Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sat stone-faced with arms crossed in the august chamber Tuesday as Democrats made him part of the prosecution’s exhibit No. 1, watching himself in a video montage of the U.S. Capitol riot as former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial got underway.
The House impeachment managers used the Kentucky Republican’s words against Mr. Trump. They reminded the senators that the chamber’s top Republican chided the former president’s repeated challenges to the 2020 election.
“The assertions ranged from specific local allegations to constitutional arguments to sweeping conspiracy theories,” Mr. McConnell said in the video clip from a January floor speech about the multitude of election lawsuits, all of which failed.
Mr. McConnell’s face was expressionless after he heard his own remarks. After that, he sat with his legs crossed and hands folded throughout the four hours of arguments, which were evenly divided between prosecution and defense.
His counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, sat slouched at his desk. He had his hand on his forehead as he looked down at the floor.
The senators from both sides of the aisle watched the video montage created by House managers prosecuting the former president. Along with Mr. McConnell’s remarks, the video captured Mr. Trump’s comments in his speech before the riot telling his supporters to “fight like hell” with clips of protesters clashing with police and entering the very chamber where the senators were sitting.
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The Democrats’ argument drew conflicting reviews from Republican senators. A majority are expected to vote to acquit Mr. Trump.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said the Democrats’ arguments were strong. He voted to proceed with the trial after opposing a nonbinding measure two weeks ago.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said the impeachment managers’ arguments were “about what I expected.”
He objected to the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, the day at the core of the trial, and has repeatedly defended the former president. He said the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Mr. Trump is out of office.
Senators occasionally took notes and read from material at their desks during the hearing while the two sides debated whether a trial of a former president was constitutional.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, frequently traded whispers with seat neighbor Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican.
Their chatter continued after Mr. Trump’s attorney, Bruce Castor, called out Mr. Sasse by name.
Mr. Sasse voted last month to move forward with the trial despite the question over its constitutionality. He was one of five Republican lawmakers in the upper chamber to side with Democrats on the vote.
Mr. Castor said Nebraska was a “judicial thinking place.”
Mr. Sasse is facing censure by Republicans in his home state for his stance in favor of putting Mr. Trump on trial.
The comment drew a confused look from Mr. Sasse.
Toward the end of the arguments, some senators appeared restless.
Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, was bouncing his leg. Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, took a stroll across the chamber and whispered to Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, appearing to crack a joke as both men smiled and Mr. Cruz nodded in agreement.
Other senators rotated seats. Mr. Hawley left in favor of a seat in the gallery overlooking the chamber floor. The gallery was empty because the Capitol was closed to the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.