero investigation and the American people deserve a lot better than coming in here with no evidence.
Hearsay, on top of hearsay, on top of reports that are of hearsay, due process is required here and that was denied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Respectfully, that's a non-answer. Look, lawyers and academics can debate whether the constitution permits the trying of a former president, or the meaning of Brandenburg, and whether Trump's words and actions rise to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor?
But it doesn't take a law degree to comprehend the tick tock of what happened the afternoon of January 6th, only an arsonist lets a fire burn. At 3:30 pm on January 6th, he tweeted again asking rioters remain peaceful, but refraining from telling them to go home.
Finally, at 3:36 pm he dispatched the National Guard that was after he initially resisted doing so a source has told CNN even when at 4:17 pm, Trump tweeted a hastily recorded video, he repeated false statements about the election and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We have to have peace. So, go home. We love you. You're very special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCNISH: The Capitol was secured at 5:40 pm and it's 6:01 pm Trump tweeted these are the things that events that happen when a sacred landscape election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who've been badly and unfairly treated for so long.
Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever? Go home with love and peace and remember this day forever. Apply your common sense. Ask yourself this question was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded? It's really all you need to know, when determining how this all should
end? I want to know what you think. Go to my website at smerconish.com right now and answer the question was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded?
During yesterday's impeachment trial proceedings, a lawyer for Former President Trump said at no point was Trump aware that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger. But as I just pointed out, that's contradicted by new Republican Senator Tuberville and a source close to Pence now telling CNN Trump's lawyer wasn't telling the truth.
For more I'm joined by "The Washington Post" Senior Political Reporter, Aaron Blake, who has written on this subject. Aaron, can the different statements from the Trump defense on the timeline that part that I'm focused on? Can they be squared? Are they consistent?
AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the response is from the Republican Senators to the questions they asked and didn't really get answers to it speaks to the idea that these were evasive answers, but I also think that the answers don't necessarily fit with one another.
On the one hand, you had Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, asking when the President became of the danger aware of the danger that these lawmakers faced.
BLAKE: And Michael Van Der Veen offered really no detail besides he tweeted at 2:38 pm. Then we had Senator Mitt Romney asking whether when Trump tweeted at 2:24 that he knew Vice President Pence personally had been in danger or been evacuated.
At that point, Van Der Veen knew the answer. He knew he said that the president didn't know that Vice President Pence was in danger at that point, you know, you either go over the timeline with your client and figure out what they knew and when or you don't.
It's hard to really have those two answers coexist. And I think that really speaks to the idea that this was probably a pretty deliberate evasion on behalf of the Trump team. These are very basic questions. Probably the first questions that you would have with their client when you start representing them.
SMERCONISH: So, Lawyer Van Der Veen's response is to say there was no discovery taken here. The evidentiary record doesn't contain the answer to these questions. He's right to that extent, but nothing stopped him from sorting this out with his client, the President of the United States.
And to the extent they had evidence, if they had a phone receipt, if they had something demonstrative that would show the president having taken action. They'd have presented it, you'd think, right?
BLAKE: Yes. And, as I said, the most basic questions the timeline of this situation; he even mentioned that they had a timeline of going back to December 31st. How do you build that timeline, talking to your client, potentially, you know, mapping his tweets and the things that he said, but not nailed down what happened shortly after the mayhem began at the Capitol, it's really a difficult thing to understand.
I also thought it was really notable and worthy of further probing the answer on Tuberville, basically disputing what the Senator had said a Republican Senator who's aligned with the president.
Again, we're talking about something where the Trump team seems to be able to dispute certain things while not being able to confer much broader and more, you know, less specific things.
SMERCONISH: Aaron, you and I are both pretty far in the weeds. So, step back for a moment sum up, how do we convey to people who've been working all weekend weren't able to watch everything that we watched the significance of what we're talking about, what's the takeaway?
BLAKE: I think you were exactly right, in the way that you began the program today. The impeachment article focused a lot on the January 6th speech. It mentioned the call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a few days earlier, but it didn't really focus on the idea of a dereliction of duty once this process began.
Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe they wanted to keep things narrow. But I think as this trial has gone on the events of the hour plus after the barricades were first broken down, and people started to approach the Capitol has really become the most important thing here.
And I think that the couple days before, when Senator Lee objected to how one of the House impeachment managers characterized how he had confirmed certain aspects of the Tuberville call, really speak to that this is something that would seem to warrant further investigation.
I think that the decision by Democrats not to call witnesses is certainly a decision will now have both an impeachment and a trial with no witnesses. But we're also seeing a movement from some Senators, including Sheldon Whitehouse to actually start calling witnesses drilled down on the timeline, especially with regard to Mike Pence.
