One of the attorneys representing former President Donald Trump in the Senate trial accused the Democrats on Friday of using impeachment as a tool to disqualify their political opponents and warned that it sets a dangerous precedent for Congress taking control of which private citizens can run for 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,” David Schoen, one of the three attorneys representing Trump, said. “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.”
Schoen made the remarks during the first hour of the presentation by Trump’s defense team. The former president’s attorneys are expected to complete their argument in roughly four hours before taking questions from the senators.
Trump attorney Bruce Castor opened the presentation by lambasting the arguments made by the impeachment managers over the course of the two preceding days. Castor said the core allegation that Trump incited the mob which attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 is disproved by the plain text of the transcript of the president’s speech.
The defense team’s main presentation is focused on outlining how the president was deprived of due process during the rushed House impeachment proceeding and why his speech on Jan. 6 is protected by the first amendment.
As expected, Castor during his opening remarks played a compilation of video clips of prominent Democrats using rhetoric that could be interpreted as inciting violence. Clips of Trump praising law and order were interspersed with those of the Democrats. The lawmakers whose comments appeared in the video reacted with smiles and remarks to their colleagues.
Ahead of the hearing, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the video wouldn’t help with the defense’s case but would be useful to demonstrate the double standard in play.
“Well I think it’s effective, but I am not sure that it bears a lot on this case,” Thune said. “I think it does draw out the double standard that sometimes is used because certainly there are a lot of examples of sometimes where liberal crowds got out of hand, and still are examples of that.”
Castor also showed Twitter messages by Trump which the Democrats left out of their presentation, including a message in which Trump told followers to support the police and “stay peaceful.”
A question still remains on whether either side would call witnesses. Some Democrat senators have already said they don’t need to hear from witnesses. The defense team is expected to use about a quarter of the total time allotted for the presentation, suggesting there is little interest in calling up witnesses.
Ahead of the trial, the defense declined a request from the impeachment managers for Trump to testify during the trial.