Democrats to show new Capitol attack footage at Trump impeachment trial | Trump impeachment (2021)

House Democrats launched their case for convicting Donald Trump for his role in the 6 January attack on the Capitol, arguing methodically that the former US president deliberately organized and incited the assault after months of saying the 2020 election was rigged.

The Democrats – called impeachment managers during the trial – used their opening argument to frame the idea that the assault was not a random act of chaos, but one planned and fomented by Trump for months. Once the attack began, they argued, Trump violated his presidential oath to protect the US constitution by not acting to stop it, instead relishing watching it unfold on television.

“Trump committed a massive crime against our constitution and our people, and the worst violation of the presidential oath of office in the history of the United States of America,” said congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager.

Congressman Joe Neguse, another impeachment manager, dissected Trump’s speech during a 6 January rally, making the case that Trump intended to rile up supporters there to attack the Capitol as electoral votes were being counted and for his supporters to block Joe Biden from officially being certified the winner of the presidential race.

He noted Trump publicly invited supporters to Washington DC on that specific day and planned the rally at the exact time Congress was meeting to count electoral votes. When Trump spoke, Neguse said, he encouraged them to “fight” – language that unmistakably signaled to them to attack.

“Those words were carefully chosen. They had a specific meaning to that crowd,” Neguse said. “He didn’t just tell them to fight like hell. He told them how, where and when. He made sure they had advance notice.”

Democrats spliced their remarks with visceral footage of the violence that unfolded on the day. It was a continuation of the presentation strategy Democrats had launched on Tuesday and was meant to show unmistakable evidence of Trump’s responsibility for the attack.

Democrats also on Wednesday planned to show never before seen security footage from the attack, according to a senior aide.

Democrats pointed to months of false statements Trump made about the election being stolen leading up to 6 January. Those lies, they said, were a deliberate effort to sow distrust of the election that exploded in the attack on the Capitol. They played clips of television interviews and speeches in which Trump repeatedly refused to commit to accepting a peaceful transition of power.

“He built this mob over many months with repeated messaging until they believed that they had been robbed of their vote … and incited them so he could use them to steal the election for himself,” said congressman Eric Swalwell of California, another impeachment manager.

Trump was impeached while still in office by the US House of Representatives on one charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the 6 January attack.

Raskin also dismissed an argument raised by Trump’s attorneys that the former president’s speech at the rally was protected by the first amendment. While an ordinary citizen’s anti-government speech is protected by the first amendment, Trump had an obligation to protect the nation, Raskin argued. He compared Trump to a fire chief who sent a mob to burn down a theater and then did nothing to stop it.

Democrats have so far earned praise for their arguments, even among some Republican senators who voted against proceeding with the trial. So far there have been no no such rave reviews for Trump’s legal team. Bruce Castor, a former Pennsylvania prosecutor, kicked off Trump’s defense on Tuesday with a meandering argument that was widely derided. Trump, watching on television from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, was reportedly furious with the performance.

“Anyone who listened to President Trump’s legal team saw they were unfocused, they attempted to avoid the issue and they talked about everything but the issue at hand,” said Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican senator who voted with Democrats on Tuesday.

Cassidy’s vote on Tuesday was significant because he previously voted last month to dismiss the trial on constitutional grounds. A Democratic aide pointed to that flip as evidence it was possible to convince Republicans to vote for impeachment.

But Democrats will need to convince 17 Republican senators to join them in order to convict Trump, which seems extremely unlikely to happen.

“The managers are going to go in and they are going to move the hearts, minds, and, I think, the consciences of 100 jurors, none of them have voted yet,” another senior aide said. “And we fully expect to prevail in the end.”

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