‘The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on.’ Trump defense lawyer leaves some senators scratching their heads.

After two hours of blistering opening statements from House Democrats prosecuting the impeachment case against former President Donald J. Trump, his defense lawyer, Bruce L. Castor Jr., opened with a slip, calling himself the “lead prosecutor.”

It didn’t get much smoother from there.

Mr. Castor, who is most famous for refusing to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault when he was the district attorney in Montgomery County, Pa., started a meandering defense of Mr. Trump in which he rarely referenced the former president or his behavior on Jan. 6, when his supporters stormed the Capitol.

At times, Mr. Castor appeared to be arguing for Mr. Trump’s free speech rights and against a partisan cycle of impeachments. As he spoke, senators in the chamber sometimes appeared confused or uninterested.

The Trump Impeachment ›

What You Need to Know

    • A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
    • The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
    • To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
    • A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. On the eve of the trial’s start, only 28 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
    • If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
    • If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.

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