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'Who's to say it won't happen again?': Impeachment prosecutors urge Senate to convict Trump

Trump’s defence lawyers, who will present their arguments later this week, say he cannot be personally blamed for the Capitol riot.

Updated Feb 11th 2021, 10:00 PM

HOUSE PROSECUTORS WRAPPED up their impeachment case against Donald Trump, urging the Senate to convict the former president of inciting the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty,” said Representative Joe Neguse, one of the House impeachment managers.

“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?”

Trump’s lawyers will begin his defence at 5pm Irish time tomorrow and will have 16 hours to present their case.

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, appealed to the 100 Senators who are sitting as jurors in the case to exercise their “common sense” and convict Trump.

“Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,” Raskin said, reminding senators that they swore an oath to administer “impartial justice.”

Earlier today, prosecutors said the Capitol invaders believed they were are acting on “the president’s orders” to storm the building and stop the joint session of Congress that was certifying Joe Biden’s election.

They presented videos of rioters, some posted to social medial by the rioters themselves, talking about how they were doing it all for Trump. Joe Biden said that harrowing video evidence of the January assault on the Capitol may change “some minds” in the trial.

Biden told reporters earlier he “didn’t watch any of the hearing live but that he had seen news coverage of the presentation, which showed the country’s most senior politicians fleeing to safety.

The mayhem left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.

So far, a large majority of Republicans have stood by Trump, who is accused of inciting insurrection 6 January when a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol and tried to stop certification of Biden’s election victory.

That means a conviction, requiring a two-thirds majority in the Senate, is highly unlikely. Trump’s lawyers will get their chance to speak as early as today or Friday when Democratic impeachment managers wrap up their case.

The Trump team argues that the former president cannot be personally blamed for the riot and that the entire trial is unconstitutional because he has already left office. Trump’s lawyers will launch their defence tomorrow. 

trump-impeachment Evidence presented during today's hearing. Source: AP/PA Images

‘This was not a hidden crime’

Prosecutors laid out their case by linking Trump’s verbal attacks on the election to the violence that resulted.

Trump did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee”, the Democrats said, as the mob ransacked the building.

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, presented evidence of Trump’s encouragement of violence in the past using videos of the former president’s own words.

“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 that the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.

trump-impeachment House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin. Source: AP/PA Images

“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?

“Trump declared his conduct ‘totally appropriate,’” Raskin said. “So if he gets back into office and it happens again we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Likewise, impeachment manager Ted Lieu said Trump would incite another attack if he is allowed to run for president in 2024. 

“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose — because he can do this again.”

House impeachment manager Diana DeGette said Trump was directly responsible for the attempt by his supporters to block congressional certification of Biden’s election victory.

“Their leader, the man who incited them, must be held accountable,” DeGette said. “This was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there.

“They thought they were following orders from their commander in chief and they would not be punished.”

Harrowing video

Yesterday they walked senators through hours of graphic presentations and video, some of which came from security cameras and police bodycams and was being aired for the first time.

The ensuing mayhem left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.

The episode occurred after Trump told a rally near the White House that his failure to win reelection was due to vote rigging.

Video played on the Senate floor yesterday showed then vice president Mike Pence – who was in the Capitol to preside over certification of Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump – being hurried down back stairs to safety by security officers, along with his family.

Top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer is seen narrowly dodging a rampaging throng of pro-Trump rioters.

And Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican who often opposed Trump and was turned into a hate figure by the president, is seen being steered away by Eugene Goodman – the officer previously feted for luring the mob away from the Senate chambers – at the last moment as an angry crowd approaches.

In another segment, the mob can be seen smashing into the offices of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives and another frequent target of Trump’s most violent rhetoric.

“Nancy, where are you Nancy?” protesters call out as they search, not knowing that eight of her staff were barricaded behind a door in the same corridor. Pelosi herself had already been urgently whisked away.

“We know from the rioters themselves that if they had found Speaker Pelosi, they would have killed her,” said impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett, a House delegate from the US Virgin Islands.

The impeachment managers laid out their case over several hours arguing that the links are clear between Trump, his lies about election fraud, the violence, and the then president’s inaction as the riot unfolded.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said Trump “completely abdicated” his duty.

“Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief of a dangerous insurrection,” Raskin said.

Republicans loyal so far 

Holed up in his luxury Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Trump has been gone from power for three weeks.

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But the trial has put the polarizing Republican once more at the centre of the national conversation – and underlined his still-powerful hold over the base of the Republican electorate.

Some Republican senators have expressed disgust with the pro-Trump riot, openly blasted Trump’s refusal to accept defeat to Biden, and acknowledged the compelling case made by the Democrats with the aid of extensive video.

“The evidence that has been presented thus far is pretty damning,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said.

“Of course it’s powerful,” Senator Bill Cassidy said of the chilling footage, but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”

It is highly unlikely Trump will be convicted as it requires a two-thirds majority, meaning 17 Republicans would need to go along with the 50 Democrats.

“I believe at the end there will not be 67 votes to find the president guilty,” Republican strategist Karl Rove told Fox News earlier today, but he predicted, “any Republican up for election in 2022 in a tough district or tough state is likely to see this (video) material used against them.”

Forced off Twitter and other social media platforms following his unprecedented attempt to foment a conspiracy theory about his election defeat, Trump has fewer outlets where he can vent.

It is also believed that advisors are pressing him to keep back, fearing his reappearance could turn Republican senators against him.

According to US media reports, Trump was privately furious on the trial’s opening day Tuesday at what he saw as his own lawyers’ lacklustre performance.

Unlike Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago, which took three weeks, this one is expected to be over within days.

- With reporting from Adam Daly and PA

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