Republicans Deeply Unimpressed By Trump's Lawyers
Most of the Senate Republican caucus voted to say the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump is not constitutional Monday, even though many of them thought the former president's lawyers made a bad case in their bid to derail the trial.
"I don't think the lawyers did the most effective job," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters later, although he voted in agreement with Trump's lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, who argued that the trying a former is unconstitutional.
Fellow Texan GOP Sen. John Cornyn -- a former judge -- was equally unimpressed.
"I thought the President's lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument," Cornyn said, referring to Castor.
Castor admitted in his remarks that he'd changed his prepared argument because the House managers had already countered them in their opening. Instead of sticking to his plan, he ad-libbed for much of his 48-minute presentation, reading from scrawled notes on a legal pad and discussing how great senators were, how Nebraska is "quite a judicial thinking place,” and complimenting the senators from his home state of Pennsylvania.
"The second lawyer got around to it, and I thought did an effective job," Cornyn said of Schoen. "But I've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was... it was not one of the finest I've seen."
Even staunch Trump defenders were left confused.
"I thought I knew where he was going, and I really didn't know where he was going," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Castor later told reporters, "I thought we had a good day."
Republicans who voted against his arguments were more withering in their criticism.
“It was disorganized, random, had nothing," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who voted that the trial is constitutional, along with five other Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
Cassidy had supported a challenge to that notion last month when he voted against shelving Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) challenge to the trial on constitutional grounds.
"The House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not,” Cassidy said of his reversal.
"I was perplexed by the first attorney who did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take," said Collins.
"I was really stunned at the first attorney," said Murkowski. "I couldn't figure out where he was going -- spent 45 minutes going somewhere -- but I don't think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this."
Almost all the lawmakers had praise for the Democrats' presentation, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
“I will say this: Jamie Raskin was impressive," Cruz said later. "He's a serious lawyer."
"Mr. Raskin did a superior job, frankly," said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
"I thought that manager Raskin's presentation was one of the best I've ever seen," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "He just hit it out of the park. It was erudite and touching at the same time."
Raskin and his team of eight other House Democrats opened their case with shocking clips from the sacking of the Capitol on Jan. 6, interspersed with Trump's tweets, false claims of election fraud an his exhortations to that crowd before they marched up Pennsylvania Avenue for their rendezvous with infamy.
Raskin, growing emotional near the end of his presentation, had closed by saying his daughter -- who had been with him on the Hill on Jan. 6 -- told him she never wanted to go to the Capitol again. "Of all the terrible, brutal things I saw, and I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest," Raskin said, wiping away tears.
"Senators, this cannot be our future," Raskin said. "This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States."
Trump's lawyers agreed Raskin and his team did well.
"Yeah, I thought they did a good job," Schoen said.
Castor said he was not worried that one Republican -- Cassidy -- appeared to have been swayed to the other side.
"I don't make anything of it. If it leaks down to 34 then I'll start to worry," Castor said, referring to the number of Republicans he needs to keep on Trump's side to prevent the 67 votes needed for conviction.