Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 1

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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8:30 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Key takeaways from the first day of Trump's impeachment trial

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox

The second impeachment trial of former President Trump started today with a debate on the constitutionality of the proceeding.

After the lengthy debate, the Senate voted that the trial was constitutional. The 56 to 44 vote, however, showed why there's little path for the House managers to obtain the two-thirds majority needed for conviction, as all but six Republican senators voted for a second time that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president.

In case you missed it, here's what you need to know about today's proceedings:

  • The vote on the trial's constitutionality: Six GOP senators voted with Democrats on the question whether the impeachment trial against Trump was constitutional. It was the second time such a vote was taken after Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, forced a vote on the same question last month. Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy emerged as the sole Republican today to switch his vote after that initial vote on constitutionality.
  • Video footage of Capitol riot shown: Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead House impeachment manager, opened his presentation with a video showing disturbing footage of how protesters overran police and ransacked the Capitol, forcing lawmakers in the House and Senate to flee their chambers. The video was spliced with Trump's speech on Jan. 6 ahead of the riots, showing the crowd's reaction to Trump as he urged them to head to the Capitol. "If that's not an impeachable offense, then there's no such thing," Raskin argued.
  • Trump's defense offered a wide-ranging response: The initial presentation from the defense team offered a Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque response to the impeachment charge, with Trump attorney Bruce Castor praising the managers for a presentation that was "well done" and attorney David Schoen following by slamming Democrats for trying to tear apart the country. Schoen was supposed to present first, not Castor, according to two people familiar with the plan. But Castor told the Senate that Trump's legal team "changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers' presentation was well done."

What happens next: House managers will have 16 hours over two days to make their presentation beginning Wednesday, followed by two days for Trump's lawyers. Senators will then have four hours to ask questions submitted in writing to both sides, and the Senate could debate and vote on whether to subpoena witnesses, though it remains unclear whether any will be sought at trial.

7:52 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Senators were shown Capitol riot footage during today's trial. Here's how they felt reliving those scenes.

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Former President Trump’s second impeachment trial hit close to home as senators watched a video montage of what happened in their own chamber —and inside the US Capitol when a pro-Trump mob violently stormed the US Capitol complex on Jan. 6. 

The House impeachment managers showed a horrific video montage of the riots during their arguments on Tuesday, which some senators said brought them back to the day and the incredible danger they were all in. 

“That's probably the longest time I've spent actually watching video on that topic and it reminded me of what a horrendous day it was,” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt told reporters Tuesday after the first day of the trial concluded.

When asked about the video montage, GOP Sen. Mike Braun said, “I don't think you ever get desensitized to that.”

The Indiana Republican then recounted his personal experience during the riots, saying, “I was actually walking through the hallways when all that occurred. [Sen.] John Thune was running the opposite direction. Capitol Police that were with him said, 'Get back to your office and lock yourself in the door.' You never forget something like that.”

Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan told reporters that watching the video reminded him of “the danger everyone in the Capitol was in.”

The New Mexico senator recalled the events that unfolded in the very room the trial is being held. 

“For me to see with my own eyes the Vice President of the United States rushed out when I did, after I only heard the mob getting louder and louder and then to see the officers that came in again with long guns on the Senate floor to guard Mr. McConnell,” Lujan said referring to then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “And then to be told this is a safe room: Don't worry, calm down, and then the staff was brought in and then the press was trying to figure out what's happening up in the gallery. And then moments later, to be told: shots were fired in the Capitol, get them out of here, move them out.”

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the video montage was “more impactful” than she thought it would be.

“I found myself at points nervously looking up in the gallery,” the Michigan Democrat told reporters. “There were a couple of times where there were noises of something in the back, somebody dropping something and I noticed colleagues turning around, you know, a little bit on edge, watching all of that again.”

8:29 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Republican senator: Trump's legal team was not "very well prepared"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer said former President Trump's legal team seemed disorganized and ill-prepared in their presentation on the first day of proceedings in the impeachment trial. 

"My first thought was that I don't think they were very well prepared for what was something other than a discussion about the jurisdictional question," said Cramer when asked by CNN's Erin Burnett about what he thought of the defense team's performance today. 

Cramer said Trump's lawyers seemed to be thrown off by the arguments presented by the House impeachment managers.

The Republican pointed out that managers realized they likely had secured enough to settle the question of whether the trial should go on, and had begun to argue their case in favor of the former President's guilt, deploying a 13-minute emotional video along with a personal appeal.

"I think that threw Mr. Castor off a little bit, quite honestly," Cramer told Burnett, referring to Bruce Castor, an attorney for Trump.

The Senate voted 56-44 that the impeachment trial is constitutional.

"And then of course it wasn't until about the 90th minute that Mr. Schoen got to the actual text of the Constitution which dealt with the question of jurisdiction," he continued, referring to David Schoen, another of the former President's attorneys. "...I think they were thrown off frankly, I think they were unprepared."

Cramer said he believe both sides "made relevant points to what's next."

House managers will now have 16 hours over the next two days to present their case, followed by two days for Trump's lawyers.

Watch here:

7:53 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

See sketches from the first day of Trump's impeachment trial

From CNN's Dan Berman

Sketch artist Bill Hennessy was inside the Senate chamber to observe opening statements at former President Trump's second impeachment trial.

Audiences can't see the entire chamber during the impeachment proceedings, as cameras are controlled by the Senate and present a selective view.

While the House managers and Trump's lawyers were speaking, for instance, the camera had a head-on shot of them only.

Here's a look at what Hennessy observed today:

One senator finds time to read newspaper during the impeachment trial
One senator finds time to read newspaper during the impeachment trial Bill Hennessy

Bill Hennessy
Bill Hennessy

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, stops to talk to Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, at today's impeachment trial.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, stops to talk to Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, at today's impeachment trial. Bill Hennessy

7:23 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

CNN's Political Briefing podcast breaks down the emotional first day of the trial. Listen here.

