Impeachment: ‘Convict Trump or it could happen again,’ trial told

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Democrats have concluded their arguments that Donald Trump incited the 6 January Capitol riot, warning “he can do this again” if he is not convicted.

Impeachment prosecutors on Thursday used rioters’ own words to link Mr Trump to the violence while arguing the riot had caused long-term harm as well.

Democrats also presented accounts from police, staff, intelligence officials and foreign media to pursue their case.

The former president’s defence team will present their arguments on Friday.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Mr Trump last month, accusing him of inciting the riot. Lawmakers from the House have been presenting their case to senators this week.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have argued he was using his right to freedom of speech when declaring last November’s presidential election fraudulent.

A two-thirds majority is required to convict Mr Trump in the evenly split 100-seat Senate, but an acquittal looks likely as the vast majority of Republican senators have remained loyal to him so far.

If Mr Trump is convicted, however, the Senate could also vote to bar him from holding elected office again.

The violent riot at the US Capitol, which saw five people lose their lives, was an attempt by Trump supporters to stop the election result being certified.

What did Democrats say?

On Wednesday the trial was shown new footage of the violence Mr Trump is accused of inciting. Democrats sought to detail how Mr Trump sparked the attack on the Capitol and took senators step-by-step through the events of 6 January.

On Thursday, they embarked on the final point of their prosecution: the harm they say Mr Trump caused to property, people and democracy.

“Because impeachment, conviction and disqualification [from office] is not just about the past. It’s about the future,” Congressman Ted Lieu told the trial, after arguing Mr Trump also showed no remorse for his actions.

“It’s making sure that no future official, no future president does the same exact thing.”

House prosecutor Joe Neguse made the case that Mr Trump was “not just some guy” making a controversial speech – he was a president addressing supporters who were “poised for violence [and] he struck a match”.

media captionThe prosecution’s closing argument: “We humbly ask you to convict President Trump”

Democrats showed clips of rioters themselves saying they had come to Washington DC because they believed that was what then-President Trump wanted.

Fellow House manager David Cicilline used video and court documents to illustrate the harm done to “Congress and the Democratic process”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while others spoke of “sealing” lawmakers in the basement where they hid and “turning on the gas”.

“Never did any of us imagine that we would face mortal peril by a mob riled up by the president of the United States,” Mr Cicilline said.

He also shared accounts from staff who were in the Capitol during the riot. One staff member, he says, quit her job afterwards. Another employee, who is a mother of three, said “the insurrection shattered all my sense of security at work”.

Impeachment: The basics

  • What is impeachment? Impeachment is when a sitting president is charged with crimes. In this case, former President Trump is accused of having incited insurrection
  • What has already happened? The House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr Trump for a second time on 13 January, a week before the end of his term. The Senate is now holding a trial
  • So what does it mean? As he is no longer president senators can vote to bar him from holding public office again – but only if he is convicted

Democrats also argued Mr Trump’s conduct caused “long-term harm” to both domestic security and the nation’s international standing.

Impeachment manager Diana DeGette argued threats from domestic extremist groups “were and are made worse by President Trump’s refusal to take accountability and his refusal to forcibly denounce what his own FBI identified as some of the most dangerous elements of our country”.

On the international level, Congressman Joaquin Castro said American allies were shocked by the attack while adversaries mocked the US.

“The world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are,” said Mr Castro.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin concluded by outlining questions for Donald Trump’s defence team, as Mr Trump himself has refused to testify:

  • Why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned of it?
  • Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attack for at least two hours after the attack began?
  • Why did he do nothing to send help to overwhelmed and besieged law enforcement officers for at least two hours after the attack begin?
  • On 6 January, why did President Trump at any point that day do nothing to condemn the violent insurrection and insurrectionists?
  • If a president incited a violent insurrection against our government, would that be a high crime and misdemeanour?

Senators may get their wish of a speedy trial

 

The House impeachment managers have finished presenting their case over the course of about 13 hours.

Donald Trump’s defence team will now get its turn. His lawyers will have up to 16 hours over two days to offer a rebuttal, although they’re already saying they plan to wrap up by Friday evening.

They feel like they’re winning – and, if listening to Republican senators is any indication, they’re probably right.

After Trump’s side finishes, senators will have up to four hours to present written questions to the legal teams.

That will be followed by a debate and vote over whether to allow witnesses – if either side wants them. If they don’t, or if the vote fails, both sides will make brief closing arguments followed by the final vote on Trump’s fate.

All told, this could wrap up as early as Saturday night or by Monday at the latest – less than a week from start to finish.

That stands in stark contrast to Trump’s last trial, which took three weeks, or President Andrew Johnson’s proceedings in 1868, which had witnesses and took more than two months.

Most of the Senate seems ready to move on as soon as possible – and it looks like they’ll get their wish.

What next?

Mr Trump’s Attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen will have up to 16 hours over the next two days to set out their defence, although they are not expected to use all that time.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Schoen accused the Democrats of making “movies” and presenting the case as an “entertainment package” with the video and audio footage they showed the Senate.

After Trump’s team concludes their case, the Senate will have up to four hours to ask written questions of both sides.

If no witnesses are called, a vote on conviction could take place as early as this weekend.

 

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