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Here's what you need to know from Trump's second impeachment trial so far

The case is speeding towards a conclusion and near-certain acquittal.

Image: Carol Guzy/PA

THE US SENATE is expected to deliver a verdict in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial this weekend after his lawyers argued yesterday that the former president bears no responsibility for an attack by supporters on Congress after he failed to win reelection.

Defence lawyers wrapped up their presentation in just three hours, accusing Democrats of persecuting Trump. This followed two days of evidence from Democratic impeachment managers, centred around harrowing video footage of the assault against the Capitol on 6 January.

The Senate is due to reconvene at 3pm Irish time for debate on whether to allow witness testimony, then closing arguments. Expectations are that a verdict could be voted the same day, with indications so far that Democrats will not get enough Republican support for a conviction.

In their arguments yesterday, defence lawyer Michael van der Veen called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.”

“The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it,” he said.

But Democratic impeachment managers charge that Trump deliberately stoked national tension after losing to Joe Biden on 3 November with a campaign of lies claiming there had been mass voter fraud.

Impeachment managers say Trump is too dangerous and should be barred from holding office again.

It would take a two-thirds majority to convict, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats.

Ahead of today’s proceedings, here’s a rundown of the Senate trial so far:

The charge

trump-supporters-storm-us-capitol 6 January: Rioters broke windows and breached the Capitol building in an attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. Source: Lev Radin/PA

Trump is accused of fomenting the attack by his supporters on the US legislature on 6 January, forcing a halt to proceedings to certify opponent Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.

The second impeachment of Trump rests on one article, or charge, of “incitement of insurrection” arising from the 6 January assault on Congress.

The charge, set by the House of Representatives, was formally submitted to the Senate on 25 January.

It grew from Trump’s two-month campaign to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 3 November presidential election, alleging without evidence that it was based on mass fraud.

On 6 January, following a rousing speech by Trump near the White House, thousands of his followers marched to the US Capitol and forced their way inside, sending lawmakers fleeing and halting the joint House-Senate session held to certify Biden’s victory.

The impeachment charge says that, in the months before, Trump “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the result of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by state or federal officials.”

Then on 6 January, it says, Trump made statements “that in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol.”

Trump “incited” the crowd to halt the certification of Biden’s victory, and to menace the vice president, members of Congress and law enforcement officers, resulting in injuries and deaths, the charge says.

It also places the charge in the context of Trump’s “prior efforts to subvert and obstruct” Biden’s victory.

It cites a threat Trump made to Georgia’s secretary of state in a 2 January phone call to “find” enough votes to overturn the election result in the state, which went for Biden.

“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” the charge says.

“He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a coequal branch of government.”

“He thereby betrayed his trust as president,” damaging the country. 

The Prosecution 

trumps-2nd-impeachment-trial-begins House Managers walk to the Senate Chamber during the Impeachment trial. Source: Carol Guzy/PA

On Wednesday, prosecutors 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 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.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

They wrapped up their case against Trump on Thursday evening, urging the Senate to convict the former president of inciting the 6 January attack.

“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?”

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.”

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.

“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.”

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.”

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The Trump defence 

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers wrapped up their case after just three hours, saying senators should acquit him, arguing that Democrats’ real goal was taking “vengeance” and “cancelling” the right-wing populist’s movement.

“The article of impeachment now before the Senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance,” attorney Michael van der Veen said.

“The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it.” Defence lawyer Bruce Castor argued that Trump’s speech on 6 January telling supporters to “fight” was merely rhetorical.

He also argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office and that Democrats’ true aim is to remove him from the political scene.

“Let us be clear: this trial is about far more than president Trump,” Castor said.

“It is about cancelling 75 million Trump voters, and criminalizing political viewpoints. That is what this trial is really about.”

trump-impeachment Bruce Castor, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, leaves after the fourth day of the Senate impeachment trial Source: Jabin Botsford/PA

Seeking to turn the table on the Democrats’ use of video evidence to link Trump to the mayhem, defence lawyers played their own compilations showing Democratic lawmakers at different times using the word “fight.”

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Democratic senators, along with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — when they were on the 2020 campaign trail – were among those shown using the word in speeches and on television.

Trump’s lawyer David Schoen addressed the senators and House members in charge of prosecuting the case against Trump, suggesting that “every single one of you” had also used the word in political discourse.

 “That’s OK, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s a word people use,” Schoen told them. “But please, stop the hypocrisy.

The defence team contended that when Trump to his supporters to “fight like hell” he was telling the crowd to support primary challenges against his adversaries and to press for sweeping election reform — something he was entitled to do.

Trump’s defenders told senators that the former president was entitled to dispute the 2020 election results and that his doing so did not amount to inciting the violence.

They sought to turn the tables on prosecutors by likening the Democrats’ questioning of the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 win to his challenge of his election loss.

When Trump implored supporters to “fight like hell” on 6 January, he was speaking figuratively, they said.

“This is ordinarily political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years,” said van der Veen.

“Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles.”

The defence team did not dispute the horror of the violence but said it had been carried out by people who had “hijacked” for their own purposes what was supposed to be a peaceful event and had planned violence before Trump had spoken.  

trump-impeachment David Schoen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial. Source: AP/PA Images

Biden told reporters at the White House yesterday that he was “anxious to see what my Republican friends do, if they stand up,” when it comes to the verdict – which is looking like a near-certain acquittal.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said evidence shown by House managers was “powerful,” but reporters spotted a draft statement from him on Friday that indicated he would be voting for acquittal.

“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing,” tweeted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri told Fox News the trial was “totally illegitimate.”

Other Republicans have clearly already made up their mind with 44 of the 50 senators voting earlier this week to declare the entire proceedings unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president.

- With reporting from AFP and PA

About the author:

Adam Daly

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