A day after his widely panned opening in Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, defense lawyer Bruce L. Castor Jr. denied reports that the former president was unhappy with his performance and said he purposefully delivered a meandering, 50-minute presentation as a distraction.
“The media is paying far more attention to what I had to say, and consequently spent less time on arguments advanced by [lead Democratic House impeachment manager Jamie] Raskin and his team,” the former Montgomery County district attorney told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “That was by design.”
Castor offered that rationalization of his rocky start — which drew criticism from GOP pundits and senators and reportedly had Trump near screaming at his TV — just moments before returning to the Senate chamber for a second day of proceedings.
He paused to talk to reporters on his way in, saying that if Trump was unhappy with his presentation, no one had communicated that to him.
For the rest of the day, he sat in uncharacteristic silence as the nine Democratic House impeachment managers — including Castor’s own congresswoman, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.) — began laying out their case for conviction.
Dean, one of the lawmakers prosecuting Trump for the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack, choked up as she recounted her own experience fleeing from rioters outside the House gallery that day. Several senators stopped taking notes as they watched in silence.
“There was a terrifying banging on the chamber doors,” she said. “I will never forget that sound. Shouts and panicked calls to my husband and my sons. Instructions to flee. … The chamber of the United States House of Representatives turned to chaos.”
Though Castor and Dean grew up just miles from each other in Montgomery County and have both spent their careers to law and politics in the region, they didn’t cross paths until the Senate trial this week.
Wearing a gold brooch her father gave her mother to mark President John F. Kennedy’s election, Dean addressed senators as both a representative from one of the key states whose votes Trump attacked with false fraud claims, and as someone who was trapped in the House chamber as rioters reached the doors.
Her presentation was aimed at convincing them the incitement charge centers not just on Trump’s rally speech hours before the attack, but also on the months-long campaign he waged to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and his efforts to pressure officials in swing states to overturn the votes.
In Pennsylvania, Dean recounted, Trump and his allies filed lawsuit after lawsuit, spread baseless claims at legislative hearings, and lobbied friendly state lawmakers to stop the certification of the vote.
She balked while recounting Trump calling in to a November Republican hearing in Gettysburg and repeating, through a cell phone his lawyer held up to a microphone, his baseless lies that the vote had been stolen.
“Senators, we must not become numb to this,” she said. “Trump did this across state after state, so often, so loudly, so publicly.”
She later walked senators through Trump’s words during his Jan. 6 rally in Washington that preceded the storming of the Capitol. While Trump’s lawyers had highlighted a snippet of that speech where the former president called for “peaceful protests,” it was the only time he used that word in his nearly 11,000-word remarks. He used “fight” or “fighting” 20 times, Dean noted.
“This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump,” she said. “They came draped in Trump’s flag and used our flag to batter and bludgeon. … For the first time in more than 200 years, the seat of our government was ransacked on our watch.”
Raskin hugged her as she concluded her speech. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) gave her an elbow bump. Castor responded with the verbal equivalent of a shrug.
“I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know,” he told reporters during a break.
Trump’s defense team, including Atlanta lawyer David Schoen and Philadelphia attorneys Michael T. van der Veen and William J. Brennan, aren’t expected to address the Senate again until later this week.
And despite speculation among some GOP pundits — including Trump adviser and Fox News host Sean Hannity — that Castor’s ongoing role in the case was in doubt, he told the network Wednesday the defense team has no intention of changing their strategy.
In fact, Castor maintained, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows came to the Capitol Tuesday to personally tell him that, despite negative news coverage, “everything [was] going fine.”
Castor remained confident that no matter how poorly his performance was reviewed, Trump would eventually be acquitted. He’s probably right about that: Democrats need 17 Republicans to vote to convict, and only a handful have suggested they’re open to doing so.
“If winning the case has a consequence that I have to take a few torpedoes in order to focus attention on us and away from what the House impeachment managers are doing,” he said, “then that is part of the danger in being a trial lawyer, when prevailing is of greater importance than personal grandiosement.”
His cocounsel, Schoen, was more circumspect. When asked by reporters outside the Senate chamber about Castor’s future with the team and whether Schoen might end up taking a greater role in the defense going forward, he said only:
“Mr. Trump always gives great advice.”
Staff writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.