Donald Trump’s legal team opened his impeachment defense with afalsehood-ladenattempt to sway Republicans to reject the House’s charge that the former president incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
The presentations on Friday, the first day of opening arguments for the Trump’s defense team, amounted to out-of-contextassertions to push back against the House managers’ case that Trump incited the violence that left five people dead. And they said the impeachment article was created out of “hatred” and “vengeance.”
“Hatred should have no place in this chamber,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said, contending that Democrats invented the standard of “incitement” that they are asking the Senate to apply against Trump.
Van der Veen falsely claimed that an “Antifa leader” was among those arrested at the Capitol, even though no identified antifa leaders have been arrested and only one rioter of hundreds brought up on charges has been identified as having potential ties to the left. Van der Veen also falsely said Trump’s first tweets amid the Capitol riots was to call for peace — though his actual first tweet was an attack against Vice President Mike Pence.
Following Van der Veen, attorney David Schoen accused House Democrats of “manipulating” their evidence against Trump and then displayed an almost 10 minutemontage of Democrats and some celebrities using the word “fight,” in an attempt to draw an equivalence between Trump’s repeated urging of a rally crowd to “fight like hell” to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election on Jan. 6.
The montage included comments from Democratic senators, who watched in shock as theirpriorremarks were being broadcast. Inside the chamber, some senators laughed while others shook their heads and passed notes to each other.
The display, which repeatedly insinuated that Democrats had sanctioned violence at riots that broke out over the summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd, at times seemed to engage in score-settling aimed at Trump’s longtime political adversaries, dwelling on comments made by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in which she pledged to “fight” for causes she supported.
Democrats, who anticipated the attacks, said there was no realistic comparison between Trump’s words — which were directed at a crowd known to contain violent elements and followed a months-long campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election results — and stray comments from Democratic lawmakers, many of which were devoid of context.
Democratic senators emerged from the chamber fuming about the Trump team’s display.
“Donald Trump was told that if he didn’t stop lying about the election, people would be killed. He wouldn’t stop, and the Capitol was attacked, and seven people are dead that would be alive today,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “That’s what I think of those clips.”
Trump’s team is aiming to convince senators on Friday that the former president bears no direct responsibility for unleashing the violent mob that briefly occupied the Capitol on Jan. 6 and sent Pence and lawmakers fleeing for safety.
Trump’s lawyers lodged an argument that accepts House Democrats’ case about the violence that they played on a loop for the Senate this week. But they concluded that “no thinking person” could conclude that Trump bears culpabilityfor unleashing it, and that his monthslong campaign to delegitimize the election results and incendiary remarks the morning of the insurrection are protected by his First Amendment right to free speech.
The attorneys argued that Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results through a series of false claims about fraud cannot be linked to the crimes at the Capitol.
The former president’s lawyers also reiterated their view — shared by a majority of Republican senators — that the Senate has no constitutional authority to put a former president on trial for impeachment charges. The Senate earlier this week, however, voted that the impeachment trial is constitutional.
The Trump team’s arguments come as the former president’s second impeachment trial is barreling toward a rapid close — perhaps as soon as Saturday. The House charged Trump with a single count, incitement of insurrection, last month and rested their case on Thursday afternoon.
Republican senators praised the House managers’ presentations earlier this week, but most have said their positions were unchanged. Barring an unexpected development, Trump is almost certain to be acquitted, with just a handful of GOP senators joining Democrats to vote to convict Trump.
They are expected to use just four of the 16 hours allotted to them for their opening arguments, and the Senate is likely to proceed immediately to a four-hour session in which senators can ask questions to the House managers and the defense team. That would leave a four-hour block of closing arguments for Saturday, followed by a potential deliberation period and a final vote later in the day.
The House impeachment managers have worked to preemptively rebut the defense team’s arguments.
“They really believe that the logical conclusion of the law is that a president who has lost an election can incite mob violence, can direct his followers to ransack the Capitol, to stop the peaceful transfer of power and there is nothing the United States Senate can do about it,” a senior aide to the impeachment managers said.
As I watch this I am stunned by the lies, made up fictions, distortions, attempts to accuse the Democrats of what tRump & Republicans really did. Hugs