WASHINGTON (AP) – House prosecutors concluded two days of emotional arguments in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Thursday evening, insisting that the Capitol invaders believed they were acting on ‘the president’s orders’ to stop the election of Joe Biden, the deadly culmination of Trump’s model of spreading falsehood and the violent rhetoric that will continue to vex US policy if left unchecked.
Democratic prosecutors have described in personal and blunt terms the horror that faced that January day, including in the same Senate chamber where Trump’s trial is underway. They posted the many public and explicit instructions Trump gave to his supporters – long before the White House rally that sparked the attack on Capitol Hill as Congress certified Biden’s victory. Five people died in the chaos and its aftermath, a domestic attack unprecedented in US history.
In videos, some posted on social media by the rioters themselves, the invaders explained how they were doing everything for Trump.
“If we pretend it didn’t happen, or worse, if we leave it unanswered, who can say it won’t happen again?” Argued attorney representing Joe Neguse, D-Colo.
Trump’s defense will speak on Friday, and debates could end with a vote this weekend.
Democrats, with little hope of being convinced by two-thirds of the equally divided Senate, present their most graphic case to the American public, while Trump’s lawyers and Republicans focus on legal rather than emotional issues or historical, in the hope of obtaining it. everything behind as quickly as possible.
This second impeachment trial, for incitement to insurgency, echoes last year’s impeachment and acquittal in the Ukraine case, as prosecutors warn senators that Trump showed no limits and will do so again, endangering civic order unless he is convicted and barred from future office. Even outside the White House, the former president wields influence over broad bands of voters.
Prosecutors on Thursday drew a direct line from his repeated comments tolerating and even celebrating violence – praising “on both sides” after the 2017 outbreak at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. – and urging his crowd to rally last month to travel to Capitol Hill and fight for his presidency. He has spread false allegations of electoral fraud, although there has been no evidence of it, and urged his supporters to “stop the theft” of the presidency.
Prosecutors used the rioters’ own videos from that day to blame Trump. “We have been invited here,” said one of them. “Trump sent us,” said another. ” He will be happy. We are fighting for Trump.
“They really believed the whole intrusion was on the order of the President,” said Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette. “The president told them to be there.
At the White House, President Joe Biden said he believed “some minds might change” after Senators saw spooky security video of the murderous insurgency on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, including rioters threateningly searching Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.
Biden said he hadn’t watched any of the previous day’s proceedings live, but then saw the media coverage.
While most Senate jurors appear to have made their decision, making Trump’s acquittal likely, the unreleased audio and video released on Wednesday is now a centerpiece, as lawmakers handling the case argue that he should be found guilty of incitement to siege.
Senators had remained glued to the jarring video released in the House on Wednesday. The senators shook their heads, crossed their arms and frowned. Screams of audio and video filled the Senate Chamber.
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation has offered a tale at every moment of one of the nation’s most alarming days. And it underscored how dangerously rioters have grown close to the nation’s leaders, shifting the focus of the trial from an academic debate on the Constitution to a crude narrative of the aggression.
Footage showed crowds entering the building, rioters engaging in hand-to-hand combat with police, and audio of Capitol Hill policemen pleading for reinforcements. Rioters have been seen roaming the hallways chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and strangely chanting “Where are you, Nancy?” Search for Pelosi.
Trump’s attorney David Schoen said the presentation was “offensive” and that they “did not link her in any way to Trump.”
He told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that he believes Democrats are reliving the tragedy to the public in a way that “tears the American people apart” and hinders unity efforts in the country.
On Thursday, Senators sitting for a second full day of argument looked somewhat tired, slumped in their chairs, crossing their arms and walking to stretch.
One Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said during a break: “To me, the more they talk, the more they lose their credibility.
The aim of the two-day presentation by House prosecutors, which impeached the outgoing president last month a week after the siege, was to portray Trump not as an innocent bystander but rather as “the chief instigator” who spent months spreading lies. and get supporters to contest the election.
They seek not only to be condemned, but also to ban him from his future duties.
“This attack would never have happened without Donald Trump,” said Representative Madeleine Dean, one of the impeachment officials, suppressing her emotions. “And so they come, draped in the Trump flag, and used our flag, the American flag, to punch and club.”
Trump’s lawyers are likely to blame the rioters themselves for the violence.
The first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office, Trump is also the first to be indicted twice.
His lawyers say he cannot be sentenced because he has already left the White House. Even though the Senate rejected this argument in Tuesday’s vote in favor of the trial, the question could resonate with Senate Republicans keen to acquit Trump without being seen as tolerant of his behavior.
While six Republicans joined Democrats in voting Tuesday to hold the trial, the 56-44 vote fell short of the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes required for sentencing.
By LISA MASCARO, ERIC TUCKER, MARY CLARE JALONICK and JILL COLVIN
Associated Press editors Jonathan Lemire and Kevin Freking in Washington, Nomaan Merchant in Houston, and Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.