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Trump impeachment trial headed for Saturday finale after defense rebuttal, questions

Questions from senators were handwritten then turned into Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore, and read out loud

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Michael van der Veen
President Donald Trump's defense attorney Michael van der Veen speaks on the fourth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.
(Photo by congress.gov via Getty Images)
Updated: February 12, 2021 - 11:47pm

U.S. senators posted questions on Friday to the House impeachment managers and former President Trump's defense in the trial for several hours.

The questions were handwritten and turned over to Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore. 

Trump's defense had up to 16 hours to present their case but used less than 4 hours on Friday. Senators had up to 4 hours to question both sides after Trump's defense presented. The questioning lasted for more than 2 hours. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene tomorrow at 10am.

Trump's defense team accused the House impeachment managers of taking Trump out of context with edited video clips during their oral arguments. His attorneys argued that Trump's rhetoric on Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment.

The defense team on Friday played video clips of Democrats' past speeches about "fighting" in the Trump era. After showing harsh rhetoric from Democrats, Trump's defense queued up footage of the violent protests that happened in major cities last year after the death of George Floyd.

The House impeachment managers wrapped up their oral arguments on Thursday and called on senators not to let Trump's incitement of his supporters on Jan. 6 "go unanswered."

One question from a senator on Friday was related to whether the riot would have happened without the conduct of Trump. In response, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, an impeachment manager, argued that Trump was directing his "rage" toward Jan. 6 and encouraging his supporters on Twitter to come to Washington, D.C. on that day when the Electoral Votes were being certified. 

Another question was if a politician raising money for bailing out protesters arrested for rioting encourages more rioting.

"Yes," Trump defense attorney Bruce Castor replied.

Responding to another question, Michael van der Veen, a Trump defense attorney, said the House impeachment managers have "done zero" to investigate why proper security was not present at the U.S. Capitol ahead of Jan. 6.

"There's been absolutely no investigation into that," he said. "Due process is required here and that was denied."

Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett, who represents the Virgin Islands, argued that Trump knew the Jan. 6 "Save America" march could turn violent before he addressed the crowd. 

Shortly before the questioning concluded, Castro told the senators that the "future of our democracy rests in your hands."

After the question and answer session, the Senate passed legislation to award Officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for his heroism in helping lawmakers escape during the January 6th riot.

The Senate will reconvene on Saturday and debate calling witnesses. Closing arguments in the trial will take place as well. The final vote in the trial will follow on Saturday or Sunday. 

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