Because there are some very annoying questions about when the president - what the president knew and when?
SMERCONISH: Aaron Blake, thank you so much for your analysis.
BLAKE: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONSIH: To Aaron's observation at the end, and something that I was saying in my opening commentary. I was a little surprised yesterday, I went back, and I pulled and read the article of impeachment, the single article of impeachment.
It's not lengthy. And it doesn't speak to that which I now find most significant. The afternoon of the 6th not what happened before not even President Trump's remarks on the 6th much as we've parsed every word that he said, and how many times did he say fight? No, no, the afternoon is what's indefensible. Catherine what do we have from the Twitter verse, I think?
Smerconish interesting open but action after the fact not relevant to allegations of incitement, no evidence developed by that? No, James, I totally disagree with what you're saying. Everything that I just set forth goes to the president's state of mind and his intention, and none of this can be evaluated in a vacuum.
You've got to look at the totality of the evidence and it tells a very consistent story even before the election of that which he was saying about challenging the election results if he's not successful. That wish he said after November 3rd that which he said on the morning of the 6th and then standing ideally by.
SMERCONISH: And letting it happen, right. I mean, what would you say, sir, was the reason that the president didn't take action for 90 plus minutes, while all of us were watching television and seeing what was taking place at the Capitol, and knowing in his case that his vice president was imperiled indefensible one more if I have time for it.
Smerconish I believe the word delighted was used to describe Trump's demeanor by those in his orbit. He planned it, he nurtured it. He stoked it. He's delighted by well, Liz, the answers to all of these questions exist, you know, if this were conventional civil litigation, that type of thing where I have experience.
Let me tell you how we would handle this? I would send interrogatories to the White House and want to know of the president exactly where he was that day physically where he was, and who was in his orbit?
And then I would want to take depositions from the people who surrounded him. Of course, I'd want his testimony. But I'd want to know the observations of the very people who were with him that day and watching him what was his reaction? What was his intonation? What was his body language? Who exactly did he call?
What was the time of that call with Kevin McCarthy? What was the time of the call to Lee and Tuberville? All of these things are knowable, and you know what? We're going to find them. We won't find them in time for a vote today, but we're going to find them. That's the kicker.
I want to know what you think go to my website it's smerconish.com answer this week's survey question. It's a real simple one, and yet it tells you so much. Was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded?
Up ahead. A study found that 60 percent of the Capitol rioters facing criminal charges have a history of money troubles. But was it just economic anxiety before the attack or something else? And Trump has been accused of incitement before as a result of this 2016 rally in Louisville, Kentucky. And the case was thrown out what lessons might apply to impeachment?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Get out of here Get out. Get out. Get out here
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The Senate is about to determine whether Former President Trump is guilty of "Inciting violence with his words". It's actually the second time that Trump has been formally accused with such a charge.
The first came from words that he used when he was running for the presidency. It seems like ancient history now but then candidate Trump was sued for his behavior at a campaign rally back on March 1, 2016 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville. In the middle of his stump speech, some anti-Trump protesters disrupted and here was his reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Oh, look, we have here some wonderful people. Get out of here. Get out. Get out. Get out of here. We have another wise guy. Go ahead. Get him the hell out. Get about incredible. Get him out of here. Go out, get out. Get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: What ensued as this footage from inside shows was the roughhousing of several protesters who were escorted out of the building. One of the students was interviewed on the street about what had just happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASHIYA NWANGUMA, PROTESTER EJECTED FROM 2016 TRUMP LOUISVILLE RALLY: I was calling - knocking down your name
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your name?
NWANGUMA: I'm Shiya.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened?
NWANGUMA: I just got escorted out by the police along with the people at the rally. They were pushing and shoving me cursing me yelling at me, called me every name in the book. They are disgusting and dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So, she and two others brought a suit against Trump and his campaign seeking damages alleging his actions amounted to inciting to riot. It's a misdemeanor under Kentucky law.
The district court denied Trump's motion to dismiss the claim. But the Court of Appeals found that "Plaintiffs allegations do not satisfy the required elements of incitement to riot". And Trump's speech enjoys first amendment protection because he did not specifically advocate imminent lawless action.
It was partly because of this crucial line where Trump cautioned his followers not to hurt the protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. See, if I say, go get him. I get in trouble with the press the most dishonest human beings in the world. If I say don't hurt him, then the press says while Trump isn't as tough as he used to be, can you believe this? So, you can't get him out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In its finding the court said "Any implication of incitement to riot as violence is explicitly negated by the accompanying words don't hurt him". If words have meaning the admonition don't hurt him cannot be reasonably construed as an urging to hurt him.
