(Business Insider) – Former President Donald Trump’s defense lawyer got into a heated argument with Sen. Bernie Sanders after the Vermont lawmaker asked if he believed Trump lied about having won the 2020 US election.
The question came during the fourth day of Trump’s impeachment trial over the deadly Capitol siege. After oral arguments from the nine House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys, US senators, who are acting as jurors, were given four hours to ask each side questions.
Here’s the question Sanders submitted: “The House prosecutors have stated over and over again that President Trump was perpetrating a big lie when he repeatedly claimed the election was stolen from him, and that he actually won the election by a landslide. Are the prosecutors right when they claim that Trump was telling a big lie, or in your judgment, did Trump actually win the election?”
House managers were first up and said Trump repeatedly spread conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the integrity of the election as well as its final results and that he tried to strong-arm election officials and the legislative branch into doing his bidding when his legal efforts to nullify the results fell flat.
When Trump’s counsel Michael van der Veen was up, he asked why the question was even being asked.”My judgment? Who asked that?” he said.
Sanders replied: “I did.”
“My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding,” van der Veen said. At that point, according to Capitol Hill pool reports, Sanders said, “No, it isn’t.” He added, “You represent the president of the United States.” “It absolutely is,” van der Veen replied. “What’s supposed to happen here is the article of impeachment is supposed to be – “
Then Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate who is presiding over the trial, interjected and called for the Senate to come to order. Van der Veen subsequently asked to have the question read again, at which point he looked directly at Sanders, and Sanders stared back “disdainfully,” pool reports said.
“In my judgment, it’s irrelevant to the question before this body,” van der Veen said. “What’s relevant in this impeachment article is: Were Mr. Trump’s words inciteful to the point of violence and riot? That’s the charge, that’s the question. And the answer is: No. He did not have speech that was inciteful to violence or riot.”
He went on to accuse the House managers of having “completely, from the beginning of this case to right now, done everything except answer that question: the question they brought before you, the question they want my client to be punished by. That’s the question that should be getting asked. And the answer is, he advocated for peaceful, patriotic protest. They’re his words.”
Van der Veen added: “The House managers have showed zero, zero evidence that his words did anything else. Remember, all of the evidence is – this was premeditated. The attack on the Capitol was preplanned. It didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Trump in any way, what he said on that day on January 6 at that ellipse. And that’s the issue before this Senate. Now on the issue of contesting elections and the results, the Democrats have a long history of just doing that. I hope everybody was able to see the video earlier today. Over and over again, it’s been contested. When Mr. Trump was elected president – “
Van der Veen was cut off before he could continue because his time to answer had expired by that point.