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Trump's impeachment defense team rests, arguing his words before riot were 'ordinary political rhetoric' – NBC News

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Lawyers for former President Donald Trump’s defense rested their case Friday after less than three hours of arguments in which they echoed their client in calling the impeachment case built by Democratic House managers an act of “political vengeance” and alleged that Trump’s speech preceding the Capitol riot was merely “ordinary political rhetoric.”

The defense lawyers said that Trump’s words at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the violent storming of the Capitol was protected free speech and that convicting him for it would amount to “canceling” him and his supporters.

“This trial is about far more than President Trump. It is about silencing and banning the speech the majority does not agree with,” said Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers. “It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters and criminalizing political viewpoints. It’s the only existential issue before us. It asks for constitutional cancel culture to take over in the United States Senate.”

Senators are now posing written questions for representatives of both sides for four hours. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate president pro tempore, who is presiding over the trial, will read the questions aloud.

The defense needs only to keep only 34 Republican senators in their camp to avoid a conviction of the former president. So far, few minds of GOP senators appear to have been changed and most still expect Trump to be acquitted.

Feb. 12, 202103:51

The defense focused mainly on process and lawyerly arguments about the Senate trial and the prosecution’s case, as well as political arguments equating common Democratic rhetoric with Trump’s rally speech.

They did not address some of the prosecution’s core arguments, such as offering a complete explanation of Trump’s actions during the violence at the Capitol and a defense of why he didn’t do more to stop it once it was underway.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — who are both seen as swing votes — asked Trump’s lawyers when exactly the former president learned of the Capitol breach and what actions he took to stop it, adding, “please be as detailed as possible.”

Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyer, said he could not answer the question about his own client’s actions, blaming Democrats and saying he could only “piece together a timeline” from Trump’s tweets.

“That’s the problem with this entire proceeding,” he claimed. “The House managers did zero investigation and the American people deserve a lot better.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, another potential Republican vote for conviction, asked if Trump was aware former Vice President Mike Pence was in danger before he sent a tweet saying Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Van der Veen said no, and that the question was “not really relevant,” but Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville told reporters that he told Trump that Pence had been evacuated from the Senate Chamber and was in danger moments before Trump’s tweet was posted.

Feb. 12, 202101:20

Van der Veen seemed to grow increasingly frustrated with senators’ questions, refusing to say whether Trump lost the presidential election — “my judgment is irrelevant” — and declaring the trial “about the most miserable experience I’ve had down here in Washington, D.C.”

His lawyers also argued that Trump could not have incited an assault on the Capitol because it had been preplanned by extremists. “You can’t incite what was already going to happen,” he said.

And they attempted to equate the influence that Democrats argued Trump has with right-wing extremist groups to the support by some Democrats for largely peaceful racial justice protesters over the summer.

Van der Veen also said that extremists “of various different persuasions” had “pre-planned the attack on the Capitol” and “hijacked the event for their own purposes,” including members of Antifa. Multiple news outlets, including NBC News, have said there is no evidence that any members of Antifa were involved in the riots. On the contrary, as Democratic House managers said during their arguments, rioters were overwhelmingly tied to right-wing extremist groups like the Proud Boys.

Echoing language that was once frequently used by his client, van der Veen blasted the Democrats’ impeachment case against Trump as an “unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance” and a divisive “politically motivated witch hunt.”

And he repeatedly argued Trump was merely encouraging supporters to make sure their lawmakers were faithfully conducting a proper certification of the Electoral College Vote count.

“Far from promoting insurrection,” Van der Veen said, “the president’s remarks…explicitly encouraged those in attendance (at the rally) to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically.”

Castor said Trump’s pugilistic rhetoric about members of Congress was merely about encouraging primary challenges to Republican lawmakers who he thought weren’t fighting hard enough.

“Nobody in this chamber is anxious to have a primary challenge. That is one truism I think I can say with some certainty. But that’s the way we operate in this country,” Castor said.

The defense played a dizzying and lengthy video montage of various Democrats using the word “fight,” arguing that no one had ever construed those words as literal encouragement to physically fight.

