In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Michael van der Veen, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, speaks at the second impeachment trial on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. congress.gov/Getty

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Donald Trump’s legal team told senators Friday that it had no idea when on January 6 their client learned of the attack on the Capitol or what Trump did to protect those in Congress who were being assaulted. Moreover, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen blamed his crew’s ignorance on the House impeachment managers, saying they should have uncovered what Trump knew and what he did during their own investigation. He omitted the fact that the House managers had asked Trump to testify but Trump declined that invitation. His remark also suggested that Trump’s own lawyers had not done the basic work of constructing a chronology of their client’s actions on the day in question. 

But on a related question, van der Veen took a much different approach. After Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) asked whether Trump knew that Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated when he sent a tweet at 2:24 pm assailing his veep, van der Veen replied that he did know what Trump knew about this. “At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger,” van der Veen said.

Trump’s lawyer did not explain how he was aware of this part of the story but not the more basic points. Moreover, his statement was disputed by the known timeline of events, which includes the statement of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala), who has said that he told Trump shortly after 2:00 pm that Pence had been evacuated. 


Van der Veen went on to make a statement in defense of Trump that was actually damning. “What the president did know is that there was a violent riot happening at the Capitol,” he said. “That’s why he repeatedly called via tweet and via video for the riots to stop.” That is, Trump realized a violent insurrection was occurring, and he did nothing but tweet and share a video. He took no other steps, such as arranging for military and law enforcement support. That’s not much of a case for van der Veen’s client. 

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