During closing statements Saturday in the, prosecutors said Trumps’ Jan. 6 speech immediately preceding the didn’t by itself incite insurrection — Trump had spent “months” firing up his followers.
The trouble began well before the 2020 presidential election, House impeachment trial managers argued, when Trump claimed that if he lost, the election was rigged. Trump also wouldn’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power after being voted out of office, prosecutors pointed out. Rep. Madeleine Dean alleged that Trump’s conduct over many months incited his supporters to believe
- His big lie that the election was stolen
- That they had to “stop the steal”
- They had to “fight like hell” to stop the steal.
During closing, prosecutors also emphasized the danger former Vice President Mike Pence was in during the, saying it’s “inconceivable” that Trump did not know about it. Speaking of Trump’s “dereliction of duty,” Rep. David Cicilline called the former president the “inciter in chief.”
“He chose retaining his own power over the safety of Americans … his sole focus was stealing the election for himself,” Cicilline said.
How to watch:
Closing arguments began Saturday afternoon despite House managers making a surprise announcement in the morning to call a witness over Zoom. Prosecutors had moved to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler after the Republican congresswoman on Friday night released a statement about a conversation she’d had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. During that conversation, she said, McCarthy told her Trump expressed sympathy for the rioters while the insurrection was taking place.
Herrera Beutler urged other “patriots” to come forward with information of their own on what the former president said to others during the attack on the Capitol — particularly any conversations that took place between Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6.
But after the Senate voted 55-45 to allow witnesses to be called and senators then held a two-hour recess to discuss how to proceed, the House impeachment trial managers agreed to submit Herrera Beutler’s statement as evidence rather than calling her as a witness.
The decision means the trial could now wrap up Saturday, after closing arguments. Each side has two hours to make its closing statement, after which a vote to convict or acquit is expected.
The trial has been moving at a faster clip than expected, with the defense using just three hours for arguments on Friday. Both sides get up to two hours to make final arguments before the Senate votes, which could take place as soon as this afternoon.
During the trial this week, prosecutors relied onshowing the attack on the Capitol, as well as video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to and in the days and months leading up to that date. House impeachment managers additionally showed tweets where Trump lauded violent actions by his supporters in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
On Friday, the defense team used more dispassionate constitutional analysis to argue that the trial is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights, as well as arguing that Trump’s rally speech was taken out of context and that Democratic leaders have used the same language in the past in calling on their own supporters to “fight.”
We’ve highlighted the biggest questions asked by senators below, followed by a recap of the most important arguments from the trial.
Senators’ key questions about Trump’s impeachment case
On Friday afternoon, the Senate was given up to 4 hours for questions, on both sides of the impeachment trial. Here are the biggest questions they asked and a summary, usually paraphrased, of their arguments.
When did Trump learn of the attack on the Capitol, and what did he do to stop the rioting and when?
Defense: Without providing information from their client on what he did to stop the riot and when, Trump’s team argued that “there’s been absolutely no investigation into that” by the House impeachment managers.
Prosecutors: “This attack was on live TV on all major networks. He knew the violence was underway. He knew the severity of the threat. He knew Capitol police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and fighting for their lives against thousands of insurgents with weapons,” they argued. “Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attacks for 2 hours after the attacks began? Why did President Trump do nothing to help the Capitol and law enforcement?”
If the attack was predictable and foreseeable, why were Capitol Police caught off guard and why did calls to activate the National Guard go unheeded for hours?
Defense: Law enforcement and the mayor of Washington, DC, were forewarned and should have been prepared.
Prosecutors: The president was the most responsible for what happened on Jan. 6 and had the most prior knowledge of the attack, but instead of preparing law enforcement he “cultivated” the violence. Also, the mayor of DC doesn’t have the jurisdiction to activate the National Guard.
Why is Trump’s video telling rioters to “go home in peace” relevant?
Prosecutors: The Capitol had been stormed by rioters with weapons, people had been yelling “Hang Mike Pence,” others had gone after Speaker Pelosi and the carnage had been broadcast on TV for hours — if this wasn’t what Trump wanted, why did he then commemorate the day by saying “Remember this day forever” unless it was something to praise, not condemn? He gave no reassurances to the people during this tweet.
