While Democratic prosecutors and attorneys for Donald Trump on Friday wrapped up the fourth day of the former president’s unprecedented second impeachment trial, senators faced mounting pressure to convict Trump for inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol with months of lies about the 2020 presidential election.
“Responsibility for that dark day in our nation’s history begins with former President Trump, who orchestrated and incited the insurrection, and he must be held accountable.”
— Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause
“Americans are united in condemning the deadly attack on the Capitol, and they are united in their belief that those responsible must be held accountable,” declared Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn, whose group sent a letter (pdf) to senators on Friday.
“Responsibility for that dark day in our nation’s history begins with former President Trump, who orchestrated and incited the insurrection, and he must be held accountable,” Hobert Flynn continued. “Donald Trump must be convicted and banned from ever holding office again.”
“It is time for every member of the Senate to do their duty, to put our country first, and safeguard our democracy not only from the former president but from any future autocrat who would trample on our Constitution,” she added. “History is watching and so is the nation.”
As Common Cause’s letter says, “We strongly urge you to defend our Constitution and the rule of law by voting ‘yes’ to convict Donald J. Trump on the incitement of insurrection article of impeachment, and if two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, we urge you to immediately vote to prevent him from holding office again.”
Just 10 House Republicans joined with Democrats last month to pass a single article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting an insurrection. A pair of recent unsuccessful votes to dub Trump’s trial unconstitutional has generated doubt about whether the requisite two-thirds of senators will support conviction.
Following opening remarks on Tuesday, Democratic House impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) have spent this week making the case for convicting Trump with damning footage from the Capitol attack, personal testimony, and warnings that a conviction is key to preventing future insurrection attempts.
The fourth day of Trump’s trial wrapped up Friday afternoon with a question-and-answer session that followed misleading and false statements from the former president’s lawyers.
Trump’s defense team sought to downplay the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was perpetrated overwhelmingly by supporters of the former president who believed his lie that election was “stolen.” Trump’s attorneys falsely claimed that a “small group” of extremists “hijacked” the January 6 “stop the steal” protest, and that “Trump was not in any way, shape, or form instructing these people to fight.”
Defense attorney Bruce Castor falsely asserted that “the criminals at the Capitol weren’t there at the Ellipse to even hear the president’s words.”
Another of Trump’s attorneys, Michael van der Veen, lied about “the leader of Antifa” being one of the first people arrested in connection with the attack. Antifa is an ideology, not an organization; it has no “leader,” and so far no one arrested or charged by law enforcement for alleged January 6 crimes has been described as an anti-fascist.
Much of Trump’s defense was centered on First Amendment arguments and false equivalencies, as the impeached former president’s attorneys played a video montage showing Democrats saying the word “fight.”
The video was meant to rebut charges made by House impeachment managers and others that Trump’s rhetoric before and on January 6—which included an exhortation to “fight like hell” just before the mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol that day—incited the attack.
Critics noted that when Democrats say “fight” it doesn’t result in violent insurrection.
The key distinction is that *the activists don’t take their cues from Democrats.* It’s not like Seattle anarchists were sitting around playing Fortnite and said “wait, Tim Kaine said we should ‘fight in the streets?’ We should literally do that!” https://t.co/WEKAd0GbKg
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 12, 2021
Everyone who’s been paying the slightest attention to American politics since the 60s know that when the Democrats say “fight” it’s only metaphorical. Unless they’re sending you to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, Somalia, Serbia, Iraq, Libya…
— Jeffrey St. Clair (@JSCCounterPunch) February 12, 2021
Trump’s attorneys also recycled material from his first impeachment, including allegations of a partisan “witch hunt” and charges of Democratic animus toward the former president.
“It has become very clear that House Democrats hate Donald Trump,” asserted van der Veen. “Hatred is at the heart.”
There were more defense lies during the Q&A session. Van der Veen claimed that “at no point” during the attack was Trump aware that former Vice President Mike Pence—whom many members of the mob said they wanted to execute for “treason”—was in danger.
However, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told reporters earlier this week that he spoke with Trump during the attack and informed him that Secret Service agents had whisked Pence away from the rioters.
In one of the more heated moments of the Q&A period, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) submitted a question to van der Veen asking if the prosecutors are “right when they claim that Trump was telling a big lie, or in your judgment did Trump actually win the election?”
“My judgment? Who asked that?” van der Veen inquired.
Sanders shot back: “I did.”