House impeachment managers concluded their case against Donald Trump on Thursday, urging the Senate to convict the former President for inciting the insurrectionists that attacked the US Capitol, arguing he was responsible for the deadly riots on January 6 and showed no remorse afterward.
The managers used their final day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial to show how the insurrectionists who carried out the attack on the Capitol last month said they did at Trump’s direction. The managers focused on Trump’s history of celebrating violence among his supporters leading up to the attack and his lack of remorse afterward.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, argued that Trump’s response to the riots shows he would “undoubtedly cause future harm if allowed.”
The Democrats’ arguments Thursday were at a decidedly lower decibel level than on Wednesday, when the entire Senate was at attention while violent videos were played showing the chaos that had occurred at the Capitol, as well as the most complete picture to date about how close the rioters were to reaching lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Thursday’s follow-up was intended to drive home the point that Trump was responsible for the incitement and had no apologies for it, as well as get ahead of the arguments that the former President’s team is likely to make when it’s the defense’s turn Friday.
For Senate Republicans, the Democrats’ presentation has been compelling and disturbing but it’s still unlikely to result in anywhere near the two-thirds vote needed for conviction, which would require at least 17 Republicans to vote guilty. Most Senate Republicans are still relying on the argument that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president.
“It’s difficult to vote that it’s unconstitutional and vote to convict,” said GOP Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, who said he would vote to acquit based on the constitutionality of the trial.
The Democratic managers have pushed forward with their case despite the skeptical Republican jurors, arguing both to the Senate and the public that Trump was responsible for the riot and all of the consequences that have stemmed from it.
Rep. Dianna DeGette of Colorado began the House Democrats’ second-day presentation by using the insurrectionists’ own words before, during and after the storming of the Capitol to show that they believed they were acting at Trump’s direction.
“They truly believed that the whole instruction was at the President’s orders. And we know that, because they said so,” DeGette said. “Many of them posed for pictures, bragging about it on social media. This was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment.”
In their second day, the Democrats took a step backward and showed how Trump has long embraced violence, from his response to White supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 to the armed protesters who jammed into the Michigan state Capitol last year.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said the Michigan protests in April 2020 were a “preview of the coming insurrection.”
“This Trump-inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you: Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo Army gear, just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber,” the Maryland Democrat said.
The managers focused on Trump’s lack of remorse following the deadly January 6 attack and the harm it caused both inside and outside the building. That included the physical and mental toll on the more than 100 police officers who were injured along with the damage to America’s standing in the world as a beacon of democracy, with Russia and China trying to take advantage of the chaos.
To close the day, Raskin and Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado argued that Trump’s claims that his speech was protected by the First Amendment did not pass muster.
Trump’s team will get its chance to respond to the House’s case on Friday. Trump’s lawyers are expected to finish their arguments in one day, according to two sources, and they plan to argue that Democrats glorified violence in their presentation, the trial is unconstitutional and Trump’s speech is protected by the First Amendment.
“This trial never should have happened,” Trump attorney David Schoen told Fox News in an interview conducted Thursday during the trial. Schoen said the goal was to make the trial “as short as possible.”
Never-before-seen Capitol security camera footage that aired during Wednesday’s presentation forced senators to relive the harrowing attack and confront chilling new details about the incredibly serious threat posed to everyone in the Capitol, including lawmakers.
In addition to airing the video footage, the managers spent much of the first day of arguments making the case that Trump had engaged in a months-long campaign of lying to his supporters that the election had been stolen, provoking their fury over the false belief that the results were fraudulent and inciting them to violently disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
“Donald Trump committed a massive crime against our Constitution and our people and the worst violation of the presidential oath of office,” Raskin said. “He must be convicted by the United States Senate.”
Trump’s lawyers, however, denied that the rioters said they had been ordered by Trump to do what they did — even though that’s been a key part of the evidence Democrats have presented.
“Did someone say that they heard directly from President Trump?” defense attorney Bruce Castor responded to CNN when asked for his reaction to the videos played. “I don’t believe that’s what happened, no.”
On Friday, Trump lawyers Schoen, Castor, Michael van der Veen and William Brennan are all expected to speak. Because the legal team is so disorganized, Trump’s allies are apprehensive about how the defense will go. Trump erupted Tuesday as Castor made a meandering opening argument.
Several of Trump’s allies lobbied him to get rid of Castor that day, which Trump briefly considered, according to two people. Trump was upset as he watched multiple people, including his usual allies on Fox News, trash Castor’s performance. But Castor has remained on the team and is expected to present, at least in part, on Friday. He has told people he wasn’t planning on speaking Tuesday, which led to the muddled speech.
Though Castor was supposed to lead the defense, as CNN reported, that’s now expected to be left to Schoen, who has said he will not participate in the proceedings during the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday. Trump’s team believes they will likely wrap up their arguments by then.
After Trump’s team concludes, the Senate will have up to four hours to ask written questions of the legal teams, and then the House managers could seek a vote on hearing from witnesses. But it’s not clear yet whether they plan to do so.
If there is no effort to seek testimony from witnesses, the trial is likely to wrap up with a vote on conviction sometime this weekend. Democratic senators said Thursday that they don’t see a need for witnesses because the managers made their case — another sign it’s unlikely witnesses will be called.
“I think the case has been made,” said Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. “I don’t know what witnesses would add.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.