Trump returns to spotlight in trial — but not on his terms

In this image from video, a video from Donald Trump is shown to senators as House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, a video from Donald Trump is shown to senators as House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Senate Television via AP) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – His rallying cry to supporters has been dissected. His videos, press conferences and calls to Fox News have played on loop. His Twitter account is once again dominating news coverage, his missives read aloud in the Senate chamber.

More than three weeks removed from the White House, Donald Trump's voice is again permeating the nation's capital — but not on his terms.

Stripped of his social media megaphone, the former president has watched the searing opening days of his historic second impeachment trial unfold on television with none of his former tools for fighting back at his disposal. Instead, he will have to rely on a hastily assembled team of lawyers — whose initial appearance he panned — to present his defense against Democrats' charges Friday.

“I think the only thing I can remember, frankly, where he's been in such a weak position and unable really to change the story would be the bankruptcies in the early '90s," said Sam Nunberg, a former longtime Trump adviser.

Still, he argued that if Trump had access to Twitter, he would likely dig himself deeper into trouble.

In the days before the trial began this week, Trump was relatively disengaged from developments in Washington, spending his time golfing and plotting his future as he adjusts to the rhythms of a far more placid post-presidential life.

But Trump was quickly snapped out of that disengagement Tuesday as he watched the trial's opening arguments unfold.

Trump exploded at aides about the shoddy performances of his lawyers, complaining that they seem ill-prepared and looked lousy on television. And he worked the phones, demanding a more aggressive defense, according to people familiar with his reaction.