So, this would seem like an apples-to-apples comparison for how the Trump defense team is citing the word peacefully in his expectations on January 6th. Will it be enough to avert a conviction? Or is there a difference between the thresholds for a private citizen in a civil suit which Trump was at the time of the Louisville event, then in an impeachment of a U.S. President?
Joining me now Jonathan Adler Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University, he recently wrote this piece for the blog "The Wallet Conspiracy". Yes, Congress may impeach and remove President Trump for inciting lawless behavior at the Capitol.
Professor Adler I'm sure to a lay person. You look at what happened in Louisville and what the result was.
SMERCONISH: You look at what he's charged with vis-a-vis January 6th, and you say, my God, they're the same circumstance. I guess he gets off here too. What is the difference, if any?
JONATHAN ADLER, PROFESSOR OF LAW, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think there are two important differences. First, we're not talking about depriving somebody of their life, liberty or property like in either a criminal trial, or a civil suit, as we saw back in 2016. We're talking about an impeachment trial, where the question is really whether Trump's conduct was incompatible with his obligations as a public official.
The other difference is that as the House Managers showed, we're not talking about two individual statements in the rally in Kentucky, Trump said get him out of here. And then he said, don't hurt him. Here, as you were talking about earlier in the show, we have a much broader course of conduct building up to January 6th, so it's not simply one statement that could possibly be interpreted as encouraging lawless action. And then another statement saying doesn't do it.
We rather see a long string of actions, tweets and comments, both before and after the relevant events that would do more to establish an incitement case, if such a case were ever brought.
SMERCONISH: This is confusing stuff for people, both frankly lawyers and non-lawyers alike. I'll give you another example. Brandenburg, which has implications in that Louisville case, has often been invoked in the Senate impeachment trial.
But it really doesn't apply. The first amendment has been invoked in connection with the - but it really doesn't apply either so few standards, you either dispute or backup, what I'm saying that the constitution provides as to what should apply?
ADLER: Well, so in the context of impeachment, what we're really asking is whether or not the conduct is the sort that is incompatible with the president upholding his obligations, to protect the constitution and to protect the country.
We're not asking whether or not it's the sort of conduct that can and should be prosecutable or sanction able in court, those are two very different standards. It's always been understood that conduct that would be protected if engaged in by a private individual, or that way is otherwise legal, can nonetheless justify the impeachment of a president or other public official.
A misuse of the pardon power, misuse of the president's powers Commander in Chief, a failure to take actions to safeguard the country are all the sorts of abuses of office that we've recognized as impeachable. So, the most important point for people to understand is that the question the Senators are being asked to answer is not the question of whether or not Trump could be prosecuted in court.
It's not whether someone could sue him for damages for what occurred at the Capitol but whether or not his comments are incompatible with his obligations as the president as the chief executive of our country. That is a different question in and is not a question about what the First Amendment protects.
But as I noted, even if we think that the first amendment would apply here, but we are talking about a much fuller record of conduct a much broader range of conduct, and speech, when we're talking about what occurred on January 6th, then what occurred at the Kentucky rally.
As the court noted, in the Kentucky case, you had one statement that might be interpreted as encouraging violence, one statement saying don't be violent, and they're kind of an equipoise. There's one each way that's a thin read, to sanction somebody in court, given the First Amendment to sanction a private individual under the First Amendment.
But here, we don't just have a single statement in each direction, we have a broader course of conduct and a wide range of action that can be reasonably understood as directing and encouraging and likely to produce the sort of horrific actions that we saw on January 6th, and plenty of evidence that could lead someone to conclude that the president was both aware that this could happen, and perhaps even wanted it to happen. And so--
SMERCONISH: I like the way that you've defined it. And I think it's beneficial to the audience to have heard you articulate what's the real standard, because I think that's about to get very clouded with closing arguments later today. Professor, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.
ADLER: My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: From social media. I think this comes from Twitter. What do we have Catherine? Smerconish, the sad reality is not I think you mean none of this. None of these matters. The Republicans are not going to sentence him. Yes, I think you mean convict him.
I know. It's hard, though not to get caught up in what should be the standard. What should matter? What evidence should they be looking at? Of course, I'm mindful of the reports of how many were not at their desks and who was doodling and who was filling in map of Asia et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
SMERCONISH: Yes, it is a damn shame. Because candidly and I guess with not too much humility, I feel like I paid closer attention from my sofa than some of the members of the Senate have paid from the gallery.
I want to remind you to go to my website is for kindness.com and answer this week's survey question. It's really simple and yet I think it's so important. Was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded results later up ahead?
