The pressure is on Donald Trump’s lawyers criticized for their ineptitude as well as Senate Republicans after House Democrats on Thursday rested their case on the third day of the former president’s second impeachment trial.
Democrats’ House Impeachment Managers laid out a series of compelling, calculating and meticulous arguments that painted a vivid picture of Trump’s systematic and steady inciting of his most violent supporters to act on his behalf. It all culminated, Democrats said, on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, with Trump’s own words urging his followers to get violent under the disingenuous auspices of protecting the country following repeated baseless claims of election fraud (aka “the big lie”).
Trump knew exactly what he was doing and saying, which is why he waited so long to address the attempted coup that has resulted in at least seven deaths, including multiple police officers, Democrats accurately said while introducing damning pieces of evidence such as previously unseen video of the right-wing extremists rumbling and defacing the Capitol.
Now, the ball is in Trump’s lawyers’ court.
Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse said there are three questions Trump’s lawyers must address as they present their case: 1) was the Capitol violence foreseeable? 2) did Trump encourage the Capitol violence? And 3) did Trump willfully encourage the Capitol violence?
The video and Twitter evidence presented by the House Impeachment Managers answers those questions affirmatively, Neguse said.
Neguse also suggested that the same thing, or worse, history is bound to repeat itself if Republicans do not convict Trump. He avoided any accountability for inciting that violence, emboldening him and his supporters alike to keep pushing forward the needle of domestic terror until Jan. 6, Neguse reasoned.
He logically concluded that the kind of violence seen at the Capitol was similar to that in Charlottesville and in Washington, D.C., where the Proud Boys defaced historic Black churches amid their violence late last year — both of which have been attributed to Trump.
Neguse ended his presentation by saying: “We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime of which he is overwhelmingly guilty of. 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?”
One day earlier, Neguse’s fellow House Manager Rep. Stacey Plaskett presented video she described as “chilling” and showed never-seen-before security footage as violent rioters broke into the Capitol, along with footage of Officer Eugene Goodman leading Sen. Mitt Romney to safety.
“He fanned the flame of violence,” she said of Trump. “The violence was what he deliberately encouraged.”
Trump’s lawyers are expected to present their case beginning Friday. But since their opening arguments questioning the constitutionality of the impeachment trial went so badly for them, not much is likely expected from them.
Instead, regardless of the lawyers’ performance, it all comes down to how Senate Republicans choose to vote — to convict or to acquit. And early reporting shows that there is still a blind partisan effort to vote no out of loyalty to Trump.
Probably expecting for that to be the case, House Manager Jamie Raskin made sure in his closing arguments to appeal directly not just to the entire Senate but also to the American people. That tactic could be effective if Trump is acquitted, jeopardizing the opposing Senators’ chances at re-election by constituents who could feel let down.
After being snubbed by his first to choices of legal representation, Trump chose his B-team that includes Bruce Castor, the former Pennsylvania distrct attorney who promised Bill Cosby immunity in exchange for the testimony that was ultimately (and begrudgingly) used to convict the disgraced comedian of sexual assault.
He and Robert Schoen, who represented controversial Trump cronie Roger Stone, presented their own brief full of fallacies, falsehoods and misgivings on Day 1 of the impeachment trial.
To be sure, the conventional wisdom is that despite all of the above, Senate Republicans are united in their resolve to acquit Trump. But the political capital from the impeachment is the Democrats to bank, showing that not all would be lost for them without a conviction.