It's words vs. deeds as second Trump impeachment trial begins: The Note

RICK KLEIN and ALISA WIERSEMA
·6 min read

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's the trial most of Washington can't wait to be on the other side of -- and where the final vote is already almost beside the point.

The case against former President Donald Trump will be made to senators and voters simultaneously, of course. Either set of jurors were also witnesses in a certain way; the videos and social-media posts that became famous a month ago will be key to the case House managers make, in the very Senate chamber that was desecrated by rioters.

PHOTO: House Impeachment Managers Reps. Ted Lieu, Madeleine Dean, Joaquin Castro, and David Cicilline walk through the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to the Senate chamber on Feb. 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
PHOTO: House Impeachment Managers Reps. Ted Lieu, Madeleine Dean, Joaquin Castro, and David Cicilline walk through the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to the Senate chamber on Feb. 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Trump's defense hinges on the argument that he deserves no blame for the attack. In the brief his lawyers submitted to the Senate, they claim that his "metaphorical 'fighting' language" does not link him to the actions of a "small group of criminals."

But as the new investigation launched Monday by Georgia's secretary of state makes clear, it's not just Trump's words at the rally on Jan. 6 that are alleged to have contributed to attempts to block Congress and former Vice President Mike Pence from doing their jobs.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump looks on at the end of his speech during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters, FILE)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump looks on at the end of his speech during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters, FILE)

Plenty of those who stormed the Capitol cited Trump's direct words. Even more were responding to what the now-former president was both saying or doing in the fateful weeks after he lost the election but refused to admit it.

Trump's lawyers are calling the impeachment trial "political theater." Trump put on his own show first -- and the strongest argument his legal team may have is that he should have been taken neither seriously nor literally.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

While it may feel premature to start evaluating the 2022 electoral map in February 2021, Tuesday's impeachment proceedings will serve as a reminder for midterm hopefuls that the weight of Trump's influence will likely play out on both sides of the aisle.

On the heels of Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby's retirement announcement on Monday, Trump backer and House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks told ABC News' Benjamin Siegel that he's considering running for Shelby's seat.

"I am running for election in 2022, either for my House seat or for the Alabama Senate seat," he said.

Rep. Rep. Mo Brooks speaks at a 'Save America Rally' in support of President Donald Trump, in Washington, D.C., Jan 6, 2021.  (Jacquelyn Martin/AP, FILE)
Rep. Rep. Mo Brooks speaks at a 'Save America Rally' in support of President Donald Trump, in Washington, D.C., Jan 6, 2021. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP, FILE)

As one of the most vocal Republicans to challenge the results of the 2020 election and then falsely speculate about the riots on Capitol Hill, Brooks presents an intra-party contrast to policy-oriented Shelby who chaired several committees and started his decades-long career in the Senate as a conservative Democrat. Still, Brooks remains optimistic about his potential prospects in the solidly red state -- he said the backlash he's received has been a "wonderful blessing" because it raised his state-wide profile and put his name recognition "through the roof."

Meanwhile, for Democrats in battleground states, Trump lingers as a constant reminder of the heightened stakes underlying voter outreach efforts. As part of his official Senate campaign launch Monday, Pennsylvania's Lt. Gov. John Fetterman linked Trump's political success to having capitalizing on places across the Keystone State that feel "left behind" and "not part of the conversation."

"That's why Donald Trump went to these small counties and held these big rallies. We cannot afford to take any vote for granted," he said.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The sudden death of Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, the first sitting member of Congress to die after testing positive for the coronavirus, opened up a soon-to-be called special election this year but also raises a quandary for the next.

The historically red district, which encompasses the suburbs of Dallas and rural regions to the south, has been trending bluer since it was first drawn 10 years ago. Back in 2012, former President Barack Obama was trounced in the district by 17 points. Four years later, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, lost by 12 points. And last year, Biden was edged out by only three points.

As the district's tilt moved towards Democrats, the party last cycle eyed the seat as a possible pickup opportunity. But Wright, who was first elected in 2018, outperformed Trump in his district, winning re-election last fall by nine points. Democrats could potentially try to make inroads once again next year, but the fight for control of the House is currently on an undefined map due to coronavirus-related delays in the delivery of Census Bureau's mapmaking data.

In the end, it might not even matter all that much for this northeast Texas seat. The blue shift in the district is one that Texas Republicans will likely course correct in the latest round of redistricting, after holding onto their long-established majority at the state level. The GOP's success across the state in 2020 positioned them to further fortify their power when new districts are drawn and three more districts are added.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Capitol Hill Producer Trish Turner and ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams who preview the first day of President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. ABC News' Eva Pilgrim tells us about her visit to a facility readying supplies for Johnson and Johnson's coronavirus vaccine. And ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee explains why we're seeing more deadly avalanches than normal. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. Former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial is scheduled to begin in the Senate on Tuesday. It's highly unlikely that he will be convicted, but the trial ensures that the cleavages within the Republican Party will be back in the spotlight a week after Republicans in the House were divided over the roles that Reps. Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene should play in their caucus. Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution joins this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast to discuss what to expect. https://53eig.ht/39YLEeq

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the constitutional means to prevent abuse of the clemency power at 9 a.m. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Neera Tanden to be director of the Office of Management and Budget at 9:15 a.m. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receives the president's daily brief at 9:30 a.m. They will meet with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and business leaders about coronavirus relief at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office. Harris ceremonially swears in Denis McDonough as secretary of veterans affairs in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at noon. White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a briefing at 12:45 p.m. The Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m. and conducts its morning business before the House impeachment managers process into the chamber for the start of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.ABC News has live coverage of Trump's second impeachment trial before the Senate. Tune in to ABC News Live at 1 p.m. for full coverage and analysis.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

It's words vs. deeds as second Trump impeachment trial begins: The Note originally appeared on abcnews.go.com