A Washington Post analysis suggests that many people who face charges for storming the Capitol on January 6 have a history of financial struggles where economic anxieties actually a motivator for this insurrection or is that giving the defendants way too much of a pass?
I'll speak to a Harvard professor who has studied radical political movements. And we're awaiting the start of today's impeachment trial proceedings set to get underway in less than two hours. The Senate's vinyl vote to acquit or convict expected today, and we will take you to the Capitol.
SMERCONISH: The rioters who stormed the Capitol on January the sixth might have something in common. The Washington Post analyzed public records for 125 defendants and found that nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riots showed signs of prior money troubles including bankruptcies notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts or unpaid taxes over the past two decades.
For example, they found the group's bankruptcy rate was nearly twice as high as that of the American public. The post purports that the financial problems are revealing because they, "offer potential clues for understanding why so many Trump supporters, many with professional careers and few with violent criminal histories were willing to participate in an attack egged on by the president's rhetoric painting him and his supporters as undeserving victims."
So, are the financial problems of these riders relevant or just a distraction? Joining me now is Pippa Norris, a political science professor at Harvard University who has studied radical political movements. She's coauthored cultural backlash, Trump Brexit and authoritarian populism. Dr. Norris what struck you about the data?
PIPPA NORRIS, PROFESSOR OF COMPARATIVE POLITICS, HARVARD: Well good morning, Michael. I mean we've had long arguments about who are the extremists and they go back. We hear about the proud boys. We hear about the earth keepers. But this goes right back to the Ku Klux Klan, it goes back to John Birch Society and other groups as well McCarthy.
We know a couple of things. On the one hand it is partly about economics, but not what you might assume it's not just the poorest groups or the least well off. It's that middle group who often has backgrounds, they might be firefighters, they may be lawyers, and they may have a background in teaching.
But they're kind of squeezed between the more large corporations and people will save careers and those who are least well off. So that's one explanation, then known as "The Precariat". The second argument however is really about status, anxiety, it's about culture, and it's about the values which these groups have.
And in particular a whole range of values such as xenophobia, fear of foreigners, it's about a feeling of nationalism and patriotism is often anti-Semitic. Also, anti-Muslim, anti-gay rights, there's a whole range of different values.
And this group feels in particular threatened by contemporary changes the growth of liberalism, and the way in which their values they feel are no longer reflected by CNN and Harvard and all the different elites in American society.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Norris you know that that some don't even like the discussion of this data, they think it a cop out of sorts. By way of illustration, Michele Norris tweeted the following. And she was one of many who said this.
And let's not start with a fresh strain of economic anxiety to explain the misdeeds of the marauders. No nope, not having this not when generations of black and brown people have demonstrated grace and enterprise in the face of crushing poverty. When you saw that reaction, you thought what?
NORRIS: I mean, I think we shouldn't dismiss economic pressures because they have real particularly in rural areas, particularly for those who are feeling that they have less security than they might have had say 20 or 30 years ago, people in manufacturing industry, people in the coal mines et cetera.
But doesn't necessarily mean that that's the defining characteristic quite right many, many people in America are less well-off particularly under COVID. And losing their jobs doesn't mean to say that they right. So, it's the values which they have.
And this sense that America that used to be about patriotism, traditional family's religion, that's a strong, strong part of some of the motivations of America first, that idea that America should be a large and important major power, all of those things they feel are under threat.
And so, it's a cultural anxiety more than an economic anxiety. And again, we only have this snapshot of some of those who were arrested as 400 suspects. Many, many others who came to the Capitol aren't necessarily with those backgrounds.
They're much more general Trump supporters who got caught up in the moment to just part of the mob, but they weren't necessarily planning that. But the core, the group who were planning this well before the actual events happened, they tend to have this extremist background.
And you can go to groups like for example, the southern poverty law center, they document over 800 hate groups which are now declared in Canada, domestic terrorists. So, this is an important group. It's been around in America for years.
But this was obviously a catalytic event where they could really come to the forefront along with Michigan, where they were clearly when they stormed the statehouse and Charlottesville before that.
SMERCONISH: Well I'm limited on time. But I'll just close the loop saying this. I'm learning from you.
SMERCONISH: I think that their perception of their vulnerability causes them to be more susceptible to misinformation and conspiracy theory. Give me 30 seconds and tell me if I'm right.
NORRIS: The reason why they're, they're vulnerable to conspiracy theory things like the election was stolen et cetera is essentially what we term motivated reasoning. In other words, you have values, you have a worldview. You think that the world is changing and you're not in agreement with it.
You think elites are not representing you. You certainly don't trust the government. And then you get other sources of information which confirm that. And we're all subject to motivated reasoning.
