- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2021

Senate Republicans credited the lawyers for former President Donald Trump Friday for putting on a strong defense in the first hours of their arguments in the Senate impeachment trial.

“The president’s lawyers blew the House managers’ case out of the water,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican. “They just eviscerated their case. Quite honestly, if I were the president’s lawyers, I’d just rest the case right now.”

Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican who is considered a likely vote for Mr. Trump‘s conviction, said the defense team had improved its performance from the first day of the trial.

“I think they are putting on a good defense today,” Mrs. Murkowski said. “The first two hours I thought were well put together. I think the defense is more on their game today than what I saw the other day.”

Mr. Johnson said he was encouraged by what he called the Trump team’s “powerful” video presentations of Democrats repeatedly calling on supporters to “fight like hell” in various settings. The impeachment managers blame Mr. Trump for using the same phrase to incite his supporters to riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

“I’m glad the president’s lawyers pointed out the gross hypocrisy,” he said. “If there’s incitement involved here, it started four years ago, it’s been relentless. The House managers had two days of a completely one-sided case, and I just think the president’s attorneys just blew their case out of the water.”

Mr. Johnson also spoke disapprovingly of video of Vice President Kamala D. Harris “cackling” with laughter on the Ellen DeGeneres show about the possibility of the sudden death of either Mr. Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence or former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, if they were with her on an elevator.

Democrats would need 17 Republicans to vote with them to reach the required two-thirds vote for conviction. Republicans say Mr. Trump will be acquitted easily.

Mr. Trump‘s attorneys have played several video clips showing the House impeachment managers and other top Democrats such as President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer calling to “fight” over the years in an attempt to show Mr. Trump‘s use of the word on Jan. 6 was not meant to incite violence at the U.S. Capitol, but was protected as political speech under the First Amendment.

The former president’s lawyers also argued that House impeachment managers manipulated tweets they showed during their presentation earlier this week, saying they intentionally changed the context and meaning of Mr. Trump‘s words.

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