The fast-moving impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump will turn on Friday to his defense, with his legal team seeking to persuade senators that he should be acquitted of inciting an insurrection.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers will make their oral arguments after the House impeachment managers, who are acting as the prosecution, laid out their case against the former president over two days. They relied partly on chilling footage of the Capitol assault that was intended to convey the deadly consequences of the president’s behavior after his election defeat.
During its presentation on Friday, the defense team is expected to argue that contrary to the portrayal offered by the prosecution, Mr. Trump did not encourage the violence that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify the election results.
The former president’s lawyers are expected to assert that his remarks to supporters that day are protected under the First Amendment, an argument that the House managers sought to pre-emptively rebut as they addressed senators on Thursday.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers may also return to the matter of whether it is constitutional to hold the trial in the first place, since he is no longer in office. They got off to a shaky start on Tuesday during a debate over the trial’s constitutionality, delivering a performance that enraged Mr. Trump. After hearing arguments on that issue, the Senate voted 56 to 44 for the trial to proceed.
The trial is moving rapidly, which has advantages for Republicans and Democrats. Democratic lawmakers want to move forward with President Biden’s proposed coronavirus relief package, and impeachment will consume much of the oxygen on the Senate side of the Capitol for as long as the trial lasts. Republicans are grappling with deep divisions over the party’s future now that Mr. Trump is out of office, and the proceedings are centering a floodlight on his conduct.
Mr. Trump’s defense team has up to 16 hours over two days for oral arguments, but one of his lawyers, David I. Schoen, said they may use only three to four hours. Once they are finished, senators will have up to four hours to question the two sides.
A final vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump could take place on Saturday, a time frame that would make it the fastest impeachment trial for a president in American history.
For weeks, President Biden and his aides have tried to frame the second impeachment of his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, as a distraction from his efforts to fulfill the promises he made to the American people.
“I’m focused on my job,” the president told reporters on Thursday, “to deal with the promises I made. And we all know we have to move on.”
That focus, he said, meant that on Wednesday he had not watched the gruesome retelling of the events on Jan. 6 that the Democratic House impeachment managers had shown in a series of stunning video clips because he had been “going straight through last night, until a little after 9.”
Mr. Biden did concede that “my guess is some minds may be changed” as a result of the trial. But his press secretary, Jen Psaki, said later that “he was not intending to give a projection or prediction.”
Despite the emotional and harrowing scenes that Democratic lawmakers hope will define Mr. Trump’s legacy, even if he is not convicted, White House officials have refused to engage in anything even tangentially related to the trial and have insisted they spend no time thinking or talking about the former president who relentlessly attacked Mr. Biden.
“It reminds people of why they so definitively wanted to turn the page on Donald Trump’s daily fever pitch versus the calm, cool, controlled Joe Biden at 97.1 degrees,” said Rahm Emanuel, a White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama and a former mayor of Chicago.
Mike DuHaime, a Republican strategist, put it another way. “The longer Donald Trump stays central to the news, the better it is for Biden,” he said. “The constant reminder of Trump’s worst actions makes Biden look great by comparison, simply by acting sane.”
And exhibiting a level of top-down message discipline that was rarely on display during the Trump presidency, Ms. Psaki has worked to reinforce the message that the president’s thoughts are not on the behavior of his predecessor and its consequences. “His view is that his role is — should be — currently focused on addressing the needs of the American people, putting people back to work, addressing the pandemic.”
But the trial has also provided Mr. Biden with some cover as he faced hurdles on some of his defining policy promises.
On Tuesday, as Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead impeachment manager, made an emotional appeal to senators, the White House backtracked on its stated goal of reopening “a majority of our schools” in the first 100 days of Mr. Biden’s presidency.
Mr. Trump’s trial dominated headlines instead of Ms. Psaki’s scaling back the president’s ambitions, saying the goal was for more than 50 percent of schools to have “some teaching” in person “at least one day a week” in the first 100 days.
In an email, Ms. Psaki disputed the fact that her comments signified a retraction of previous promises. “We gave our first definition of the specifics of a goal that had not yet been clearly defined for the public,” she said.
The Biden administration is preparing to resume processing migrants who were forced back to Mexico and have been stuck in limbo under a Trump-era policy that blocked access to the United States, administration officials said Thursday evening.
Under the policy, the Trump administration returned tens of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants to Mexico to wait for their day in immigration court. Many of them have been in squalid tent camps for months, or longer. Moreover, immigration hearings were suspended as the coronavirus pandemic closed immigration courts in the United States, leaving many migrants vulnerable to muggings, kidnappings, sexual assault and other crimes.
President Biden had already directed the government to suspend returning migrants to Mexico under the program, more commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. On Feb. 19, the administration will begin bringing some of those migrants to the United States, with a focus on those who have waited in Mexico the longest, administration officials said.
Migrants “with particular vulnerabilities” will be a priority, one official said, adding that the administration would work with international organizations to help provide coronavirus testing.
The Biden administration has repeatedly sought to discourage migrants from rushing to the southwestern border as Mr. Biden looks to make good on his pledge to roll back Donald J. Trump’s immigration policies. Still, Mr. Biden will keep in place a pandemic emergency rule that has empowered Border Patrol agents to rapidly turn away border crossers without providing the opportunity to ask for protection.
“Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement. “Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border.”
Instead, the migrants who were processed under the Remain in Mexico program will be able to register online for their case to resume and will be told when and where to arrive at the border, officials said.
The asylum seekers who had been stuck in Mexico will not enter long-term detention, but will be processed through initiatives that track migrants after they are released into the United States, in some cases with ankle monitors, to ensure they appear at immigration court. During his campaign, Mr. Biden said that he would rely on such initiatives and cut funding used to jail migrants.
The officials said they expected to be able to eventually process 300 migrants a day, but it was unclear when the new system would start.
Many of the more than 60,000 migrants who had been sent back to Mexico under the program had returned to their home countries. But more than 25,000 migrants still have active asylum cases in the program, administration officials said.
Twitter on Thursday said it had suspended the official account of Project Veritas, a conservative activist group, because the account posted private information.
The social media company also temporarily locked the account of James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas.
Mr. O’Keefe will have to delete a tweet that violated Twitter’s rules before he can tweet again, Twitter said.
The tweets that Twitter said violated its policies against posting private information showed a Project Veritas staffer questioning a Facebook executive, Guy Rosen, outside his home.
“The account, @Project_Veritas, was permanently suspended for repeated violations of Twitter’s private information policy,” a Twitter spokeswoman said.
Mr. O’Keefe said Project Veritas had appealed Twitter’s decision.
“It would be unconscionable for me to take down our reporting where it didn’t violate anyone’s privacy rights,” he said.