Even Republican allies of former President Trump are dunking on his legal team’s hapless performance at the opening of his second impeachment trial Tuesday afternoon.
GOP senators left the hearing shaking their heads and candidly telling anyone who’d listen that they had no clue what the hell Trump lawyer Bruce Castor was talking about.
“President Trump’s team were disorganized,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, adding it was “almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments.”
Trump’s former impeachment attorney Alan Dershowitz took to Newsmax and declared himself utterly baffled by what he’d seen.
“There is no argument,” Dershowitz railed. “I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying.”
Trump himself reportedly exploded with rage at Castor’s performance—and was almost screaming over what he saw on television while he watched from Mar-a-Lago in Florida, CNN reported.
This, of course, might just be what happens when you shake up your entire legal team right before a big trial.
Trump’s new lawyers have had just a bit more than a week to get up to speed. They were hired in a hurry after Trump’s original legal team bailed, reportedly because they objected to Trump’s insistence that they argue he really won the 2020 presidential election (which, of course, Trump didn’t).
Tuesday’s performance was hardly their first embarrassing public misstep since entering Trump’s orbit. These same crack lawyers managed to misspell the words “United States” three times in two separate documents filed in the lead-up to the impeachment trial.
Yet unlike mistakes in writing, these played out on live national television. And even Trump supporters appeared shocked by what they saw.
“I thought the president's lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters in the Capitol, according to CNN.
“Finally the second lawyer got around to it, and I thought did an effective job. But I've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I've seen.”
Trump’s legal team argues, among other things, that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional and cannot proceed because Trump is no longer president. Plenty of constitutional experts disagree with that view, and Senate Republican leadership was responsible for delaying the start of the trial until Trump had stepped down.
Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s most high-profile Republican allies in the Senate, expressed bewilderment at Castor’s ramblings.
“I thought I knew where he was going, and I really didn't know where it was going,” Graham told reporters.
Castor was followed by Trump’s other lawyer, David Schoen, whom everyone agreed did a better job than Castor in actually addressing some of the constitutional issues at play, even if his tone bordered on the apocalyptic. Schoen glowered into the microphone, darkly accused Democrats of using impeachment as political “bloodsport,” and appeared to compare the division caused by the impeachment trial to the American Civil War.
“They know this so-called trial will tear the country in half,” Schoen said, accusing Democrats of attempting to disenfranchise Trump voters. “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history.”
Castor had previously told the Wall Street Journal he wasn’t planning to speak first on Tuesday.
But a source told the paper that the team changed their plans in reaction to the strong opening arguments by the House Democrats making the case against Trump, who led with a damning video that linked Trump urging his followers to “fight like hell” with rioters chanting “fight for Trump.”
During his remarks Tuesday, Castor admitted that the team changed things up because “we thought the house managers’ presentation was well done.”
He then appeared to suggest he didn’t know what was supposed to be happening on the first day of the trial.
“I thought that what the first part of the case was, which was the equivalent of a motion to dismiss, going to be about jurisdiction alone,” Castor said.
At one point, Castor even bizarrely seemed to entertain the idea that maybe his client, Trump, might be charged with a crime.
“A high crime is a felony, and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor,” Castor said. “After he’s out of office, you go and arrest him. So there is no opportunity where the president of the United States can run rampant in January at the end of his term and just go away scot free. The Department of Justice does know what to do with such people.”
The House impeached Trump in January for allegedly inciting the rioters who sacked the U.S. Capitol after a Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House on January 6.
The trial will continue Wednesday, and is generally expected to last roughly a week.