Trump Team Resorts to Threats in Impeachment Defense
“Remember this day forever!”
The Senate convened Tuesday to try former President Donald Trump for his incitement of a violent insurrection that ultimately resulted in seven deaths, countless injuries and devastating damage to the U.S. Capitol, both to the building and democratic principles it was built to uphold.
Neither side wholly defends the actions of the Jan. 6 mob, though there is suspicion that some among them may have intentionally aided the effort and that many were complicit as the threat loomed. However, one party is resolute in ensuring the president is held accountable for intentional rhetoric that led to that fatal day while the other party is doing everything in its purview to not hold truth to power.
You can’t impeach a private citizen, according to the Office of President Donald J. Trump. pic.twitter.com/e2G9ubnNGM
— Windsor Mann (@WindsorMann) February 9, 2021
At a loss for good representation and any solid defense, Trump’s last-minute legal team took a three-pronged approach Tuesday: claiming it is unconstitutional to try the former president now that he is a common citizen (an awkward take when Trump refuses to drop the title), claiming they need more time to investigate the charges and that the proceeding establishes dangerous precedent. They literally argued that it’s both too late and too early to try Trump. The third prong was an outright threat of congressional retribution.
At the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, only six Republican senators agreed by vote that the Senate has the constitutional jurisdiction to proceed with the impeachment trial.
As a House manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) opened with an emotionally compelling speech and accompanying video laying out the timeline and graphic imagery of that tragic day. Footage tracked events from the White House Ellipse speeches to the Capitol riot.
Scenes alternated in a real-time breakdown from Trump calling on his supporters to “fight” and declaring that “very different rules” are allowed, to the crowd chanting about storming the building, to the smashing windows and brutal beatings. The video showed Congress members in each chamber being whisked off or hunkering down for safety. They revisited the scenes as gallows were erected, as a lone Capitol officer baited rioters away from occupied chambers, as the mob crushed officers and beat another with an American flag pole.
Throughout the video, several trespassers can be clearly heard saying that Trump sent them, that they were there in all their violent glory to fight for a president who’d been voted out of office by the majority of the American people.
They were there to stop election certification because Trump claimed he was robbed, because he lied and they believed him.
The video presented as an exhibit of evidence went on to note that two hours passed before Trump posted a video asking rioters to go home “peacefully.” He also used that opportunity to again insist that the election was fraudulent, which was the “big lie” that led to the violence in the first place. It ended with a screenshot of a tweet Trump issued four hours after the mayhem began, which included a call to “remember this day forever!”
The Democrats didn’t have to do much prep work to present a solid case against the former president — the evidence was in plain view, televised both nationally and internationally. We are all witnesses in our own right to what led to and went down on that day.
The defense is resorting to flawed process arguments because they have no other legs to stand on. Unfortunately, none of it matters because the GOP has hitched it’s wagon to Trump and preemptively decided to acquit him. Sedition and constitutional law be damned.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) dismantled the defense’s first prong in one simple statement:
“President Trump was impeached while he was in office for conduct office.”
The mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. The House impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection on Jan. 13. The Senate trial was delayed until after Trump left office at the sole discretion of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Since the House impeached Trump while he was still in office, the Senate is obligated to see it through as a matter of due process.
In the second prong, defense attorney David Schoen then claimed “real accountability” would require far more investigation, which would effectively push the impeachment trial out even further from the day Trump vacated the White House. And in the mode of circular thinking, see Prong 1.
The third line of defense was actually an offensive strike.
Pointing out that the tide may turn and the GOP could once again control the House in 2024, Schoen said:
“The pressure will be enormous to respond in kind.”
Let’s be clear about the precedent Democrats are at risk of setting: that a president can be impeached and banned from holding future office if he/she is found guilty of inciting a violent insurrection. Why would any party not welcome that precedent?
Over the course of this week, the Republican Party has the power to determine if it lives on or dies in useless obscurity, if it is to be the party of extremism and hypocrites or a body of lawmakers fit to hold elected office. If Tuesday is any indication, the GOP is headed for the grave.