WASHINGTON – House impeachment managers on Thursday closed their arguments for convicting former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection by warning the Senate that an acquittal would embolden that same president, should he return, or a successor to mount a future violent challenge to the democratic process.
Ending the trial’s second day, the House managers depicted Trump as a candidate and president who regularly used violent rhetoric in speeches to supporters and in tweets, a pattern of behavior that ultimately led to the deadly Jan. 6 on the United States Capitol.
In the hours and weeks after the assault, Trump has shown no signs of regretting his language, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, told senators.
“I’m a former prosecutor and was trained to recognize lack of remorse but it doesn’t take a prosecutor to recognize lack of remorse, he was showing defiance,” Lieu said. “President Trump’s lack of remorse shows that he will undoubtedly cause future harm if allowed because he still refuses to account for his previous high grave crime against our government.”
Rep. Diane DeGette, D-Colorado, said Trump did more than simply inspire the insurrectionists during his speech just before the attack – he directly ordered them to take action.
The mob, DeGette said, made it clear to law enforcement outside the Capitol that they were simply following Trump’s orders. Video evidence also showed attackers fervently chanting “Fight for Trump,” “Invade the Capitol Building” and “Storm the Capitol.”
Trump’s supporters “thought they were following orders from the commander-in-chief,” DeGette said. “And so they would not be punished.”
Some insurrectionists who have been arrested and charged are now having second thoughts, according to court filings, saying they felt deceived by Trump after the president initially began to distance himself from the protesters following the riot.
Jacob Chansley, whose horned hat and painted face was photographed and filmed and shown nationwide, expressed his regret following the attacks, claiming that he had “been duped by the president,” according to a statement made by his attorney.
The January insurrection left at least seven people dead (two police officers took their lives after the attack) and over 150 people injured, according to DeGette.
During the attack, Trump did nothing to help the members of Congress and law enforcement besieged by the assault he incited, DeGette said.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, the lead House manager, said the warnings were clear for months. He cited the attack on the Michigan State Capitol in late April 2020, alleging it was a “dress rehearsal” for last month’s Capitol attack.
Showing video footage from Michigan’s attack, prosecutors emphasized that many of the attackers’ rhetoric was similar to those at the Capitol — shouting at police officers and calling them “traitors” and “cowards.” Attackers also shouted chants like “Heil Hitler.”
Raskin said the video evidence and published articles proved that Trump never condemned the repeated violence executed by his supporters in Michigan. Instead, the then-president praised the mob attackers and referred to them all as “very good people.”
Lieu said Trump also lied about his role in dealing with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
According to Lieu, Trump claimed to have deployed the National Guard once the riot broke out, but he actually called them in two hours later, around 3 p.m. The National Guard did not arrive on-scene until after 5pm.
When the guard was deployed, the Pentagon had released a statement showing the list of individuals who were consulted before deploying the troops. Several people were on that list, including Vice President Mike Pence. President Trump was not on that list, Lieu said.
In fact, Lieu said, Trump intended for the insurrection to happen and was “delighted” at the events, going so far as tweeting more derogatory comments about Pence even after he knew his vice president was in danger. It took Trump an entire day after the attack to condemn the violence and actions of his supporters, the congressman said.
“It took President Trump three days before he lowered the flag of the United States of America… President Trump, who was commander-in-chief at the time, did not attend and pay respects to the officer who lay in state in the very building that he died defending,” Lieu added.
Trump’s legal team begins its defense Friday. House managers anticipated that one line of argument would be that Trump’s remarks before the attack were protected by the First Amendment.
But Trump’s violent rhetoric is not protected by the Constitution, Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, told the senators.
“It’s about his refusal to accept the outcome of the election, and his decision to incite an insurrection and there’s no serious argument that the First Amendment protects that, and it would be extraordinarily dangerous for the United States Senate,” Neguse said.
“We humbly ask you,” Neguse said, “to convict President Trump for the crime which he is overwhelmingly guilty of, because if we pretend this didn’t happen, if it goes unanswered who’s to say it won’t happen again?”
The House managers emphasized that they weren’t seeking a criminal or civil punishment for Trump, but insisted the Senate had to set a precedent that presidents are held accountable for their words and the violence they may cause.
Raskin closed the prosecution’s presentation with slightly updated and revised words of Thomas Paine in his pamphlet The Crisis: “These are the times that try men and women’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will shrink at this moment from the service of their cause and their country, but everyone who stands with us now will win the love and the favor and the affection of every man and every woman for all time. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; but we have this saving consolation, the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory.”
Raskin added: “Good luck in your deliberations.”
After the defense’s presentation, which will be given up to 16 hours, senators will have the opportunity to submit written questions to both sides.