“We need to exercise our common sense about what happened here,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) in closing the presentation by the eight impeachment managers from the U.S House of Representatives. Over several hours, they put the final pieces into place of a methodical case demonstrating that Donald John Trump crafted the “big lie” that the 2020 Election was stolen from him, that there was serious voter fraud, and that his supporters must “stop the steal” by whatever means possible.
The U.S. Senate is considering one article of impeachment laid against the 45th president of the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald John Trump for incitement of insurrection, for the violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 following a 70 minute speech by Trump at the Ellipse, just a short distance from the White House. Five people died that day, including Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick and rioter Ashli Babbit, who was shot by an officer when she tried to leap through a broken window.
Now a private citizen residing at his estate Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, some have suggested that Donald Trump cannot be convicted in this historic second impeachment trial because he is no longer president of the United States. Rep. Raskin made it abundantly clear to the Senators listening that the constitutional question of jurisdiction has been decided and that Trump’s defense must respond to the facts amply laid out, and not outlandish legal theories. He also made it clear that the First Amendment does not allow for speech in support of sedition. In fact, more than 140 constitutional scholars, from both sides of the aisle, have made it clear, the U.S. Constitution does allow the U.S. Senate to hold trials on all impeachments.
More than 200 of the protestors themselves are facing charges such as entering restricted buildings, disorderly conduct, and assault of a federal officer. Jacob Chansley, famous for wearing horns, but not a shirt, inside the Capitol, is now apologizing, saying he was duped. U.S. prosecutors note that Jessica Watkins of the Oath Keepers indicated she was awaiting an invitation from Donald Trump to march on Washington. Videos of rioters insisting “we were invited here” and shouting “traitors” at police were played on the floor.
“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of,” Said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo), “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?” As much as Republicans have been suggesting that this trial might set a precedent that anyone might face impeachment, even America’s founding fathers George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, the House impeachment managers noted, if he is not barred from ever holding office again, Donald Trump could run in 2024, lose again, and again, send his supporters to violently attack the U.S. Capitol again.
“Trump chose himself above the people, above our institutions, above our democracy, above all of you,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). He put the attack in the context of history, saying “the attack on Jan. 6 was one of the bloodiest intrusions in the Capitol since the British invaded in the War of 1812 and burned it to the ground.”
Senate Republicans concede that the case presented by the House impeachment managers “set the standard pretty high.” But Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is also concerned, “about the idea of impeaching a former officeholder without explicit authorization in the Constitution and what that means to exactly retribution on political opponents.” Because the cameras controlled by the Senate do not show the Senators themselves, CNN hired a local courtroom artist to draw what could not be seen on television: some of Republican senators absent from their desks while others dozed off.
In their final presentations, the House impeachment managers tried to stitch every gap in their argument shut. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo) laid out how a local attack, on April 30, 2020 on the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing was just a dress rehearsal for the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other white extremist groups for what happened 8 months later. Using Trump’s own words, they connected the dots on how Trump has never shown remorse for the violence he incited. The biggest questions were asked by Rep. Raskin, that if what happened on January 6 was not an impeachable offense, what is an impeachable offense? He asked why Donald Trump failed to call for an end to the violence immediately, to order reinforcements and why Donald Trump has not condemned the violence, much less admit that he lost the 2020 election.
In an interview with the Fox News Channel, David Schoen, one of Trump’s attorneys, described the presentation as repetitive and offensive, claiming a complete lack of evidence and that it’s tearing the country apart by re-showing “movies” of what happened on January 6. Donald Trump himself has declined to testify, even though Senators such as Martin Heinrich of New Mexico would like to hear from him.
The House impeachment managers wanted the Senators to remember that America is far more than a single man. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) reminded the lawmakers that America is an idea: “It’s the light that gives hope to people struggling for democracy in autocratic regimes,” he said, “the light that inspires people fighting across the world for fundamental human rights, and the light that inspires us to believe in something larger than ourselves.”
“[T]his trial,” Rep. Castro said, “is an opportunity to respond and to send a message back to the world.”
Donald Trump’s defense team is to present on Friday, when the Senate convenes at noon EST. Reports say the former president’s lawyers are planning a streamlined defense, which could conclude as early as Friday afternoon.
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