United States House prosecutors have wrapped up their impeachment case against former President Donald Trump on Thursday, with an emotional appeal to the Senate to convict him for inciting the January 6 riot on the Capitol Building, as well as barring him from ever holding public office again.
In rounding up the prosecutors’ arguments, Democratic Representative Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives, said:
“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty. Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again?”
The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol by his supporters who were seeking to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory of November 3, 2020.
Trump’s lawyers will begin their defense on Friday, arguing that the former president cannot be held personally responsible for the storming of Congress.
They have also argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office and as such, cannot be held responsible for the riots.
The lead House impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render “impartial justice.”
“Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country. Why did president Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it? As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?”
But despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.
It would take a two-third majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats to get conviction.
Video footage played by impeachment managers showed the mob hunting down opponents of Trump, as well as senior figures, including then vice president Mike Pence, having to flee to safety.
The defense will stress that Trump did not expressly tell his supporters to commit violence, but Raskin pointed out that the Republican president had been stoking anger and encouraging extremism since Election Day and even before.
“This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,” Raskin said. “This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.”
Raskin said it was imperative the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.
“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?” Raskin added.
Raskin also dismissed claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president did not incite the riot but was just exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution, calling it a “smokescreen that nobody can incite a riot.”
“First Amendment doesn’t protect it. Nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.”
Biden said he did not watch any of the trial live but had seen news coverage of Wednesday’s wrenching video footage.
A Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, however, said video footage shown by House managers on Wednesday was “powerful,” but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”
Other Republican senators have clearly already made up their minds and do not intend to break with Trump, who has threatened to derail their careers.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted the Senate cannot try a former president.
“What happened on January 6, I said it the moment it started, was unpatriotic, un-American, treasonous, a crime, unacceptable.
“The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is,” said Rubio.
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