The Real Reason Senators Burst Out Laughing During Trump’s Impeachment Trial

While any trial can be the setting for high tension, arguments, and even drama, it’s not necessarily the kind of place in which attendees routinely burst into laughter — especially when it’s the second impeachment trial for Donald Trump, the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice and the first to face impeachment as a former commander-in-chief. But this seemingly ended up being the case at an already unprecedented event in American history, according to NBC News.

In Feb. 13, 2021 coverage of the Senate phase of the impeachment hearing, NBC highlighted that senators “burst out laughing” following a suggestion made by a member of Trump’s defense team, Michael Van der Veen, over where potential witnesses should be deposed. (In the end, the Senate voted against calling witnesses.) And while Van der Veen’s remarks might have been innocuous enough at face value, they evidently made the room erupt into raucous guffaws. So what exactly did Michael Van der Veen say to make a room full of usually tight-lipped legislators chuckle with abandon? Read on after the jump to find out.

Michael Van der Veen used a funny pronunciation

As NBC News reported, former President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Van der Veen became an unwitting source of comedy at the second impeachment trial when he requested that witnesses have their depositions conducted in his own office. “These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That’s where they should be done,” said Van der Veen. But the true highlight of the statement was his pronunciation of the city as “Philly-delphia,” incidentally spurring scores of senators to break out into unexpected laughter.

Van der Veen seemed perplexed as to why members of Congress were laughing, adding, “There’s nothing laughable here.” Despite the momentary break for levity, Senator Patrick Leahy castigated legislators for a lapse in decorum, using a quote by a former Supreme Court justice. “I would remind everybody, as Chief Justice Roberts noted Jan. 21, 2020, citing the trial of Charles Swayne in 1905: all parties of the chamber must refrain from using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” said Leahy during his scolding. 

Notably, Van der Veen’s suggestion of venue also had another irony: while falsely claiming election fraud after President Joe Biden’s November 2020 win, Trump accused Philadelphia of counting illegal votes. 

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