At the start of the lengthy montage, Democratic senators in the chamber were mostly stone faced. But that changed quickly, as more clips played, leading to murmurs, whispering, and some laughing.

Van der Veen said this was not an exercise in “whataboutism,” but rather, that he was making the case that “all political speech should be protected.”

The lawyers repeatedly said the impeachment fell short of the high legal standards expected in a criminal case, even though impeachment is a political process, not a legal one, and the Senate is not a court of law.

Feb. 12, 202106:06

The short allotment used by Trump’s legal team means the trial is likely headed to a quick conclusion.

And because neither side is expected to request witnesses, closing arguments — and a final vote on conviction — could happen before the weekend is over.

Both sides are eager to move on, with Democrats needing Senate floor time to advance their Covid-19 relief bill and Republicans eager to put the trial and the uncomfortable questions it raises behind them.

Trump’s defense came one day after Democratic House impeachment managers rested their case against Trump by focusing on the damage his supporters caused at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and warning that he could incite further violence if he is not convicted.

That marked the end of two days of methodical and at times emotionally wrenching arguments from Democrats that included the showing of graphic and devastating never-before-seen footage from inside the Capitol during the riot.

It would take 67 senators — including at least 17 Republicans — to convict Trump.

Already this week, 44 of the 50 Republicans in the Senate have voted to declare the entire proceedings unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president, making it unlikely that any evidence would persuade them.

However, the question-and-answer phase of the trial later Friday could indicate more clearly what some Republican senators are thinking.

Trump is the first president to have been impeached twice by the House, and he is the first former president to be put on trial in the Senate. He was impeached Jan. 13 on an article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot.

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Opinion | Peterborough letter: Women treated differently in local politics – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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Much has been written in the last few days and weeks about the tone of our local, provincial and federal politics in Peterborough and the surrounding Kawartha Area.

If you have missed it, recently Mayor Diane Therrien and MPP Dave Smith got into a war of words over housing. The mayor pointed out that Mr. Smith was missing from the housing conversation in Peterborough, which then spiralled into a war of words on twitter.

However, while Smith’s statements are misleading, and the mayor’s frustration with Smith’s response (seen in her response on twitter) obvious, I am instead writing to address a consistent issue related to the way we frame political discourse in this community.

Simply put — there is a double standard when it comes to tone policing in our local politics.

Smith has repeatedly targeted the mayor, MP Maryam Monsef, and even Dr. Rosana Salvaterra in local media and on Twitter. In relation to the recent incident, after the mayor made a legitimate criticism of Mr. Smith, many called her comments unacceptable, but viewed Smith’s response as a “defence.”

However, when the mayor or Monsef defend themselves publicly, or criticize colleagues on policy, they are called out in articles, letters to the editor and on social media.

Reading Facebook comments on any post that mentions politics shows a disgusting slew of ad hominem attacks directed at the mayor and the MP, filled with derogatory terms. When posts are made regarding Smith, these types of attacks are largely absent.

It is clear that sexism runs rampant in relation to political leadership in our community — and even the media is guilty of this same double-standard.

Should our discourse be less vitriolic and more related to policy across the board? Absolutely, 100 per cent. But when tempers flare, we must remember that it takes two to tango, and not tone-police in one direction.

We must be cognizant of how we treat women in power in our community, lest incredibly qualified leaders that happen to be women shy away from taking up the political gauntlet in the future.

Dane Bland, Community Advocate, Peterborough-Kawartha

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Opinion | Power, Politics and Sexual Misconduct – The New York Times

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Readers discuss their own experiences dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace and what the consequences should be for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To the Editor:

Re “As Scandals Sap His Political Strength, Cuomo Resists Calls to Resign” (news article, March 3):

Now 79 years old, I experienced my share of minor sexual harassment through the years. When I was young, I had to tolerate it or suffer significant consequences and more “teasing.” But now women do not have to tolerate crude jokes, butt pats, breast grabs, unwelcome kisses, sly sexual remarks. Only in the last few years have women’s complaints been taken seriously.

