The architect of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial has blamed “explosive and deranged” tactics by the former president’s lawyers for obscuring the strength of the case presented by House Democrats.
But the lead impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, said the Democrats’ case appeared nevertheless to convince even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Trump’s guilt in inciting the Capitol riot.
Two days after Trump escaped conviction, and as his supporters reveled in the prospect of his return to frontline politics, Raskin also told the Washington Post it was both “good and terrible to watch” McConnell’s post-verdict speech in which he excoriated Trump – but said he had voted to acquit because the trial was unconstitutional.
It was telling, Raskin said, that many of the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit “felt the need to hang their hats” on that argument, which was rejected by constitutional scholars and twice by the Senate itself.
Not even Trump’s lawyers attempted to defend what Democrats characterized as Trump’s “big lie”: that he won an election he actually lost by more than 7m popular votes and 74 electoral votes.
They couldn’t get a summer internship with My Cousin Vinny
Nor did Trump’s legal team, led by a personal injury lawyer and a former county prosecutor who declined to pursue charges against Bill Cosby, succeed in freeing Trump from blame for the attack on the Capitol, judging by Republican senators’ speeches.
Instead, Trump’s lawyers denied a copious and unambiguous record of what the former president said and did, while drawing false parallels between routine political speech and Trump’s coup attempt.
Video: Democrats remain confident in votes to convict Trump (NBC News)
In the final vote of the impeachment trial, seven Republicans voted with Democrats to convict Trump – a 53-vote tally 10 short of the total required.
In an indication of how the Republican party has diverged from the popular will, almost six in 10 Americans – 58% – believe Trump should have been convicted, according to a new ABC News-Ipsos poll.
Raskin and his fellow House managers were widely praised for their work. Their case featured extensive use of video of events at the Capitol on 6 January, when supporters told by Trump to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat broke in, some hunting lawmakers to kidnap or kill. Five people died as a direct result of the riot.
Raskin took on the lead role despite his son having killed himself in December. He told the Post he “told managers we were going to make a lawyerly case but would not censor the emotion”.
There has been criticism among Democrats, after the managers persuaded the Senate to vote to call witnesses but then agreed to avoid that step, which could have lengthened the trial. On Sunday, Raskin said witnesses would not have changed any minds.
“These Republicans voted to acquit in the face of this mountain of un-refuted evidence,” he told NBC. “There’s no reasoning with people who basically are acting like members of a religious cult.”
The Virgin Islands delegate Stacey Plaskett, also widely praised for her role in the trial, told CNN: “We didn’t need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines.”
More evidence of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing may yet be unearthed. Members of Congress from both parties have called for a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate why government officials and law enforcement failed to stop the attack on the Capitol.
Trump lawyers Michael van der Veen, Bruce Castor and David Schoen celebrated their client’s acquittal but faced widespread ridicule for a case built on flimsy arguments about freedom of speech and scattershot whataboutism concerning Democratic attitudes to protests against racism and police brutality.
“They couldn’t get a summer internship with My Cousin Vinny,” Raskin told the Post, perhaps a deliberate reference to a bizarre and famously sweaty press conference given in November by another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, amid the former president’s failed attempts to prove mass fraud in his election defeat by Joe Biden.
My Cousin Vinny is an Oscar-winning 1992 comedy about a hapless lawyer played by Joe Pesci. Giuliani said it was his “one of my favorite law movies, because he comes from Brooklyn”.
Trump, who comes from Queens, refused to testify in his own defence. Raskin called him “a profile in absolute cowardice” and said: “He betrayed the constitution, the country and his people.
“Trump’s followers need to understand he has no loyalty to them … Donald Trump is the past. We need to deal with the future.”