Trump Absent From Second Impeachment, But His Team Is Speaking
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump isn’t attending his unprecedented second impeachment trial and is banned from tweeting, but his team is making sure Republicans feel his presence.
The former president was in his private quarters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida as the proceedings unfolded on television, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump wasn’t happy with the performance of one of his lawyers, Bruce Castor, criticized by some Republican senators for a rambling presentation, but still thinks he’ll be acquitted, people familiar with his reaction said.
At the same time, House managers were making their case, Trump’s allies were actively tweeting and re-tweeting posts in the former president’s all-caps, exclamation-pointed style from multiple accounts, defending him as Democratic House managers laid out their case on the first day of his trial in the Senate.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was in the U.S. Capitol, meeting with the defense team and letting Republican senators see him there on behalf of Trump.
Meadows told reporters he was there to meet with Trump’s impeachment team, and that those meetings would continue “sporadically.”
Asked if he’d spoken to Trump, Meadows said he hadn’t in the hours since the trial started Tuesday but, “I speak to him on a regular basis, yes.”
Trump’s office also issued a statement with “key points” and a “Q and A” after the Senate voted 56-44 that the trial was constitutional with six Republicans siding with Democrats. It slammed the proceedings as “political vengeance” against the former president, and reaffirmed that he wouldn’t testify or participate in what he called a “unconstitutional sham hearing.”
“This is ‘cancel culture’ on a constitutional level,” Trump’s office said in the statement.
The Senate is trying Trump on a charge of incitement to insurrection. Democrats said he encouraged his supporters to help him overturn the results of his Nov. 3 election loss to Joe Biden, culminating in a mob of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was counting Electoral College votes. The violent assault left five people dead.
Trump’s team argued that the trial is unconstitutional because he is out of office, but also that he didn’t incite the riot and spoke under protection of the First Amendment.
As House managers presented to the Senate their case that the trial is legitimate, Trump’s allies were tweeting in real time -- using familiar Trump phrases -- and trying to undercut the Democrats’ case.
The @TrumpWarRoom account, managed by his Save America political action committee, tweeted a photo of the Senate’s presiding officer, Democrat Patrick Leahy, and said, “Imagine having a ‘trial’ where the ‘judge’ had already voted to convict the defendant? That’s what happens in banana republics, third world dictatorships and now the United States Senate. SAD!”
Trump adviser Jason Miller also tweeted, as lead House manager Jamie Raskin argued that it was legal to try Trump even though he’s out of office, saying that “using Raskin’s argument, House Democrats could impeach George Washington.”
These overt acts of support weren’t just for solidarity. The trial is firing up his political base and an acquittal -- which will happen unless 17 Republican senators join 50 Democrats in voting to convict -- would leave him free to run for office again. Trump would be able to argue that he was vindicated after another Democratic “witch hunt,” as he has described previous attempts to remove him.
It comes as two wings of the Republican Party are grappling for supremacy -- those loyal to Trump and those such as Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, who voted to impeach him, who want to move on from Trump.
Representative Jim Jordan, a Ohio Republican and staunch Trump ally, went on Fox Business Network right before the trial started and said Democrats impeached Trump because they fear facing him in 2024.
“I think he would win -- will win again in 2024,” Jordan said. “I think it’d be good for the nation if he did.”
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