Women my age took a lot of crap. The sexual bullies won. Gentlemen: Women are now complaining and making it stick. The rules have changed. If your behavior was “playful,” realize it was probably no fun for the woman. It’s time to clean up your act. Now.

Mary Beal
Chicago

To the Editor:

I am certain many women, especially those involved with the #MeToo movement, will disagree with me, but since when did women become helpless victims? I worked for a number of elected officials, as well as other employers, when I was young.

On many occasions I experienced inappropriate gestures and comments that might in today’s world be considered inappropriate. I handled them. I would simply say “Please get your hand off me” or “I am sorry, but I find what you are saying offensive.” In all cases, the offender backed down.

If women want to be treated as equals we need to take some control over these situations, rather than just being passive. Speaking up will empower us. We should be teaching our daughters to speak up about these matters when they happen, rather than waiting and making public accusations.

Angela Reichek
Garden City, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct — including assault and rape — by at least 25 women. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of an unwanted kiss and sexually harassing comments.

Granted, any type of harassment is intolerable. But are these accusations equivalent? Might there not be degrees of such misconduct? Should they be treated differently? Will Mr. Cuomo lose his job, while the former president bragged about predatory behavior with impunity?

Edward LaFreniere
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I am a liberal Democrat and feminist. I have worked for a state legislature, for Congress, for many dozens of elected officials and candidates to elective office. I think the outpouring of condemnation against and demands for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo are ridiculous and scary.

His misguided flirtatious behavior warrants a sincere apology and promise to cease and desist; that’s all. No one is perfect. To demand that every utterance, every action of public figures, be perfect is absurd. Asking too personal questions is not equivalent to threatening a person’s livelihood. Placing a hand on a person’s back is not equivalent to groping someone’s private parts. Asking to plant a kiss is not equivalent to raping someone.

People, what’s called for here is a sense of perspective.

Carole Lieber Glickfeld
Seattle

To the Editor:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s disgusting behavior toward others is the result of his belief in the false privilege of rank held by so many politicians — that you are exempt from the rules of decent behavior and from punishment for your misbehavior. Thus, not only was it wrong for Mr. Cuomo to reportedly make the “strip poker” remark to another state employee, but wrong as well for him to believe that this did not warrant punishment.

His deeds are abuses of power and inappropriate conduct and are grounds for removal from office.

Stephen V. Gilmore
Charlotte, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign” (column, March 2):

Michelle Goldberg notes that “many Democrats are sick of holding themselves to a set of standards that Republicans feel no need to try to meet.” I completely understand this dynamic but greatly regret the result.

After all, morality that is contingent on your adversary’s expected behavior under similar circumstances is not morality at all. Rather, it is mere political gamesmanship. And that is a real shame.

Paul E. Greenberg
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

I don’t want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the middle of a pandemic. Too many lives depend on his leadership. Yet I also want him to become aware of what he said and did to these women and understand why his behavior shouldn’t continue. How about he stays in office while working on his behavior?

Mr. Cuomo should hire the best sexual harassment prevention trainer and work with that person one-on-one or in a group setting. He should go through a journey of awareness publicly, but remain in office, leading in a crisis, to keep us from letting another talented leader fade into obscurity.

Carrie Wasser
Gardiner, N.Y.

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Jamie Nye: Athletes and politics do mix, and that's OK – CKOM News Talk Sports

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If Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to collect his millions in soccer and keep quiet about political issues, he can go right ahead.

But then he should take his own advice and shut up and play.

Instead, the Swedish soccer star has taken it upon himself to criticize big-name athletes who are using their platforms to try and improve communities, lobby politicians and become leaders outside their realm of sport.

LeBron James is Ibrahimovic’s main target. Ibrahimovic believes athletes should be athletes and let the politicians be the politicians.

That’s all well and good but a caller to the Green Zone nailed it when he called the soccer player’s comments trash.

The caller simply stated that maybe more athletes would stick to athletics if the politicians were any good at being politicians.

I really couldn’t have said it any better than that.

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