Day 5: The defense launches its case, but who’s the audience?

Lesley Becker

A sure sign of the historic nature of the nation’s third presidential impeachment trial: Senators went to work on a Saturday. The House’s impeachment managers had the floor for the last three days, arguing that the president should be removed for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Now, in the fifth day of the trial, the president’s team of defense lawyers get their turn in a weekend session. Trump earlier complained about the timing, noting that Saturday is a bad day for TV viewership. Yes, that’s right: Even as he faces removal from office, the president is worried about his TV ratings. But fear not: the defense can continue its presentation on Monday and Tuesday, when more Americans can tune in.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Serious question: Who, if anyone, are the president‘s defense lawyers seeking to convince in the arguments they began making on Saturday? And of what are they seeking to convince them? In a traditional trial they‘d want to plant reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors. But the impeachment trial is different. The House Democrats who presented the case for removal had at least one eye on the court of public opinion, too. The president‘s team is barely trying to engage with the House’s legal arguments, perhaps because they‘re confident of acquittal, but their case is so loopy and conspiratorial that it’s hard to imagine it swaying the public, either. — ALAN WIRZBICKI