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Impeachment managers conclude argument for Trump conviction; defense speaks Friday

Trump Impeachment
Donald Trump Jan. 6
Posted at 8:16 AM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 17:16:33-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrats finished their arguments in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump on Thursday, arguing that the Senate should vote to convict the former president while warning that he could stoke violence again if lawmakers don’t.

Overall, House Democrats told the jury of senators that the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was the culmination of Trump's pattern of spreading false and violent rhetoric.

And now that Democrats have finished, Trump’s defense team is expected to begin their presentation Friday, arguing for senators to vote to acquit.

What happened during the third day of the impeachment trial

Impeachment manager Diana DeGette opened Democrats' Thursday arguments by pointing to the fact that many of the rioters on Jan. 6 felt they were doing so at the behest of Trump himself.

"The attack was done for Donald Trump, by his instructions and to fulfill his wishes," DeGette said.

DeGette's presentation included several videos that showed rioters responding directly to Trump's Jan. 6 speech on the National Mall with calls to "invade the Capitol." She also showed clips that protesters sent to social media who believed they had done nothing wrong because they thought they were following Trump's instructions.

Next, lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin led a presentation in which he attempted to show past incidents in which Trump allegedly incited violence among his supporters.

Raskin tied the 2017 Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally and Trump's claim that there were "very fine people" on both sides of a riot that left one counter-protester dead as evidence that he could incite violence among his supporters.

He also pointed to several incidents in Michigan, where his supporters stormed the state capitol in spring 2020 after he criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 lockdowns. He called that incident a "state-level dress rehearsal" of the Jan. 6 riot.

While much of the Democrats' arguments focused on Trump's alleged role in inciting the Jan. 6 riots and his actions leading up to that day, DeGette warned that the Capitol riots could just represent the start of a new era of violence of Trump is not held to account.

"Unless we take action, the violence is only beginning," DeGette said.

She noted several studies that indicated that threats of violence against President Joe Biden's inauguration rose following the Jan. 6 riots and that other Trump supporters said they wanted to wait for Trump's instructions before committing to more demonstrations.

DeGette also cited a study that warned that the Jan. 6 in-person meet up of extremists may have fostered deep connections among rioters, which could encourage violence in the future.

"We must show that this is not American," DeGette said, in urging a vote to convict.

After DeGette, impeachment manager David Cicilline led a presentation regarding the impact of the Jan. 6 riots on the Capitol building's non-elected staff — in particular, law enforcement, custodial staff, Congressional staffers and media members.

Cicilline shared several video clips from the riots that showed Trump supporters calling law enforcement officers "traitors" and "un-American."

"You have to wonder who these (rioters) are sworn to," Cicilline asked, implying they pledged allegiance to President Donald Trump over their country.

Cicilline urged Senators to keep the law enforcement officers in mind when they cast their deciding vote at the conclusion of the trial.

"These people matter. These people risked their lives for us," he said.

He also read accounts from staffers and media members who were forced to run down hallways to avoid rioters and described horrific accounts from custodial members who were forced to clean blood, feces and other materials off the walls and floors of the Capitol.

Next, Raskin and impeachment managers Joe Neguse teamed up to address the defense team's claim that Trump's speech before the insurrection is protected by the First Amendment.

“President Trump wasn’t just some guy with political opinions who showed up at a rally on Jan. 6 and delivered controversial remarks. He was the president of the United States,” said Neguse.

Raskin went on to argue that inciting a violent insurrection isn't protect by free speech.

“He’s been impeached for inciting violent insurrection against the government," said Raskin. "Incitement of violent insurrection is not protected by free speech. There is no First Amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea itself is absurd.”

Towards the end of their arguments Thursday, Neguse claimed the impeachment managers had made a strong case for Trump’s conviction. He said the evidence the evidence is clear and warned that if Trump isn’t convicted, something similar could happen again.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime that he is overwhelmingly guilty of,” said Neguse. “Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again.”

Lastly, Raskin closed out the impeachment managers' arguments by asking the senators to use common sense and to convict Trump.

"Senators, America -- we need to exercise our common sense about what happened. Let's not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyer's theories here. Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country."