Impeachment TV ratings rebound as Trump lawyers argue his case

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol stands as evening falls on the first day of the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

(Reuters) - Television viewership for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history rose as President Donald Trump’s attorneys began laying out their case for his acquittal by the Senate, according to Nielsen data released on Tuesday.

An estimated 10.1 million people in the United States tuned in across six broadcast and cable networks on Saturday, the day Trump’s legal team began arguing he had not committed any impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine.

The TV audience for the trial, which began on Jan. 21, had been steadily shrinking. Ratings peaked at about 11 million viewers who watched lawmakers spar over evidence and witnesses on opening day. They fell to 6.8 million last Friday as Democrats wrapped up their arguments against Trump, according to Nielsen.

Trump, a former reality television star, complained on Twitter last week that his lawyers were being “forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.” for its typically small audiences.

Democrats have argued that the Republican president abused his power and obstructed Congress for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his potential Democratic opponents in November’s election, and impeding the inquiry into the matter.

Trump denies any wrongdoing and has slammed the impeachment process as a hoax. The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to vote to remove him from office, which requires a two-thirds majority.

Trump’s legal team ended its three days of defense arguments on Tuesday. Nielsen has not yet released ratings figures for this week’s sessions.

Six broadcast and cable networks have aired live coverage of the impeachment trial during the day. They are Walt Disney Co’s ABC, AT&T Inc’s CNN, ViacomCBS’s CBS, Comcast Corp’s NBC and MSNBC, and Fox Corp’s Fox News. Cable channels are broadcasting the trial live in the evenings.

The TV ratings do not include people who watched live coverage via online streaming or followed it via social media.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Peter Cooney