Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Michael van der Veen walks to the Senate floor through the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trial on Capitol Hill on Feb 12, 2021, in Washington. (The Washington Post via AP) Michael van der Veen walks to the Senate floor through the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trial on Capitol Hill on Feb 12, 2021, in Washington. (The Washington Post via AP)

Michael van der Veen walks to the Senate floor through the Senate Reception room on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trial on Capitol Hill on Feb 12, 2021, in Washington. (The Washington Post via AP)

Jessica Calefati
By Jessica Calefati February 17, 2021

If Your Time is short

  • Lawyers from the Philadelphia region played starring roles in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, who was acquitted of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack. 
     
  • U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a second-term Montgomery County Democrat, was one of the House impeachment managers who prosecuted the case against Trump.
     
  • Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former Montgomery County commissioner and district attorney, was one of Trump’s attorneys. And Michael van der Veen, another Trump lawyer, lives in Chester County and has a law office in Center City. 

Lawyers from the Philadelphia region played starring roles in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, who was acquitted of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack. 

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a second-term Montgomery County Democrat, was one of the House impeachment managers who prosecuted the case against Trump. Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former Montgomery County commissioner and district attorney, was one of Trump’s attorneys. And Michael van der Veen, another Trump lawyer, lives in Chester County and has a law office in Center City. 

We fact-checked some of the claims they made during the trial. 

Democrats impeached Trump because they don’t "want to face Donald Trump as a political rival."
Bruce Castor, on Feb. 9

This is accurate but needs additional context. When Castor addressed the Senate on the first day of the trial, he argued the process was not about accountability for the former president, but rather about politics. 

"We are really here because the majority of the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future," Castor said. 

There is no doubt that the House wanted to hold Trump accountable for the insurrection. The impeachment managers said so repeatedly throughout the trial. Castor is right that Democrats also hoped to disqualify Trump from running for office again. 

In an interview with CBS News a few days after the attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said preventing Trump from running for president again was part of the reason to impeach him a second time. Had the necessary two-thirds of the Senate voted to convict Trump, he could have been barred from seeking future office by a separate, simple-majority vote.

"There is a possibility that after all of this, there’s no punishment, no consequence, and he could run again for president," CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl said. 

"And that’s one of the motivations that people have for advocating for impeachment," Pelosi replied.

That same day,, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she felt the same way. 

"Our main priority is to ensure the removal of Donald Trump as president of the United States," Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News. "We’re also talking about complete barring of the president, or rather of Donald Trump, from running for office ever again." 

And U.S. Rep. Ted Liu, D-Calif., another impeachment manager, addressed Castor’s statement directly during the trial. He said he was not fearful of a Trump candidacy. Rather, he worried Trump might incite more violence if he ran again and lost. 

"Of the 62 post-election legal challenges, he lost 61." 
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean on Feb. 10

Dean spoke on the second day of the trial and addressed Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen election by noting his record in court. 

"Of the 62 post-election legal challenges, he lost 61," Dean said. "Only one was successful. And that case involved ballot curing in Pennsylvania and had no impact on President Biden’s 80,555 vote victory in our Commonwealth." 

She’s right. Trump and his allies filed 62 election-related lawsuits in state and federal courts after the election. The 60th and 61st losses came just a few days before the Capitol riot. 

Those final two lawsuits argued that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power to decide which states’ Electoral College votes to count, and that state legislatures should have met after the election to certify votes. Both were dismissed by federal judges. 

The Trump campaign’s lone legal victory came when a Pennsylvania judge ruled that voters could not go back and "cure" technical flaws with their mail ballots after Election Day. The ruling affected few votes and did not change the outcome. 

"In a speech spanning almost 11,000 words, yes, we did check, that was the one time, the only time President Trump used the word peaceful, or any suggestion of nonviolence."
Dean on Feb. 10

Dean later argued that Trump’s whole speech at the "Save America" rally in Washington on the day of the attack was a call for violence.

There was only one line, she explained, about 20 minutes in, that referenced peace and nonviolence. 

"In a speech spanning almost 11,000 words — yes, we did check — that was the one time, the only time President Trump used the word peaceful, or any suggestion of non-violence."

Dean is right. A transcript of Trump’s hour-long Jan. 6 speech shows he uttered the word "peaceful" just once, while he used the word "fight" or its derivatives 20 times.

"I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard," Trump said at the rally. "Today we will see whether Republicans stand strong for integrity of our elections."

