Donald Trump has a years-long pattern of inciting political violence, Democratic lawmakers argued at his impeachment proceedings, and remains a threat to democracy who could provoke a repeat of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot unless he is convicted and barred from running for office again.
Closing their case on the third day of the former U.S. president’s trial before the Senate, the Democratic members of Congress, serving as prosecutors, tried to show that the mob believed they were storming the Capitol “at the president’s orders” to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.
And they contended that not holding Mr. Trump responsible would open the door for him or other politicians to use political violence to get their way.
“What makes you think the nightmare with Donald Trump and lawbreaking and violent mobs is over?” said Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager. “If you don’t find this a high crime and misdemeanor … you have set a terrible new standard for presidential misconduct in the United States of America.”
The Senate is unlikely to convict Mr. Trump, which would require 17 members of his still-loyal Republican caucus breaking ranks to vote against him. But the Democrats have used the trial, including hours’ worth of harrowing video, to create a comprehensive public record of the riot and tie Mr. Trump’s incendiary political rhetoric to it, in the very Senate chamber that the mob overran that day.
The former president’s legal team is set to start its defence presentation on Friday. He faces a single count of incitement of insurrection over the first breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.
The Democrats on Thursday depicted the riot as the culmination of a violent history going back to the 2016 election campaign. They showed video of Mr. Trump’s supporters beating up protesters at his rallies, intercut with clips of Mr. Trump encouraging them. In one, Mr. Trump told supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters and promised to pay any resulting legal fees.
They also showed Mr. Trump praising Greg Gianforte, now Montana’s governor, for body-slamming a reporter in 2017; arguing that there were “very fine people” among a violent mob of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.; and musing that “maybe it wasn’t” a problem that Michigan militia members had planned to kidnap the state’s governor last year.
In one video montage shown at trial, rioters repeatedly asserted that Mr. Trump had told them to storm the Capitol. “We are listening to Trump – your boss,” a member of the mob told police. “Trump sent us. He’ll be happy,” said one rioter as he livestreamed himself breaking into a legislator’s office. “We were invited here by the president of the United States,” another man shouted.
“The whole intrusion was at the president’s orders,” said Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado. “The president told them to be there.”
Ahead of the riot, Mr. Trump called on supporters to come to Washington for a “wild” time. Then, at a rally that morning, he urged people to descend on the Capitol to “show strength.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas read out Justin Trudeau’s comments on the riot – the Prime Minister described it as “an assault on democracy” that was “incited” by Mr. Trump – to argue that the U.S.’s international democratic reputation was at stake.
“The world is watching, and wondering if we are what we say we are,” Mr. Castro said. “To fail to convict a president of the United States who incited a deadly insurrection would be to forfeit the power of our example as a north star on freedom, democracy, human rights and, most of all, on the rule of law.”
Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville revealed Wednesday night for the first time that he informed Mr. Trump that then-vice-president Mike Pence was in danger during the early stages of the riot. But Mr. Trump continued to attack Mr. Pence on Twitter for not helping him overturn the election.
“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice-president out, I’ve got to go,’ ” Mr. Tuberville told the news website Politico.
The Democrats warned that Mr. Trump’s complete lack of remorse for his actions that day made him a continuing danger if he is not barred from mounting a comeback attempt in 2024.
“I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose,” said Ted Lieu, a Congressman from California. “Because he can do this again.”
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