First Republican question in Trump trial hits Democrats' support for rioters' bail fund

The first question from Republican senators at the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was a barb aimed at the Biden campaign for bailing alleged rioters out of jail last summer. 

“Does a politician raising bail for rioters encourage more rioting?” asked Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and three other Senate Republicans.

“Yes,” replied Trump defense lawyer Michael van der Veen.

Last summer, Biden campaign staffers donated to a fund that was used to help alleged rioters in Minnesota get out of jail. They were charged in relation to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. 

Vice President Kamala D. Harris also had tweeted in support of the fund last year, when she was the junior senator from California.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two likely votes against Mr. Trump, wanted to know when the former president learned of the breach of the U.S. Capitol and what actions he took to stop the violence.

Mr. van de Veen replied that the House managers failed to do a thorough investigation laying out a definite time-frame of events, but the defense team noted authorities were debating how many law enforcement would be needed for the rally on Jan. 6 for at least a week before the historical day.

“That is the problem with this entire proceeding — the House managers did zero investigation and the American people deserve a lot better than coming in here with no evidence, hearsay on top of hearsay,” Mr. van de Veen said. “Due process is required here and that was denied.”

The question came after House managers referenced news reports during their arguments earlier this week that Mr. Trump knew about the breach of the Capitol, but instead of sending help to stop the violence, tried to speak by phone with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Republican, about objecting to the election results.

House managers were posed the same question by Democratic senators, and answered that Mr. Trump did nothing to stop the violence.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett, Virgin Islands Democrat, said the violence was on national television, so the former president knew law enforcement was “in the fight for their lives.”

“We know he did not send any individuals,” she said. “We did not hear him tell those individuals, ‘stop this is wrong, you must go back.’”

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