"The first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion of the Capitol began were, ‘Stay peaceful and nonviolence, because we are the party of law and order.’
Michael van der Veen on Feb. 12

Trump’s lawyer argued that the former president didn’t incite any violence at the Capitol and used his social media megaphone to try to stop the siege once it started. 

"In fact, the first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion of the Capitol began were, ‘Stay peaceful and no violence, because we are the party of law and order,’" Michael van der Veen said during his closing argument

This is not true. 

Trump did send a "stay peaceful" tweet at 2:38 p.m. and a "no violence" tweet at 3:13 p.m. But they were not the first two he sent after rioters breached the Capitol at 2:11 p.m. 

A 2:24 p.m. tweet disparaging former Pence came first. 

It read: 

"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!"  

At this point, Pence had already been rushed off the Senate floor, where he had been presiding over the certification of Biden’s victory. In an interview, van der Veen said he was referring to Trump’s 2:38 p.m. tweet.

"Given the timeline of events, the criminals at the Capitol weren't there at the Ellipse to even hear the President's words."
Castor on Feb. 12

Castor claimed the people who attacked the Capitol couldn’t have heard Trump’s speech earlier at the Ellipse "given the timeline of events." 

Someone who listened to Trump’s whole speech could not have been among the first people to breach the Capitol, but it’s false that none of the rioters facing criminal charges attended the speech. 

Court documents and time-stamped video footage show some Trump supporters attended his rally on the Ellipse before walking to the Capitol, including one attendee who allegedly returned to her hotel before ultimately breaching the building. 

"At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger."
Van der Veen on Feb. 12

When Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins questioned whether Trump knew that Pence was in danger once rioters breached the Capitol, van der Veen was unequivocal. 

"At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger," he said during the trial’s question-and-answer phase

In an interview, van der Veen reiterated that he doesn’t believe Trump knew Pence was in danger, and stressed that the House impeachment managers didn’t present any evidence that proves otherwise. But a timeline of events that day indicates Trump did know. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said he was on the phone with Trump at 2:13 p.m. when secret service agents removed Pence from the Senate chamber and conveyed the threat in real time. 

"I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go," Tuberville recalled while speaking with reporters. 

Security protocol dictates that Trump’s team would have been notified of the vice president’s whereabouts. And chants of "Hang Mike Pence" were being shown on cable news that reports indicate the president was watching. 

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

Vanity Fair, "Trump’s Lawyer Kicks Off Impeachment Trial by (Accidentally?) Suggesting Trump Should Be Arrested," Feb. 9, 2021

Rev, "Nancy Pelosi 60 Minutes Interview Transcript After Capitol Riots & Attack," Jan. 10, 2021

ABC News, "Trump should resign or be removed by 25th Amendment: Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger," Jan. 10, 2021

Insider, "Impeachment manager says he's not afraid of Trump running in 2024. He's afraid of him running, losing, and inciting another insurrection," Feb. 11, 2021

Rev, "Rep. Madeleine Dean Opening Statement Transcript February 10: Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial," Feb. 10, 2021

The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Fact-checking false claims about Pennsylvania’s presidential election by Trump and his allies," Dec. 7, 2020

USA TODAY, "By the numbers: President Donald Trump's failed efforts to overturn the election," Jan. 6, 2021

Courthouse News Service, "Trump Ekes Out a Small Win Against Extension to Cure Pennsylvania Ballots," Nov. 12, 2020 

Rev, "Donald Trump Speech "Save America" Rally Transcript January 6," Jan. 6, 2021

Rev, "Michael van der Veen Opening Statement Transcript: Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial," Feb. 12, 2021

CNN, "Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 4," Feb. 12, 2021

The New York Times, "How a Presidential Rally Turned Into a Capitol Rampage," Jan. 12, 2021

Rev, "Trump Lawyer Bruce Castor Argument Transcript February 12: Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial," Feb. 12, 2021

CNN. "Fact check: Trump lawyers make multiple false claims in impeachment defense," Feb. 12, 2021

The Hill, "Trump lawyers say former president did not know Pence was in danger at the Capitol," Feb. 12, 2021

The New York Times, "Trump’s Lawyers Repeated Inaccurate Claims in Impeachment Trial," Feb. 12, 2021

Twitter, "@AshleyRParker Tweet," Feb. 12, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jessica Calefati

Fact-checking impeachment trial claims by the Philly-area lawyers who played big roles