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Impeachment Trial: From Democrats' Dramatic Video To Trump's Lawyers Fighting Back

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Joining us now, NPR senior political correspondent Domenico Montanaro. He's been tracking the trial and how it is playing among Americans.

Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: So it is a totally different world - I don't need to tell you - from the last impeachment trial a year ago. How closely are people across the country watching?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, impeachment is probably not the top issue for most Americans, frankly, dealing with the effects of coronavirus and whether they'll be getting back to work, out of their homes and their kids back to school. Recent surveys have shown, though, that majorities are in favor of convicting former President Trump. Frankly, though, I have to tell you those numbers are pretty similar to the way people viewed this president throughout his presidency - hotly polarizing, Democrats strongly in favor of conviction, independents narrowly on Democrats' side as well. Republicans, though, have not shifted in their abiding support for this former president.

KELLY: Let me circle back to that video that we mentioned and heard just a tiny bit of, the video that opened the trial. House impeachment managers had put it together to try to capture the events of January 6. I got goosebumps and chills watching it. Just describe a little bit more for us what it showed.

MONTANARO: Yeah, it's tough to watch. I mean, we lived through a lot of this. You know, you guys played a lot of the highlights there of the 13-minute video. They made an emotional case with the footage, you know, bringing back the violence to the very place and the very people who were attacked that day, really trying to get them to recenter their focus and not feel like this is something that's moved - we should move on from but something that they should remember and feel what that was like.

Some of this footage was shot by the rioters themselves. A lot of it was new to us. And it closed with this point. You know, it had the president's tweet from that day hours after the mob stormed the Capitol that said, these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots, and, remember this day forever.

KELLY: And how does this fit into the Democrats' strategy here? What are the impeachment managers trying to show with this video?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, they're trying to show that Trump is singularly responsible for inciting the mob, that they wouldn't have been there that day if it hadn't been for all the rhetoric that the president had been making for a couple of months. You know, lead impeachment manager from Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin fought back tears while drawing on his own experience that day while closing out his side's argument. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMIE RASKIN: Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.

MONTANARO: So that emotion, though, wasn't all of it. You know, Democrats laid out a detailed case piece by piece for why the Senate has jurisdiction to take up the trial in the first place, which is what today was supposed to be all about.

KELLY: And tell us a little bit more about what we have heard so far from Trump's lawyers.

MONTANARO: Well, Trump's team, you know, gave a bit of an uneven performance, frankly. They were supposed to be making this narrow constitutional argument, which they laid out in this 75-page, 78-page document yesterday. But they didn't really get into that much. They praised, actually, what the Democrats did. We heard a little bit of the emotion from David Schoen, one of the lawyers, saying that this was nothing but a partisan impeachment trying to disenfranchise 74 million people who Democrats feel need to be deprogrammed.

KELLY: OK. That is NPR senior political correspondent Domenico Montanaro talking about Day 1.

Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.