We find facts; we find reasons to support our values. But it's the values it's the ideologies, it's those driving motivations which are the most critical things for why this gets picked up. And why so many people, eight out of 10 Republicans in general say they still believe that the election was fraudulent. And that is not just with president.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Norris that was excellent. Thank you so much.
NORRIS: You're welcome, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I can tell she's read all those books behind her. Still to come, the second impeachment trial of former President Trump picks up later this morning 10 am eastern with the Senate possibly voting on conviction as soon as this afternoon what else can we expect to take place?
We'll bring you the very latest from the Capitol next, just remember to answer the survey question at smerconich.com. Was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded?
SMERCONISH: The Senate impeachment trial begins later this morning. And it's possible we could find out if the Senate will find former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol before then we'll hear closing arguments from both sides.
But it's still unclear what else could take place today, much less after the verdict has been reached. Joining me now with the very latest from Capitol Hill, CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu thank you so much for being here. What are you anticipating today? What will the trial look like?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it either could go very quickly Michael. And this afternoon and Donald Trump's almost certain acquittal or there could be some last-minute surprises. And that is not outside of the realm of possibility at this exact moment.
And that's because of developments that have occurred over the last couple of days including what questions about that phone call between Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump. And what Donald Trump did in the aftermath of the January 6 riot and what he did not do.
That was something that the Trump team has not been able to answer over the last during the question and answer period when Senators asked them - asked him directly. But I'm hearing that there are still discussions about possibly even calling witnesses. Now that seems unlikely has been seemed unlikely up until this point.
But it's not certain yet because there has been a debate going on internally about whether to actually call witnesses. So, we will know when the Senate opens this morning at 10 am. And they decide whether to go forward whether to go forward with calling witnesses or whether to forego that option. So, there's some little bit of last minute uncertainty here Michael.
And if the Democrats decide not to go forward witnesses, then we could be moving pretty quickly. Closing arguments will occur followed by efforts to submit - evidence into the record.
And then followed by that ultimate vote to acquit or convict Donald Trump. 67 votes are needed to convict. That would mean 17 Republicans we need to break ranks join 50 Democrats. That simply is not going to happen at this point, maybe six will join. But that's about it but a little bit of uncertainty as we get into that final moments here of this trial, Michael.
SMERCONISH: From the sidelines and paying close attention. If you were to say to me OK, there will be witnesses, who do you most want to hear from at the top of my list would be Kevin McCarthy. Number two would be whoever was seated in the ante room of the Oval Office and could tell us observations of the president's body language and actions on that day.
I know it sounds farfetched. But Manu there are a lot of people out there who hold the answer to the questions that we're all wondering about.
RAJU: Yes, there are a lot of people, particularly people who worked in the White House. What Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff of the time, what he knew what his conversations were like with Donald Trump and with others on Capitol hill. What - Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel at the time what he knew other senior White House officials?
Those people, I can tell you Democrats have talked about that for some time. Could they get someone who could provide some specific details about Donald Trump's mindset at the time the right was happening? Those people they - Democrats decided not to go that route because they simply thought this would get tied up in court.
This would be litigated; they just would not have time to deal with it. They thought they had more than enough evidence to go forward. That could still be the case they still could ultimately come to that conclusion it just not worth it because it will lead to anything different here.
But those are the kind of people that Democrats in particular one it probably could shed a little bit more light into what happened here.
SMERCONISH: Big day ahead. Big day for you by the way your reporting this week has been phenomenal. Thank you so much for being here.
RAJU: Thanks Michael.
SMERCONISH: Manu Raju. Still to come more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final survey results from smerconish.com very simple question. And yet so telling on January 6 in the afternoon was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded?
[08:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at smerconish.com. Was Trump glad or sad that the Capitol was invaded? Hit me with the results. Here we go.
We've got oh my god. OK, night well and 37,000 I'm kind of speechless. Listen, if you tuned in late and you're thinking it's a bit of a sophomore question why even ask it go to the CNN website and watch my opening commentary.
I'm trying to draw attention to the fact that there was a 90 plus minute window where the president had to have known had to have been watching all that we were watching and took no demonstrative action to rein in the rioters. You think he was glad, or you think he was sad about what he was seeing on his television that day.
SMERCONISH: Quickly Catherine one social media if I have time. House managers should take note of Smerconish in his opening commentary. Very simplified and excellent points that may help sway. You know it's actually quite simple.
We don't have to get caught up on what happened between November 3 and January 6. We don't have to get caught up in the remarks of the six then parse the words. Just look at what happened while the Capitol figuratively was burning that afternoon. See you next week.