Should there be a “January exception” to a president’s conduct?
Prosecutors: This would invite presidents and civil officers to “run rampant” in their last few weeks in office because they could never be held accountable.
Is this trial just for show?
Defense: That is what Trump believes.
If Trump is not convicted, what message does that send?
Prosecutors: The world is watching to see what we do, and decisions like this will define what America is.
Recap of the impeachment case against Trump
Here’s the key evidence the House managers presented this week.
showing the attack on the Capitol, including security footage as well as models showing where rioters were in relation to senators.
Video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6. fight like hell‘” to overturn a legitimate election.against Pence and members of Congress, as well as false claims about the election. Trump deliberately used false claims about election fraud, the House managers said, to “trigger an angry base to ‘
Video and social media postings from supporters attending Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 prior to the Capitol riot, used in an effort to prove causation between Trump’s remarks at the rally and the rioters’ actions.
Footage from Trump rallies from 2016 and 2017, in which Trump urged supporters to attack protesters at the events and praising the assaults, which the House managers said showed a pattern of supporting violence. They also pointed to Trump tweeting praise when supporters tried to run a Biden-Harris campaign bus off the road in Texas in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
Statements made by Trump following the attack demonstrated a lack of remorse and refusal to be held accountable, which sends a message to future presidents that there is no consequence to inciting an insurrection, if the Senate doesn’t vote to convict, the House managers argued. At least 16 administration officials resigned in the days following the riot, managers added.
Acquitting Trump could lead to political consequences, they said. They also highlighted the high cost to state and federal governments of preparing for — and recovering from — what they called “President Trump’s mob,” and the emotional toll taken on Congressional members, staff and workers by the riot.
The First Amendment doesn’t prevent you from facing consequences for your words, Raskin said Thursday, especially when you hold the highest leadership position in the nation. “There’s nothing in the First Amendment … that can excuse your betrayal of your oath of office,” Raskin said. “It’s not a free-speech question. [It’s] the greatest betrayal of a presidential oath in the history of America.”
Recap of Trump’s defense strategy
Analysis of the Constitution was used on Day 1 to suggest that the impeachment trial is without merit. The trial is unconstitutional and a violation of Trump’s rights, the defense argues, saying, “Mr. Trump’s speech deserves full protection under the First Amendment.”
Social media posts and video clips from Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and other events that the defense attorneys said demonstrate that the House impeachment managers “manipulated” video and remarks used in their presentation to make their case.
Trump’s remarks encouraged “peaceful and patriotic protests,” his lawyers argued on Day 4, rather than a violent overturn of the results of the election, as House trial managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin had claimed in the first three days of the trial. “We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur because his long-standing hatred for violent protesters and his love for law and order is on display, worn on his sleeve, every day that he served in the White House,” lead Trump lawyer Bruce Caster said Friday afternoon.
The violence was premeditated and preplanned, and therefore Trump’s Jan. 6 rally speech did not cause the riot at the Capitol, it was argued. Claiming Trump’s speech has been taken out of context and that his use of the word “fight” was metaphorical, Caster said rioters had already broken through barriers into the Capitol before Trump had finished speaking.
What happened does not fit the definition of an insurrection since no government was overthrown, Castor argued.
Impeachment video clips that contrast remarks from Trump with those of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders and commentators that Trump’s defense team says shows the Democrats’ “reckless, dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric in recent years.”
Impeachment trial vote on Saturday?
was originally going to pause from Friday at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT) until Sunday afternoon, if the trial hadn’t wrapped up by then. But a vote to acquit or convict could come as soon as Saturday or Sunday if no delays arise, such as a call for witnesses or documents. Here’s more information about the and .
What happens if the Senate convicts or acquits Trump
If the Senate votes to convict the bar him from running again (per the US Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would preclude a possible presidential run in 2024. This vote would require only a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris serving as president of the Senate would cast a tie-breaking vote, if required., it will hold an additional vote to
Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.
According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can’t be pardoned.
If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.
Trump’s first impeachment in 2019
Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House, but the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.
His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.