The newest members of Donald J. Trump’s legal team took center stage in his impeachment trial on Friday and delivered exactly what he always seems to want from his lawyers: not precise, learned legal arguments but public combat, in this case including twisted facts, rewritten history and attacks on opponents.
After initially stumbling in its first round of arguments on Tuesday, the latest team — either the seventh or eighth to defend Mr. Trump since he became president, depending on your math — followed the playbook Mr. Trump has long wanted his lawyers to adhere to.
They channeled his grievances and aggressively spun, making what-about arguments that tried to cast his own behavior as not so bad when compared with the other side. Democrats found their performance infuriatingly misleading, but it potentially provided a vast majority of Republicans in the Senate opposed to convicting Mr. Trump with talking points they can use to justify their votes.
“Hypocrisy,” one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Michael T. van der Veen, said after they played a several-minutes-long clip of prominent Democrats and media commentators using language like “fight” in an effort to show that Mr. Trump’s own words before the Jan. 6 riot could have had no role in inciting the violence.
“The reality is, Mr. Trump was not in any way, shape or form instructing these people to fight or to use physical violence,” Mr. van der Veen said. “What he was instructing them to do was to challenge their opponents in primary elections to push for sweeping election reforms, to hold big tech responsible.”
By the end of the day Friday, Mr. van der Veen, a personal injury lawyer from Philadelphia, had emerged as Mr. Trump’s primary defender, handling questions from senators, making a series of false and outlandish claims, calling the impeachment a version of “constitutional cancel culture” and declaring that Friday’s proceedings had been his “most miserable” experience in Washington.
Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead House impeachment manager, responded, “I guess we’re sorry, but man, you should have been here on Jan. 6.”