Provoking criticism that ranged from "jury tampering" and "another violation of their oath" to "such bullshit," multiple Republican senators met with Donald Trump's attorneys late Thursday—the third day of the former president impeachment trial over his incitement of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
"We were discussing their legal strategy and sharing our thoughts," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), according to CNN correspondent Manu Raju, who reported that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) also participated in the meeting.
When asked by Raju whether it was appropriate to meet with the senators, who are jurors, Trump lawyer David Schoen said: "I think that's the practice of impeachment. There's nothing about this thing that has any semblance of due process whatsoever."
The meeting comes after three days of damning presentations from Democratic prosecutors, which included a must-see video of the Capitol attack and "heartbreaking" personal testimony from the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
Appearing on CNN Thursday night, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, framed the meeting between Trump's attorneys and GOP lawmakers as evidence of the "extraordinarily good job" by Democratic impeachment managers trying to convince senators to convict the ex-president.
"The reason why these three Republican senators are meeting with the attorney[s] for the [former] president is because they're worried," said Durbin, also majority whip. "The House managers have put together a powerful case against this president. They have a mountain of video tape to back up what they say, countless tweets, all sorts of information that really is not in the best interest of the president, so I'd imagine they're pretty desperate to come up with a good defense strategy."
Durbin wasn't the only federal lawmaker critical of the meeting. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tweeted, "I'm no lawyer, but I'm fairly certain jurors aren't supposed to strategize with defense counsel in the middle of a trial."
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) also took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was majority leader during the Capitol attack and delayed the trial until after President Joe Biden's inauguration—and has since voted twice that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
"After the Capitol was ransacked and their lives were endangered," Pascrell tweeted, "McConnell Republicans are now advising Trump's lawyers during his high crimes trial. Your Republican Party everybody."