What to watch as Trump’s lawyers deliver impeachment defense

In this image from video, the Senate begins the third day in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, the Senate begins the third day in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Senate Television via AP) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s lawyers have a simple objective as they open their defense at the former president’s impeachment trial: Don’t lose any Republican votes.

Most Senate Republicans have indicated that they will vote to acquit Trump on the House charge of incitement of insurrection. They argue that the trial is unconstitutional and that Trump didn’t incite supporters to lay siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when he told them to “fight like hell” against the certification of President Joe Biden's victory. If Republicans hold the line, Democrats will fall well short of the two-thirds of the Senate needed for conviction.

Trump’s two top lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, risked losing one Republican vote on Tuesday after Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said they did a “terrible” job arguing that the trial is unconstitutional. Cassidy, who had voted with his party two weeks prior to stop the trial, switched his vote to side with Democrats.

Including Cassidy, six Republicans sided with Democrats on that vote that the trial is constitutional — far from the minimum of 17 Republican votes that would be needed to convict.

Here's what to watch for on Friday as the defense opens arguments in Trump’s historic second impeachment:

THE ARGUMENTS

Trump’s lawyers plan to argue their client’s innocence on multiple fronts. Their main arguments include that the trial is unconstitutional, that the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol did so on their own accord and that Trump's rhetoric to supporters was common political speech protected under the First Amendment.

Hoping that brevity will appeal to their restless Senate audience, the lawyers are expected to keep their arguments short. A Trump adviser said Thursday that they are expected to wrap up their defense in less than a day.