The last-minute letter former President Donald Trump’s attorney sent to top lawmakers informing them he would no longer seek a suspension of the trial if it continued through the Sabbath was prompted by Trump’s own desire to complete the trial without delay.
Hours before the former president’s second impeachment trial was slated to begin, his attorney David Schoen wrote that he would no longer seek a suspension of the trial if it continued through the Sabbath. He explained that would not participate those days and instead other members of the legal team would handle.
Schoen wrote that he was withdrawing his request because he was “concerned about the delay in the proceedings in a process that I recognize is important to bring to a conclusion for all involved and for the country.”
That goes for his client, too.
Two people familiar with what happened told CNN that Trump — holed up in Florida and ready to move onto a more relaxed and potentially lucrative phase of his post presidency — did not want the trial to be delayed any further and believed if they paused it for the Sabbath it would extend the matter by several days.
The Senate was initially going to recess, but now the trial will not break for the Sabbath and is expected to continue Friday evening and Saturday. The Senate has also scheduled a session for Sunday afternoon, if the trial is still going.
Trump shares his distaste for a lengthy trial with practically everyone involved in the proceedings. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, see acquittal as the assured outcome and don’t want the trial to further impede the new President’s agenda. Republicans are similarly not eager for a drawn out recitation of Trump’s role in last month’s insurrection attempt.
Trump himself, who has revolved through multiple legal teams as he prepares for the trial, is more concerned about the effect the trial may have on his public image, according to one person who has discussed the matter with him, rather than the potential outcome. Since leaving office, Trump has had multiple conversations with business partners overseas about future projects.
The former president has kept a low profile since making a dramatic exit from Washington in the hours before Biden was sworn in and has been eager for his trial to end so he can start his post-presidency life, which people close to him have said is likely to include paid speeches overseas and domestic rallies targeting those who crossed him politically. Trump, who is expected to stay in Florida during the trial, has repeatedly told people he believes he will be acquitted for a second time and is ready to move on.
He has alternated between evenings at Mar-a-Lago and his nearby golf club, where one recent evening he was taped handing out cash to onlookers.
His defense team was assembled a little more than a week ago after the five attorneys initially brought on to represent him all left days before legal briefs were due, which one person described as a mutual decision while another said it was over a difference in strategy. Now, Trump is relying on Schoen and Bruce Castor to help him secure acquittal for a second time.
The two attorneys arrived in Washington with their staffs Monday to conduct a walkthrough on the Senate floor where they will make their client’s case. The walkthrough was almost identical to the one that happened a year ago, although instead of working out of the vice president’s Senate office, Trump’s team will set up shop in a sizable room next door to it for this trial.
While their defense is expected to focus on the argument that he cannot be tried out of office, Trump has also told people he wants his claims about voter fraud, which are not backed up by evidence, to be included.
Like he did during his first impeachment, Trump is expected to watch his attorneys on television from his private quarters at Mar-a-Lago. Trump watched nearly every minute of the first trial, becoming so consumed with his team’s performance that aides later used the impeachment proceedings as an excuse for why he was distracted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
One prop his attorneys are likely to include are videos from Democrat lawmakers to argue that Trump’s rhetoric ahead of the January 6 riot cannot be considered incitement. Sources familiar with the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive details, said Trump’s defense team plans to play videos of Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Ayanna Pressley, among others.
The former president has not been as closely involved with the defense as he was the last time around. He was been more “checked out” than expected because he’s confident he will be acquitted, one person told CNN.
Instead, Trump has been more preoccupied with the role he will play in the Republican Party going forward. He was irritated after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, backed Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, as Trump loyalists tried to oust her from her leadership role during a remarkable intraparty feud.
After McCarthy said Trump bore some responsibility for the riot on the US Capitol last month, he traveled to Trump’s private club to meet with him in south Florida. While there, McCarthy sought access to Trump’s donor list, an effort one person took as a sign McCarthy realizes Trump’s influence in the GOP is here to stay.