CNN political director David Chalian breaks down day one of former President Trump's second impeachment trial, where the constitutionality of trying an ex-president was up for debate.

We saw some convincing arguments and moving speeches on the Senate floor today... and some bizarre, incoherent speeches as well.

Overall, it was an emotional day at the Capitol as senators were forced to relive the violent events that took place on Jan. 6.

Listen to the latest episode of CNN's Political Briefing here

7:15 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Source close to Trump's first impeachment team says they had a "different level of experience"

From CNN's Jim Acosta

A person who worked closely with the first Trump impeachment team said you can't really compare the former President's current group of lawyers with the attorneys who represented Trump at his first impeachment trial.

"It is hard to compare to our team," the source said of the first Trump impeachment team. "Different level of experience," the source added.

The source noted Trump's first team featured the likes of Clinton impeachment veteran Ken Starr, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, and Jay Sekulow, who has experience arguing before the Supreme Court.

Some background: Trump's office announced last week that David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. would head the legal team for his second impeachment trial, a day after CNN first reported that five members of his defense left and his team effectively collapsed.

Schoen was on the team of lawyers representing Roger Stone in the appeal of his conviction related to issues the former Trump adviser took with the jury. Castor, meanwhile, is a well-known attorney in Pennsylvania who previously served as Montgomery County district attorney.

Earlier today, Dershowitz, who served on Trump’s impeachment defense team during last year’s trial, blasted Castor for his opening remarks during today’s impeachment proceedings, telling Newsmax, “I have no idea what he’s doing.” 

CNN's Caroline Kelly contributed reporting to this post. 

7:01 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Lead impeachment manager on GOP senators who joined Democrats on vote today: "People's minds are open"

From CNN's Annie Grayer

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, told reporters that one more Republican senator joining to vote with Democrats today shows “people’s minds are open.”

Raskin was initially asked if he was disappointed that so few Republicans joined Democrats to vote on whether the impeachment trial against former President Trump was constitutional.

Raskin flipped the narrative and said that getting one more Republican senator than the five who joined Democrats against GOP Sen. Rand Paul's motion at the end of January showed that not all minds are made up.

“We were told that it would be completely partisan and locked from the last vote and it wasn't. So people's minds are open,” he told reporters. 

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, was the only GOP senator to change his vote on the constitutionality of the trial. Cassidy previously voted in favor of Paul’s motion that impeachment after Trump left office is unconstitutional.

Raskin was also asked to react to Trump lawyer Bruce Castor saying the defense legal team switched up their order of speakers after the House impeachment managers did such a good job with their opening statements.

“That is a very kind remark,” Raskin said of Castor.

Asked if he thinks he can sway enough Republican senators to believe that the trial is constitutional, Raskin said, “We haven't started the evidence yet, but we're starting tomorrow.”

“I have faith that 100 senators are going to do their jobs as jurors sworn to render impartial justice," Raskin said when pressed again on whether he thinks there is a chance.

On whether he expects the House impeachment managers will use the full 16 hours allotted to them, Raskin said, “We returned 33 minutes today and we hope to maintain the cogency of our presentation.”

Reporting in this post was also compiled from pool reports.

6:53 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Masks are expected but not required during the impeachment trial, officials say

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Lauren Fox 

Masks will not be required on the Senate floor during former President Trump’s second impeachment trial amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the expectation is that the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense lawyers will wear masks unless they are speaking at the podium, according to a Senate official familiar with the planning. 

As for senators, mask-wearing as usual is not mandatory in the Senate. But almost all senators and staffers have complied with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance to wear masks during the pandemic on the Senate floor and around the US Capitol office complex, with the exception of Republican Sen. Rand Paul. 

The Kentucky senator is often seen maskless around the Capitol and on the floor, arguing he’s immune after having Covid early last year. It’s still unclear if those who have had coronavirus remain immune to the virus. Other senators, however, who have had coronavirus and/or been vaccinated for the disease still wear masks.

Senators also aren't required to sit at their desks during the entire impeachment trial. There is some flexibility because of the pandemic.

“To accommodate social distancing during the trial. There will be seats reserved for senators so they do not have to sit at their desk on the Senate floor the entire trial," a senate official familiar w the planning said.

That official said members may be in the public gallery, which is closed due to Covid-19 and the “marble room," which is just off the Senate floor where the trial will be shown on television. 

While these precautions will mean some members will not be at their desk during the trial, senators will still need to be on the Senate floor to vote.  

6:51 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

GOP Sen. Rubio calls trial "absurd" and says Trump should be tried as a private citizen

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Marco Rubio talks with reporters as he leaves after the first day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, February 9.
Sen. Marco Rubio talks with reporters as he leaves after the first day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, February 9. Susan Walsh/AP

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Senate trial and said, "I believe it is absurd" to be having a trial of a former president. He said it would be different if the president been reelected and was still in office.

When asked if he believes Trump was responsible for the riot, Rubio said, "I hold responsible the people who did it. I believe that the things leading up to it that were foreseeable – that you invite that all these people to the city, some element of that, ginned up appropriately could lead to something bad."

"I don't know if anyone could have told you that's the way it played out, but you certainly worry about it. I wish there had been more awareness of that. Words do have consequences. I'm not sure if it rises to the level of a crime, and if it does, and people believe it does, then let a US attorney go to a grand jury and get an indictment and let someone sue. That's how private citizens should be tried," he added.

He also seemed sympathetic to Trump defense attorney Bruce Castor.

"I thought he did probably the best he could have done given the four or five day preparation time. And it's a tough forum to be in front of," he said.