5 takeaways from Day 4 of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial

3. Rampant nitpicking: The Trump defense team’s attempts to make mountains out of molehills was, at times, laughable. After insisting that they had uncovered clear evidence that the House impeachment managers had manipulated evidence — a big charge! — the Trump team went on to cite two major examples of this alleged wrongdoing. The first was a tweet by a Trump ally in which she wrote that the “Calvary is coming.” The impeachment managers had manipulated the tweet’s meaning, Trump attorney David Schoen argued, because they said it was evidence that Trump’s supporters were rallying their base to come and support him at the rally. Not true, Schoen said, what the tweeter actually was doing was referencing “Calvary Hill,” the place where Jesus was crucified. Yes, he really said this. (Per Capitol Hill pool reporter Luke Broadwater: “When Schoen mentioned Trump representing Christ’s calvary, Democrats in the room were aghast. Senators Whitehouse, Hirono, Gillibrand and Manchin all began talking, with Whitehouse saying incredulously, ‘Oh my God.'” The second major example that the House impeachment managers had manipulated evidence, according to his lawyers, was a photo of lead manager Jamie Raskin, which appeared in The New York Times, examining tweets that Trump allegedly retweeted. But the date on the tweet was January 3, 2020, not January 3, 2021, the defense pointed out. Scandal! Except that Trump has been de-platformed from Twitter, meaning that ALL of his tweets need to be reconstructed because you can’t get the originals. And that the typo evident in the New York Times picture was fixed by the time the impeachment managers used the tweet in their case. Embarrassing stuff.
4. The ‘fight’ video: As we know from reporting after the airing of a 13-minute video detailing the events of January 6 by the impeachment managers on the second day of the trial, the Trump team was scrambling to make more videos of their own to counter the impact it had on the jury of senators. And come up with videos they did! The most notable one was a 543-minute 10-minute mashup of Democrats — from Joe Biden to Kamala Harris to virtually every Democratic senator — saying the word “fight.” The point, as I noted above, was to make the case that Trump telling his supporters to “fight like hell” shouldn’t be taken as a serious incitement to violence because, well, Democratic politicians say the word “fight” as well. But to believe that and be convinced by it, you have to be willing to ignore any sort of context. As in: Saying that you want to “fight” to make health care a basic human right is different from telling a mob that they need to “fight like hell” or their country will be gone. But I digress…) It’s a pretty remarkable thing to charge that the House impeachment managers took tweets and video clips out of context, and then run that “fight” video … that takes some chutzpah.

5. It’s all about the ‘hate’: The main reason that Democrats in the House impeached Trump, according to his lawyers, was not because of his action (and lack of action) on January 6 but rather because they simply hate him — and that hate has blinded them to due process and the rule of law. “Hate has no place in the American justice system and certainly no place in the Congress of the United States,” scolded Trump attorney Bruce Castor near the end of the defense team’s argument. As evidence he cited a video — I told you they made a lot of videos! — that cut together lots and lots of Democrats calling on Trump to be impeached over almost the entire duration of his presidency. Which happened! There was a group of House Democrats who tried to file impeachment motions long before we ever heard of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President or his speech on January 6. But this argument is also a bit of a red herring. After all, this isn’t an either/or choice. You can hate Trump and still believe he didn’t incite a riot. And vice versa. Trump’s legal team was simply not willing to engage on the merits of what Trump said and did. And so they fell back on the everyone-is-so-partisan argument. It undoubtedly will resonate with many Republican senators looking for a justification to vote to acquit Trump. But that doesn’t make it true.

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