Trump’s ‘Terrible’ Defense Team Helped Push One GOP Lawmaker to Change His Mind on Impeachment

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Sean Neumann
·4 min read
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Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock Sen. Bill Cassidy

The opening arguments in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial — about whether or not the Senate had jurisdiction to try him now that he has left office — didn't seem to matter much to the gathered lawmakers. They all voted just like they had on a similar question last month.

All of them save one Republican senator, who said the former president's defense team's "terrible" performance helped change his mind to allow the trial to proceed.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, was the only GOP senator to change their vote Tuesday to say Trump's impeachment trial was constitutional. In a preliminary vote last month, he had said it was unconstitutional to hold a trial against a former president.

In both cases, the Senate's Democratic majority proceeded.

With Tuesday's vote at the close of the trial's first day, six Republicans in total agree with their Democratic colleagues the trial should take place.

Cassidy, 63, told reporters the performance by Trump's attorney was a persuasive factor.

"President Trump's team were disorganized," Cassidy said, according to NPR. "They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over, almost as if they were embarrassed."

RELATED: Senate Approves Start of Trump's Impeachment Trial for Insurrection After Impassioned — and Tearful — Arguments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Sen. Bill Cassidy

The lawyers defending Trump, 74, had a tough act to follow, they admitted during their own opening arguments.

Led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, the House of Representatives' impeachment managers — analogous to prosecutors — gave an impassioned and emotional opening argument. That included an edited video presentation of Trump cheering on his supporters on Jan. 6 and some of those same people attacking the U.S. Capitol that day. Five people died.

Trump was subsequently charged by the House with impeachment of an insurrection.

The impeachment managers played violent and vulgar clips of his supporters breaking windows with American flags, attacking police officers and hunting through the halls of the Capitol for lawmakers who had gathered that day to certify the election results.

When Trump's attorneys Bruce Castor Jr. and then David Schoen took the podium on Tuesday after Raskin, their response stirred much discussion among viewers and on social media.

At times Castor stumbled over his speech. He also stepped away from the microphone, becoming inaudible, and appeared to lose his train of thought.

"We still know what records are right? The thing you put the needle down on and you play it," he said at one point, explaining what vinyl records are during a minutes-long story about his childhood.

During the roughly hour-long defense, Castor also conceded Trump lost the 2020 election — something the former president still hasn't done — and complimented the impeachment managers for being "brilliant" and "smart."

RELATED: Trump Hires 2 New Lawyers for Impeachment Trial — Including Controversial Cosby D.A. — as Old Team Leaves

AP/Shutterstock Bruce Castor, Donald Trump's defense attorney, during the impeachment trial

ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty David Schoen (left) and Bruce Castor Jr., lawyers for Donald Trump, arrive this week for the second impeachment trial

Trump's second attorney, David Schoen, gave a more forceful defense of their client, attacking what he called the legal weaknesses. Trump's team also called the trial a thinly veiled revenge tactic by Democrats to keep him from running for future office.

At the close of his presentation, Schoen read a poem and seemed to audibly choke up.

Trump was furious while watching his attorneys' performance at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida, according to reports from The Associated Press, The New York Times and other news outlets.

His attorneys bewildered lawmakers like Cassidy as well. "One side's doing a great job and the other side's doing a terrible job on the issue at hand," Cassidy said after.

RELATED: What to Expect in Donald Trump's Second Impeachment Trial, Beginning This Week

He said he still doesn't know how he'll vote on Trump's impeachment charge, however. The former president is widely expected to be acquitted, as 17 Republicans would need to join the 50 Democratic lawmakers voting to convict him — 11 more Republicans than voted to allow the trial to continue.

The trial resumed Wednesday at noon and is expected to continue at least into the weekend, according to a schedule released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday night.

Each side will have two eight-hour days to lay out their argument.

After that, senators will be given four hours to question either the impeachment managers or Trump's defense lawyers.

Both sides will then have the opportunity to debate whether to call witnesses before closing arguments ahead of a final vote.