Washington, United States:
Democrats rested their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday, saying he incited insurrection after losing re-election and is so dangerous he should be barred from holding office again.
After two days of presentations, including hours of graphic video from the pro-Trump riot that swept the Capitol January 6, Democratic impeachment managers called on senators to vote for conviction.
“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict president Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,” Representative Joe Neguse said.
“If you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who is to say it won’t happen again?”
Trump’s defense lawyers will deliver their case on Friday, arguing that Trump cannot be held personally responsible for the deadly assault on Congress.
They also argue that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office, although the Senate rejected this argument earlier this week.
In a prebuttal of those arguments, Democratic impeachment leader Jamie Raskin told senators to apply “common sense,” pointing out that Trump stood by, doing nothing, for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.
“Why did president Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?” Raskin asked. “As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?”
Earlier, President Joe Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change “some minds.”
But despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely. It would take a two-thirds majority, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats.
– ‘Future of democracy’ –
The mayhem on January 6 erupted after Trump held a large rally near the White House, insisting falsely, as he had done since losing to Biden in November, that he was cheated.
Instructed by Trump to march on Congress, where lawmakers were at that moment certifying Biden’s election, the crowd smashed through police lines, then went on the rampage.
The chaos left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.
Video footage played by impeachment managers showed the mob hunting down opponents of Trump and senior figures, including then vice president Mike Pence, having to flee to safety.
The defense will stress that Trump did not expressly tell his fans to commit violence, but Raskin pointed out that the Republican had been stoking anger and encouraging extremism ever since Election Day — and even before.
“This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,” Raskin said. “This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.”
Raskin said it was imperative the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.
“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Raskin asked.
“Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?
Raskin also dismissed claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president did not incite the riot but was just exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Calling this a “smokescreen,” Raskin said “nobody can incite a riot.
“First Amendment doesn’t protect it,” he said. “Nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.”
– Republicans stand by Trump –
Biden said he did not watch any of the trial live but had seen news coverage of Wednesday’s heart-rending video footage.
“My guess is some minds may be changed,” Biden told reporters in the White House.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden, who has been trying to stop the trial from overshadowing his push for a huge economic stimulus package and the fight against Covid-19, was not intending to predict the outcome.
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said video footage shown by House managers on Wednesday was “powerful,” but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”
Other Republican senators have clearly already made up their minds and do not intend to break with Trump, who has threatened to derail their careers.
“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing after today,” tweeted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.”
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri echoed the argument of Trump’s defense lawyers that it is unconstitutional to try a former president.
“You’re not going to get anything but condemnation from me for what happened with those criminals at the Capitol on January 6,” Hawley told Fox News. “But that doesn’t make the trial any more legitimate than it is, which is totally illegitimate — no basis in the Constitution.”