PROSECUTORS have finished arguing the case against former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
House impeachment trial managers on Thursday continued drawing on unsettling video footage, audio recordings and tweets from Trump and his supporters to connect his words and actions with the violence of rioters attempting to overturn the election results on Jan. 6.
The insurrection not only threatened the national security of the United States by showing it was relatively easy to break into and ransack the Capitol, but it also opened the nation to criticism from both adversaries and allies, House trial managers argued Thursday afternoon. Trump “utterly failed in his duty to preserve, protect and defend,” they said.
“The world watched President Trump tell his big lie … the world watched when he asked his supporters to come here to march to the Capitol,” Rep. Joaquin Castro said on the Senate floor. “The world is now watching to see whether the rule of law will prevail over mob rule.”
The House wrapped up arguments around 4 p.m. ET, arguing the violent insurrection was foreseeable and predictable by the president when he again fanned the flames during his rally speech on Jan. 6, and that he had continually lauded violence by his supporters leading up to the election and the insurrection.
“We believe we have shown you overwhelming evidence … that this was indeed incitement,” House impeachment trial lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin said. “Donald Trump’s conduct encouraged violence.”
Earlier in the day, Raskin argued that Trump would not “stop inciting violence to get his way” if he were ever reelected. Another key point in the case this week was security footage showing former Vice President Mike Pence being escorted with his family to safety after rioters had breached the Capitol and chanted threats against Pence. The Jan. 6 Capitol building assault left at least five dead.
The trial has been adjourned until Friday, 12 p.m. ET, and will continue through the weekend as Trump’s defense team makes its arguments.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about the most important moments in the trial so far, Trump lawyers’ defense strategy and the new trial schedule. We’ll continue to update this story as the trial develops.
Key moments from Donald Trump’s impeachment trial so far
House impeachment managers, who serve as prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial, wrapped up their case on Thursday against Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Here’s the biggest evidence the House managers presented:
Previously unseen riot footage showing the attack on the Capitol, including security footage as well as mocked-up models showing where rioters were in relation to senators.
Video and audio clips and social media posts showed Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6. Video clips of the siege included chants of threatening violence 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 claimed, to “trigger an angry base to ‘fight like hell'” to overturn a legitimate election.
Video and social media postings from supporters attending Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 prior to the Capitol riot aim to prove causation between Trump’s remarks at the rally and the rioters’ actions.
Footage from Trump rallies from 2016 and 2017, urging supporters to attack protesters at the events and praising the assaults, which they said shows a pattern of supporting violence, they said. They also pointed to Trump tweeting his support when his 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 Jan. 6 attack that showed a lack of remorse and refusal to be held accountable, which the managers claim sends a message to future presidents there is no consequence to inciting an insurrection, if the Senate doesn’t vote in favor of the indictment. The presentation noted at least 16 administration officials resigned in the days following the riot.
The costs to state and federal governments to prepare for — and recover from — the actions of what the House managers repeatedly referred to as “President Trump’s mob.” Managers also looked at the emotional cost on Congressional members, staff and workers resulting from the riot and explored the possible consequences of acquitting Trump.
Trump’s defense is next, and will rely on these two things
On Day 1, Trump’s legal team relied on dispassionate analysis of the Constitution to suggest that the impeachment trial is without merit. The defense is widely expected to counter the prosecution’s emotional and visual arguments with this different approach.
“Presidents are impeachable. Presidents are removable. Former presidents are not because they can’t be removed,” Trump attorney David Shoen said Tuesday. “The Constitution is clear. Trial by the Senate is reserved for the president of the United States, not a private citizen or used-to-be president.”
Trump’s lawyers are also expected to argue that Trump exercised his First Amendment right to free speech, and that the Capitol Hill rioters acted on their own.
House impeachment trial lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin said Thursday that the First Amendment not prevent you from facing consequences for your words, 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.”
Raskin asked Trump’s team to answer five questions during their arguments Friday:
1. Why did Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack as soon as he heard about it?
2. Why did Trump do nothing to stop the attack for at least two hours after it started?
3. Why did Trump do nothing to send help to under-siege Capitol Police for at least two hours?
4. Why did Trump not at any point that day condemn the insurrection and insurrectionists?
5. If a president did incite a violent insurrection against the government, would that be a high crime or misdemeanor?
Trump impeachment vote Saturday?
Trump’s impeachment trial was originally going to pause from Friday at 5 p.m. ET until Sunday afternoon, if the trial hadn’t wrapped up by then. On Wednesday, Trump’s defense reportedly withdrew the request to break on Saturday, allowing the proceedings to continue on Saturday and Sunday, according to The Hill. CNN reported on Thursday the defense may use just one day to present their case.
- Feb. 12, 12 p.m. ET: The defense will make their presentation; both sides each have up to 16 hours to present their arguments, with neither side permitted to present for more than eight hours per day.
- Feb. 13 or 14, 2 p.m. ET: Senators’ questions, scheduled for four hours.
- Feb. 14 or next week: Closing arguments — two hours for each side — and the vote on conviction or acquittal, for which a two-thirds supermajority is required.
The senator presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial is also a juror
The US Constitution lays out clear guidelines for impeaching a sitting president: The Supreme Court chief justice should preside. Trump’s trial is an unusual case, however, since he is now a private citizen as of Jan. 20.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the new Senate president pro tempore, is presiding. As a senator he is also still expected to be able to vote in the trial. He is also a witness to the Capitol riot. The House is prosecuting the case, and the Senate sits as jury and will ultimately vote to convict or acquit.
To convict Trump, 67 senators — or two-thirds of the Senate — must vote in favor. Following Biden’s inauguration, the Senate is now made up of 48 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans, for an even 50-50 split.
6th Republican Senator joined Democrats in test vote
Following the arguments from the two sides, the Senate voted on whether it is constitutional to try a former president. A total of 56 senators voted in favor and 44 against — meaning six Republican senators voted to continue the trial along with the 48 Democrats and two independents.
“It was disorganized, random,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, said following the proceedings. “[Trump’s lawyers] talked about many things but didn’t talk about the issue at hand … Is it constitutional to impeach a president who’s left office? And the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not.”
To convict Trump, 17 Republican senators would need to vote in favor, along with the 48 Democrats and two independents, to reach the two-thirds supermajority.
A previous motion on Jan. 27 to declare the trial unconstitutional saw just five Republicans vote with Senate Democrats. On Monday, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey were this time joined by Cassidy in voting in favor.
Here’s what happens if the Senate convicts or acquits Trump
If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote to 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.
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.
More background: Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial: Here’s what could happen
Trump’s 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.