Washington — The majority of Republican senators voted that the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional, after hearing nearly four hours of arguments from House impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s attorneys on the first day of proceedings.
However, while most GOP senators determined there is no constitutional basis for a trial, many were unimpressed by the presentation by the former president’s lawyers.
“President Trump’s team was disorganized. They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments,” GOP Senator Bill Cassidy told reporters after the first day of the trial.
“If I’m an impartial juror and one side is doing a great job and the other side is doing a terrible job on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror I’m going to vote for the side that did a good job,” added Cassidy, who was one of only six Republicans who voted in favor of the constitutionality of holding a trial.
Much of the criticism from Republicans was directed at Bruce Castor, the attorney who presented first. In a rambling speech, Castor argued that it would violate Mr. Trump’s right to free speech to hold an impeachment trial. But his argument was derailed with seemingly unrelated digressions, such as when he extensively praised the integrity and patriotism of senators.
“In fairness, I was really stunned at the first attorney who presented for former President Trump. I couldn’t figure out where he was going,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican who voted that the trial was constitutional. Senator Susan Collins, who also voted in favor of the trial’s constitutionality, said she was “perplexed” by Castor’s argument.
But even some Republicans who voted to dismiss the trial criticized Castor’s performance.
“I thought the President’s lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument. Finally, the second lawyer got around to it and I thought he did an effective job,” Senator John Cornyn told reporters.
Senator Lindsey Graham said about Castor, “I thought I knew where it was going, and I really didn’t know where it was going.”
“It took a long time to get to where I think the meat of the question is,” Graham said.
David Schoen, who spoke after Castor, argued that the impeachment trial was a partisan ploy by Democrats to prevent Mr. Trump from seeking office again. He also argued that the trial was rushed and did not allow for due process.
“I don’t think the lawyers did the most effective job,” Senator Ted Cruz acknowledged. Cassidy told reporters that at one point during the arguments, he leaned over to Cruz and asked, “Are they talking about the issue at hand?”
“And he goes, ‘Not now,'” Cassidy added.