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WATCH: Did Trump’s Lawyer Purloin Senate Coasters After Verdict?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

As the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump came to an end, with a 57-43 vote failing the two-thirds majority required to convict, the former president's defense attorney appeared to "pocket" Senate coasters, which are not souvenirs. "When it was over, there were no handshakes or any apparent interaction between the two panels of lawyers," The Washington Post reported. "Van der Veen did return to the lectern, where he appeared to pocket Senate coasters."

That would be Michael van der Veen, who "is best known for his law firm's ubiquitous ads on local news radio station KYW-AM, which are reminiscent of East Coast electronics chain Crazy Eddie's high-octane TV pitches from the 1980s," an earlier Washington Post article revealed.

Van der Veen won few fans on the left after his outbursts and lies during the impeachment trial.

He was quickly mocked on social media.









Trump Lawyer: ’There Was No Insurrection’ So He’s Innocent

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Donald Trump's lead impeachment defense attorney on Friday said Trump cannot be guilty of inciting an insurrection because the insurrection on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol wasn't an insurrection.

"They continue to say insurrection, clearly there was no insurrection," Bruce Castor said of how the Democratic impeachment managers described the January 6 attack. "Insurrection is a term of art, it's defined in the law, it involves taking over a country, a shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some plan on what you're going to do when you finally take power. Clearly this is not that."

Castor's comment is false.

What happened at the Capitol on January 6 was the textbook definition of an insurrection.

According to Merriam-Webster, an insurrection is "an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government."

That's exactly what happened on January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol to stop the peaceful transition of power by blocking President Joe Biden's electoral victory from being certified.

Trump had been pushing for members of Congress, as well as Mike Pence, to vote to stop Biden's Electoral College victory from being certified — a last-ditch attempt to steal the election, after his legal challenges and ham-handed attempts to get Republican legislatures to simply overturn the results had already failed.

Even if you accept Castor's definition of insurrection, that is still what occurred on January 6.

The insurrectionists did have the goal of overthrowing the rightfully elected Biden administration to keep Trump in power.

Indictments from the Justice Department against the insurrectionists call the attack an insurrection.

"The crimes charged in the indictment involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States Government," reads an indictment of Jacob Chansley, the man photographed in fur and horns at the Capitol.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Defense Falsely Blames ‘Antifa’ For Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

One of Donald Trump's attorneys on Friday falsely blamed antifa for the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, one of the numerous lies and distortions that made up the first minutes of Trump's defense.

"According to publicly available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol," Michael T. van der Veen, one of Trump's lawyers, said. "One of the first people arrested was the leader of antifa. Sadly, he was also among the first to be released."

It's unclear who van der Veen was referencing.

However, reporters think it may be John Sullivan, a man who was in the Capitol during the insurrection and incorrectly identified as member of "antifa" and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fact-checkers have asserted that antifa was not behind the insurrection at the Capitol.

Right-wing media and some GOP lawmakers tried to push this baseless lie in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

However, it's become increasingly clear with each arrest made following the Jan. 6 events that the insurrectionists were Trump supporters, many of whom said they engaged in the insurrection at Trump's request.

That was a point driven home by the Democratic impeachment managers during Trump's impeachment trial.

"They were doing what he wanted them to do," Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), one of the impeachment managers, said on Wednesday of the insurrectionists, showing a video of some of the arrested rioters saying they were just following Trump's orders.

Why Trump Finds No Refuge In The First Amendment

When the mob of Donald Trump fanatics invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, one of them carved a vivid message into a door: "Murder the media." So, it is only fitting that the former president's lawyers are defending him in his Senate impeachment trial by claiming the protection of ... the First Amendment. You know, the one that protects the media.

That provision bars the government from "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The framers placed a high value on ensuring that newspapers and pamphleteers could operate without getting permission from the government or anyone else.

But MAGA nation is openly hostile to any journalists who don't champion its cause. At the Capitol, participants harassed, threatened and assaulted reporters. One group of people screamed, "CNN sucks!" as they smashed an Associated Press crew's cameras and other equipment.

The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, urged anyone with information about these episodes to report it. "We are resolutely committed to upholding the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, including speech, peaceful assembly and press, and we will investigate, prosecute and hold accountable anyone who attempts to obstruct or curtail these freedoms through violence or intimidation," he said.

Violence against journalists is the predictable result of Trump's venomous attacks against anyone daring to broadcast or publish any information casting him in a bad light. He has frequently labeled the press "the enemy of the people."

He persisted in his incendiary rhetoric, even after it proved literally incendiary: In 2018, a Trump-worshipping nut case mailed pipe bombs to CNN's New York office and several prominent Democrats. The bomb maker got a 20-year sentence.

Trump and his cult take the view that the First Amendment should protect their right to say and tweet anything they want — but not the right of news organizations to dispense information refuting their claims.

He even thinks social media firms, notably Twitter and Facebook, should be required to spread his fabrications — more evidence that he has no clue about the First Amendment. It was meant as a check on government, not on private companies, which are free to take a pass on dishonest propaganda.

Trump has long dreamed of using the legal system to bankrupt news organizations. "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money," he vowed. So, what's stopping him? Oh, right — the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled that it sets a high bar for defamation suits by public figures.

Commentators can't be held liable even for erroneous accusations unless they deliberately lied or showed a "reckless disregard" for the truth. Accurate claims — what Trump has the most reason to fear — are fully protected. If a news organization had indeed published articles about him that were purposely false, it would be at high risk of ruinous judgments. Trump has filed or threatened to file a host of libel suits — but has never won one.

As it happens, you don't necessarily need to change the libel laws to punish vicious smears. The election technology company Smartmatic has filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, three of its anchors, and Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for an alleged "conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic." The Trumpist network Newsmax reacted to the threat with an on-air admission that various claims about Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems were false.

Trump's Senate lawyers advanced the novel argument that his statements inflaming those attending the January 6 rally near the White House are protected by the First Amendment. It is one of the constitutional provisions, they say, that "specifically and intentionally protect unpopular speech from government retaliation." But the Supreme Court has long held that the government may punish speech that "is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." A group of 144 legal scholars and lawyers, some of them conservatives, said the argument was "legally frivolous."

Trump and his followers have a tortured relationship with the Constitution. They want it to shield them when they lie and punish critics when they tell the truth. So far, they have been unable to twist the First Amendment to serve their nefarious purposes. That failure is the ultimate vindication of its value.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.