Yeah, it was, uh, it was something special. When Newsmax lined up a Trump-friendly expert like Dersh for commentary on the trial, they were obviously expecting glowing praise for Team MAGA. That’s not what they got because Trump lawyer Bruce Castor didn’t allow for an alternative. Instead of honing in on the question of whether it’s constitutional to try a public official who’s been impeached after he leaves office, Castor just sort of … talked. Dersh was boxed in and had to tell the truth: It sucked.
'There is no argument – I have no idea what he is doing,' @AlanDersh on Trump's defense lawyer Bruce Castor 'talking nice' to U.S. Senators – via Newsmax TV's 'American Agenda.' https://t.co/VlT7z8drtO pic.twitter.com/7P7uVk5X19
— Newsmax (@newsmax) February 9, 2021
Here’s a sample, which reportedly left Ben Sasse and other colleagues “befuddled.” What the hell is he talking about here?
Trump attorney on juror Ben Sasse: "There seem to be some pretty smart jurists in Nebraska, and I can't believe the United States senator doesn't know that. A senator like the gentleman from Nebraska..faces a whirlwind even though he knows what the judiciary in his state thinks" pic.twitter.com/Ay6YHwg3FH
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 9, 2021
Castor also acknowledged at one point that “the object of the Constitution has been achieved” because Trump has been “removed by the voters” (and therefore it’s unnecessary to try him), which is very far afield from the ex-president reportedly wanting to use his defense to argue that the election had been stolen from him. In fact, per the Daily Beast:
In the past few days, Trump has made clear to advisers that he absolutely doesn’t want his lawyers saying that Biden beat him fair and square, even if they don’t make the legitimacy of the election their main line of reasoning at the trial, according to a person familiar with the matter. The former president strongly feels, this source said, that doing so would amount to Trump admitting defeat.
Castor himself referred to Trump today as the “former president,” another concession that Trump’s aides have been reluctant to make lately. Between that and his bizarre performance, who knows if he’ll still be on the team by the time the trial ends.
Here’s something I’ve not only never seen before, I’ve never heard of it happening — a lawyer admitting in open “court” that his team changed its presentation on the fly because opposing counsel’s presentation was more compelling than they had expected. “Their case was so strong we had to call an audible” feels like a bad development on day one:
“I’ll be quite frank with you, we changed what we were going to do on account that we thought the House managers’ presentation was well done” — Bruce Castor pic.twitter.com/aAbkxdCZhk
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 9, 2021
A last-second change in strategy would explain why Castor seemed to talk aimlessly so often, as maybe he was simply unprepared to make the “argument” he ended up making. But it’s hard to understand why there was a change in strategy to begin with:
FWIW: A Trump adviser tells me Castor is intentionally trying to reduce the emotion in the room after the House managers' case. Calls it a "deliberative strategy."
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 9, 2021
David Schoen spoke after him and made a more discernible constitutional argument but they could have started off with that and used the legal niceties of their case to reduce the emotion in the room. Here’s the really baffling part: What did they expect the House Dems were going to do with their opening presentation if not exactly what they ended up doing? There have been reports for days that the prosecution’s case would rely heavily on graphic, emotional video of the attack, which is exactly what we got. There were no surprises. So what had Castor initially prepared to say that he had to abandon at the last moment when Democrats ended up following the playbook everyone had assumed from them?
He seemed to be caught in that nightmare we’ve all had in which you find yourself in front of a crowd to deliver remarks and simply have nothing to say. Tim Miller took pity on him, though, asking: What was Castor supposed to say? Apart from the jurisdictional argument made by Schoen, there’s no case to be made. You can’t ask a lawyer to defend the indefensible and then blame him for sounding like a goon. (Well, you can’t blame him too much.)
By the way, Matt Gaetz noticed Dersh’s criticism of Castor and highlighted it to his followers. Is it time to bring Gaetzy in from the bullpen? He’s willing to do it! And some Trump cronies like the idea. Stay tuned.