When asked during the Q&A portion of Friday’s impeachment proceedings whether he agrees with Democratic prosecutors that Donald Trump was perpetrating a falsehood when he repeatedly claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him, the former president’s defense attorney Michael van der Veen demanded to know who submitted the question.
“I did,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said from the Senate gallery, prompting a tense back-and-forth between the Vermont senator and van der Veen which forced Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the presiding officer, to intervene.
Trump’s attorney proceeded to dodge Sanders’ question by claiming his judgement on the election results is “irrelevant” to the trial—to which Sanders responded, “No it’s not.”
Watch the exchange:
Following Friday’s session, the fourth day of the former president’s impeachment trial, Sanders denounced the Trump lawyer’s “pathetic” refusal to admit the former president’s election loss—denial that was at the heart of the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Building last month.
“This is what the Big Lie is all about,” Sanders tweeted Friday night. “Three months after the election, and 61 court decisions later, Trump and his attorneys still refuse to acknowledge that he lost the election.”
As Slate‘s Jeremy Stahl wrote late Friday, “Trump’s big lie—a claim that he had won the election in a landslide, and the Republic was going to be stolen from his followers unless they acted—is directly relevant to whether or not he incited the attack on the Capitol.”
“Trump’s attorneys insisted on focusing on the question of whether the text of his remarks the day of the attack—to the mob he had recruited and invited—can be proven to have incited them,” Stahl added. “They refused to answer for the months of lies and exhortations to supporters to ‘stop the steal’ that culminated in the violent invasion of the Capitol. Trump refused to show up to testify in his own defense of those months of repeating the big lie. And Republican senators remain on course to ensure that Trump is exonerated for the violence he caused.”