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Trump Allies, GOP Senators Pan Defense Team's Performance on Day 1 of Impeachment Trial

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Allies of former President Donald Trump were disappointed with his attorneys’ performance on the opening day of his second impeachment trial, questioning their strategy and even calling for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

Trump, who was watching the proceedings in Washington from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, was furious at what he saw, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

Senators, too, criticized what they described as an unfocused and rambling performance as Trump’s team and Democratic House managers began to lay out their cases in front of the Senate jury.

While it remains unlikely that the former president will be convicted at the end of the trial, the proceedings were a chance for Trump to set the record straight after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump has been charged with inciting an insurrection, and last month he became the first president in history to be impeached by the House twice.

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Democratic impeachment managers opened Tuesday’s session with video that compiled scenes of the deadly riot.

Trump believed that his team — especially lead lawyer Bruce Castor — came off badly on television and looked weak in comparison, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The anger was echoed by Trump allies, who blasted the lawyers both publicly and privately.

“There is no argument. I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying,” said Alan Dershowitz, an attorney who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial, as he weighed in on Castor during an appearance on Newsmax.

Do you think Trump's lawyers did a good job in the opening of the impeachment trial?

Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, had already been urging the former president to ditch his legal team and hire Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz before the trial began, warning: “You gotta get rid of those guys. These people don’t understand. This is a political trial.”

GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Castor “just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument.”

He said Trump attorney David Schoen, who spoke second, “got around to it” and “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.”

Another Trump adviser described Castor’s presentation as part of a “very clear, deliberative strategy.”

The adviser said that after the Democrats’ emotionally charged opening, Castor had set about “lowering the temperature” before “dropping the hammer on the unconstitutional nature of this impeachment witch hunt.”

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Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted with Democrats on Tuesday to move forward with the trial, said Trump’s team did a “terrible job” and was “disorganized,” “random” and “did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand.”

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who also voted with Democrats, said she was “perplexed” by Castor, “who did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he didn’t think the lawyers had done “the most effective job,” while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he didn’t know where Castor was going with his arguments.

Trump’s team did not respond to requests for comment on the day’s events or questions about whether they are planning any changes to the legal team.

Asked for a response to the GOP criticism as he was leaving the trial, Castor — who had said during the trial that the team had “changed what we were going to do” at the last minute — would say only that “we had a good day.”

Schoen told reporters that he hadn’t spoken yet to the president, but would “have to do better next time.”

“I mean, I always hope to improve. I hope I can do that,” he said.

Trump parted ways with his original impeachment team just over a week before the Senate trial was set to begin.


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