WASHINGTON — On day one of the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, House Democrats on Tuesday afternoon laid out their case for why the Senate should proceed with an impeachment trial against a former president, citing the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writings of legal scholars of all ideologies. Afterward, attorney Bruce Castor, a member of Trump’s defense team, stepped up to microphone. What ensued was a meandering and at times incoherent legal argument from Castor, one that by turns flattered the senators in attendance (“senators are family men and women”), evoked Castor’s youth in suburban Philadelphia (“here’s little Bruce”), and offered the obligatory Ben Franklin quote.
Castor made little attempt to address the central question of the day — namely, whether it was constitutional to try a former president for impeachment. Indeed, Castor’s opening argument was so strange that one of Trump’s own defense lawyers from his first impeachment trial, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, was left flabbergasted.
“There is no argument,” Dershowitz said during a live appearance on the pro-Trump news channel Newsmax. “I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying.”
Here is the clip:
How bad is Bruce Castor's presentation in defense of Trump so far? Newsmax cuts into it so Alan Dershowitz can trash it.
"There is no argument. I have no idea what he's doing. I have no idea why he's saying what he's saying!" pic.twitter.com/3tVD9V3UcZ
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 9, 2021
Dershowitz appeared almost at a loss for words when asked by a Newsmax anchor to respond to the opening portion of Castor’s presentation. “He’s introducing himself: ‘I’m a nice guy, I like my senators, I know my senators, senators are great people,’ ” Dershowitz said. “C’mon, the American people are entitled to an argument, a constitutional argument.”
Dershowitz represented Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial in 2020, when the Senate heard arguments about whether to convict and possibly expel Trump for threatening to withhold badly needed military aid to Ukraine while pressuring Ukraine’s president to release damaging information about then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden’s family. That trial ended with an acquittal, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) the only Republican senator to vote in favor of conviction.
Trump’s second impeachment defense is off to a much rockier start than it was a year ago, according to Dershowitz’s early assessment. “I just don’t understand it,” he said on Newsmax. “Maybe (Castor will) bring it home but right now it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy. Boy, it’s not the kind of argument I would’ve made, I’ll tell you that.”
The second Trump impeachment trial is expected to last one to two weeks. At the moment, it doesn’t look likely that senators will vote to convict Trump. That would require 17 Republican senators joining all 50 Democrats in voting to convict, and far fewer Republican senators have so much as suggested they would take such a vote.