Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers accused Democrats of pursuing a “hatred” campaign against the former president as they sped through their defense of his actions and fiery words before Capitol insurrection, hurtling the Senate toward a final vote in his notable trial.
The defense team heartily denied Friday that Trump provoked the deadly insurrection and said his encouragement of supporters to ‘fight like hell’ at a rally that preceded it was a routine political speech. They played several clips showing Democrats, some senators now serving as jurors, using the same word to energize followers in speeches railing against Trump.
Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said that it is generally political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language people used across the political spectrum for hundreds of years. Countless politicians spoke of fighting for their principles.
Trump attorney David Schoen told the senators they didn’t do anything wrong in using the word. But requested to stop the hypocrisy.
Mr. Trump’s defense team didn’t dwell on the context of their client’s comments, delivered at a rally challenging the legitimacy of the 2020 election won by Biden.
Instead, they made the case that he told the crowd to support primary challenges against his rivals and press for sweeping election reform.
The case is moving toward a conclusion and near-certain clearing, perhaps as early as Saturday. The Senate is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, whereas a two-thirds majority required for conviction. Trump’s lawyers made an abbreviated presentation that used less than three of their allotted sixteen hours.
Statements From the Senators
Their quick pivot to the Democrats’ own words deflected from the trial’s central question, whether Trump incited the Capitol riot and instead meant to place impeachment managers and Trump adversaries on the defensive. His lawyers contended he was merely telling his rally crowd to support primary challenges against his adversaries and press for sweeping election reform.
They played down Trump’s months-long efforts to challenge the election outcomes and his urging of supporters to do the same. Democrats say that without Donald Trump, the violence would never have happened.
As defense lawyers repeated their videos repeatedly on Friday, some Democrats chuckled and whispered among themselves as all of their faces flashed.
Some senators passed notes. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal threw up his hands, apparently amused, when his face flashed on the screen. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar rolled her eyes. Most of the GOPs watched intently. Some joked about the videos during a break, and others stated they were a “false equivalence” with Trump’s behavior.
Maine Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, marked that they heard the word ‘fight’ very much.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett said it felt like the lawyers were erecting straw men to take them down rather than deal with the realities.
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons requested to show him any time that the result was that one of their followers pulled someone out of the crowd.
The prosecutors’ goal was to cast Trump not as a bystander but rather as the “inciter in chief” who spread election misinformations. Moreover, then encouraged the followers to challenge the results in Washington D.C.
Trump Lawyers arguing that his impeachment trial is no more than a campaign
But Trump’s lawyers say that goal only highlights the “hatred” Democrats feel for Donald Trump. Throughout the impeachment trial, they showed clips from Democrats questioning his presidency’s legitimacy and suggesting as early as 2017 that he should be impeached.
Van der Veen said ‘hatred’ is at the heart of the house managers’ fruitless efforts to blame Trump for the rioters’ criminal acts based on double hearsay statements of right-wing fringe groups based on no factual evidence other than rank speculation.
Trump’s lawyers note that in the same January 6 speech, he encouraged the crowd to behave “peacefully.” Lawyers contend that his remarks and general distrust of the election outcomes are all protected under the First Amendment. Democrats actively resist that assertion, saying his words were not political speech but rather amounted to direct violence incitement.
The defense lawyers also returned to arguments that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. The Senate rejected that contention as it voted to proceed with the trial.