GOP senators criticize Trump legal defense as ‘unfocused’ and ‘weaker’

A number of Republican senators criticized Trump’s legal team Tuesday for lacking focus and making “weaker” arguments than the House impeachment managers on the first day of former President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“Anyone who listened to those arguments would recognize that the House managers were focused, relied upon and trusted upon the opinion of legal scholars,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) after joining with five other Republican senators in voting that the trial was constitutional and should proceed.

“Anyone who listened to President Trump’s legal team saw they were unfocused, they attempted to avoid the issue. And they talked about everything but the issue at hand,” he added.

Cassidy’s vote on Tuesday was a surprise after he voted last month in favor of a motion by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declaring the trial unconstitutional.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), another Republican who voted with Democrats to move ahead with the trial, called Trump’s legal case “weaker.”

“I think they had a weaker case to start with, and I don’t think it was very persuasive,” he said. 

Toomey, by contrast, praised Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) and the other House impeachment managers.

The House impeachment managers made very strong arguments; it was persuasive and well-grounded in the constitution and precedent,” he said. 

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a key Republican swing vote, said she was perplexed by Castor’s folksy presentation in which he called out a few senators, including Toomey and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), by name. 

“I was perplexed by the first attorney, who did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take,” she said, adding that it was “inappropriate” to mention Sasse and Toomey by name.