WASHINGTON (AP) – Following a prosecution based on emotional, violent imagery from the siege of the Capitol, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Friday shifts to defense lawyers willing to make a fundamental concession: The violence was just as traumatic, unacceptable and illegal as Democrats say.
But they will say Trump had nothing to do with it.
Setting the Horrors of the Day is intended to mitigate the visceral effects of the House Democrats’ case and quickly move on to what they see as the core and win-win point of the trial: whether Trump can be held responsible for inciting the death 6th January insurrection.
The argument will likely appeal to Republican senators who want to condemn the violence themselves without condemning the president.
“They haven’t tied it to Trump in any way,” one of the president’s attorneys David Schoen told reporters towards the end of two full days of Democratic arguments aimed at just that.
He previewed the gist of his argument on Tuesday and told the Senate jury: “You don’t have to show you movies to show you the riot took place here. We will determine it happened and you will know all about it. “
In both the legal filing and arguments earlier in the week, Trump’s lawyers made their position clear that the people responsible for the uprising are the ones who actually stormed the building and are now being prosecuted by the Justice Department.
In anticipation of the defense effort to untangle Trump’s rhetoric about the rioters’ actions, impeachment managers spent days trying to pull it together by reconstructing never-seen footage along with clips of the president’s months of urging his supporters to reverse the election results.
Democrats, who closed their case on Thursday, used the January 6 rioters’ own videos and words to put Trump in charge. “We were invited here,” said one. “Trump sent us,” said another. “He will be happy. We fight for Trump. “
The prosecution’s goal was to see Trump not as a spectator, but as an “instigator” who spent months spreading falsehoods and opening supporters to challenge the election.
They not only demand a conviction, but also demand that the future federal office be denied him.
Trump, they said, set the predicate for the attack by fueling false allegations of fraud, encouraging supporters to come to Washington, and then fueling dissatisfaction with his rhetoric about the struggle and recapture of the country.
“This attack would never have happened without Donald Trump,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, one of the impeachment executives, as she suppressed emotions. “And so they came wrapped in Trump’s flag and used our flag, the American flag, to beat and bludgeon.”
For all the weight and momentum the impeachment of a president is intended to convey, this historic second trial against Trump could be finalized with a vote by next weekend, especially since Trump’s lawyers have been focusing on legal rather than emotional or historical issues, and hope so will get you get everything behind you as quickly as possible.
With little hope of convincing the required two-thirds of the Senate, the Democrats provided the American public with an illustrative case of describing in stern, personal terms the terror they faced that day – some in the Senate Chamber, in of the senators sit jurors. They used a security video of rioters threateningly searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, entering the building and engaging in bloody hand-to-hand fighting with police.
They showed the many public and explicit instructions Trump gave his supporters long before the White House rally that sparked the deadly attack on the Capitol, when Congress confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died in the chaos and its aftermath.
Videos of rioters, some of which were posted on social media themselves, talked about how they did all of this for Trump.
“What makes you think the nightmare with Donald Trump and his illegal and violent mobs is over?” asked Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead prosecutor. He previously said, “When Donald Trump told the crowd, like on Jan. 6,” Fight like hell or you will run out of land, “he wanted them to” fight like hell “.”
At the White House, Biden said he believed “some opinions could be changed” after the Senators saw the security video, despite previously saying that conviction was unlikely.
Although most of the senators sat riveted when the video played in the chamber on Wednesday, some shook their heads or crossed arms as screams from the video and audio filled the Senate chamber, most jurors appeared to have made up their minds. And by Thursday, when the fall of the House is over, many appear ready to move on.
“I found the day actually very repetitive. I mean, not much new. I was really disappointed that they didn’t deal much with legal standards, ”said Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Presenting Trump’s lawyers is in some ways low risk given the likelihood of acquittal. But it is also being watched closely for an uneven performance Tuesday when a defense attorney, Bruce Castor, made such meandering arguments that Trump himself was raging from his Florida home.
They are expected to highlight different parts of the same speech that prosecutors focused on when telling supporters gathered at the ellipse outside the White House to “fight like hell.”
They will argue that in the same utterances Trump encouraged the crowd to be “peaceful” and that his utterances – and his general distrust of the election results – are all protected by the First Amendment. Democrats vigorously oppose this claim, saying his words are not a political speech but a direct incitement to violence.
Defense attorneys can also go back to the arguments put forward on Tuesday that the trial itself is unconstitutional as Trump is now a former president. The Senate denied that claim on Tuesday when it voted to continue the process, but Republican senators have nonetheless signaled their continued interest in the argument.
On Thursday, the senators, who had sat through a second full day of argument, looked a little tired, crouching in their chairs, crossing their arms, and walking around to stretch.
One Republican, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, said during a pause, “To me, the longer you speak, the longer you lose credibility.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the January 6 facts were “unpatriotic” and even “treasonous” but not his main concern. Rather, he said on Thursday: “The fundamental question for me, about which I know nothing for everyone else, is whether impeachment is suitable for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t think so. I think this is a very dangerous precedent. “