February 27, 2021

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Impeachment prosecutors wrap up case: Here are the top takeaways from trial’s third day

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WASHINGTON — House impeachment managers spent the last day of their arguments in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump telling senators that he reasonably should have known his actions would lead to violence and refuting what they expect his defense lawyers will say in the next two days of trial.

The prosecutors are hoping to convince senators that Trump should be convicted on the charge that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, but they will need 17 Republicans to side with all Democrats and independents to reach the two-thirds majority needed to find Trump guilty.

The House managers rested Thursday afternoon after they said they demonstrated that the violence was foreseeable by Trump, that the former president did not attempt to stop his supporters and that he did not show remorse.

Impeachment live updates:Prosecution rests after two days in Trump impeachment trial

Here are the top takeaways from the House’s presentation on Thursday:

Impeachment manager: Trump has a history of inciting, praising violence

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who is leading the House impeachment managers in the Senate trial, argued that Trump could have reasonably expected his words and actions would lead to the violence.

Raskin described how in the wake of coronavirus-related lockdown orders in the state of Michigan last year, Trump’s volatile tweets and statements about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer led his supporters to aggressively gather at that state’s capital building and plot to kidnap the governor.

“Trump’s marching orders were followed by aggressive action on the ground,” Raskin said.

Raskin presented Trump’s words after his supporters chanted “lock her up” at a campaign rally, referring to Whitmer. He did not attempt to stop them, Raskin argued.

“I don’t comment on that,” Trump said at his rally. “They say, ‘the president led them on.’ No, I don’t have to lead you on.”

Capitol riot charges:5 charged with conspiracy; at least 2 associated with Proud Boys leaders

On Wednesday the managers also presented video of Trump supporters in trucks and vehicles attempting to run a Biden-Harris campaign bus off a Texas highway and Trump’s response praising the individuals as “patriots.”

Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said that when Trump attacked Georgia’s secretary of state for refusing to go along with his false claims of election fraud, the former president’s supporters sent threats.

“Each time his supporters along the way showed violence, he endorsed it, encouraged, praised it,” Neguse said Thursday.

Trump did not show remorse, prosecution argues

House prosecutors used their arguments to portray former President Donald Trump as someone who not only invited the protesters to invade the Capitol, but never showed remorse for egging the crowd on.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., cited how Trump tweeted a video during the riot in which he said that while protestors should go home, they were “very special” people.

“This is not a man who showed remorse,” Lieu told the senators.

Lieu said Trump never admitted to going “too far” with his rhetoric and actions. Rather, Lieu argued, Trump continued to push his falsehood that the election was rigged by Democrats and that his loss was due to fraud.

Despite ample opportunity, Lieu said, Trump still has not said “the one sentence that matters, the one sentence that would prevent future political violence: ‘The election was not stolen.’ “

Trump’s actions hurt the US, manager says

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said that Trump’s actions hurt the country’s standing around the world, demonstrating that Trump violated his oath of office. Castro read statements and reports from foreign leaders from countries such as China, Russia and Iran using the insurrection to “not only to denigrate America, but to justify their own antidemocratic behavior calling America hypocritical.”

Castro pointed to how the Chinese government used the Capitol breach against support of the Hong Kong protesters, who are fighting for democracy.

“We cannot let them use what happened on Jan. 6 to define us, who we are and what we stand for. We get to define ourselves by how we respond to the attack of Jan. 6,” Castro said.

He argued that senators must convict Trump to show adversaries and allies that Trump’s actions do not represent the United States.

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

Prosecutors: Trump has no First Amendment defense

The House managers spent part of Thursday pushing back on the arguments they expect Trump’s defense team to make in the next two days of arguments, namely that Trump is protected by the First Amendment right to political speech.

Raskin said that the defense team plans to paint a picture of Trump’s actions contrary to the facts, and that the president cannot use the First Amendment as an “excuse” for the deadly riot at the Capitol that day given his incitement of the crowd and his relentlessly false allegations about the election.

“Trump is not even close to the proverbial citizen who falsely shouts ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. He is like the now-proverbial municipal fire chief who incites a mob to go set the theater on fire, and not only refuses to put out the fire, but encourages the mob to keep going as the place spreads,” Raskin said. “We would hold that fire chief accountable. We would forbid him from that job ever again. And that’s exactly what must happen here.”

Trump lawyer Bruce Castor told the Senate on Tuesday that while his client denounced the violence at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob as “repugnant in every sense of the word,” he also said Trump’s words are protected speech that should not be blamed for the actions of the rioters.

“To hear his lawyers tell it, he was just some guy at a rally expressing unpopular opinions,” Neguse told the senators Thursday at the impeachment trial. “They would have you believe that this whole impeachment is because he said things that one may disagree with. Really?”

Defense lawyer says House presentation is ‘offensive’

Trump’s defense team led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen will have up to 16 hours over the next two days to make their own arguments. In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Schoen said that the House managers’ arguments were “offensive” and called the presentation “an entertainment package.”

Schoen insisted Trump does not want to be associated with the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and that senators will get “a much better picture of what’s going on here” when their team presents, starting Friday.

More:Trump is unhappy with his legal team, allies say, but confident he’ll be acquitted

After Wednesday’s presentation, Castor also said the videos shown that depicted how close rioters were to were powerful, but he hadn’t heard the violence connected to Trump.

“We know a mob breached the Capitol and wreaked havoc in the building,” Castor said. “I’m waiting for them to connect that up to President Trump, and so far that hasn’t happened.”

What comes next?

The House managers wrapped up their case on Thursday, having used only about 10 of their allotted 16 hours for argument. On Friday at noon ET, Trump’s legal team will begin their presentation, which could last up to eight hours with an additional eight hours on Saturday.

After both sides have concluded, senators then will have the opportunity to ask both sides questions.

Following the question-and-answer session, either side could request to call witnesses, which could extend the trial. If no witnesses are called, the trial could conclude early next week after closing arguments from both sides and a vote to convict or acquit.

Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, must agree that Trump is guilty of incitement in order to secure a conviction. Though some Republican senators have indicated they’re open to conviction, most have indicated they do not support the trial.

In a vote on Tuesday on whether the trial itself was constitutional since Trump is not currently in office, 44 Republican senators voted that the trial should not continue, and just six voted that it is constitutional.

Contributing: Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu, Bart Jansen, Ledyard King, Savannah Behrmann, Maureen Groppe

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