The second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump has now spanned multiple days, and since you have a life and/or job that you would presumably like to keep, we are here to watch, cover, and fill you in on the proceedings.
The prosecution concluded its opening arguments today, which we will explore in detail below.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE
Rep. DeGette began her time by recounting her personal experience on Jan. 6, having been trapped in the House gallery with Rep. Dean.
She then introduced footage from the perspective of the insurrectionists — in an attempt to better illuminate the impetus behind their motives — and shared an analysis demonstrating that, during Donald Trump’s speech that day, mentions of “civil war” on Parler surged by 300 percent.
Donald Trump, she argued, had called these people to action. And they heeded that call.
A rioter at the Capitol can be heard on video saying, “Our president wants us here. We wait and take orders from our president.” And another told an officer upon the breach that they were listening to Trump, the officer’s “boss.”
“Does he [Joe Biden] not realize President Trump called us to siege the place?” yet another asked, in response to Biden’s denouncement of the riots.
“We were invited here by the president of the United States!” one screamed.
And when Donald Trump finally asked the mob to go home via Twitter, his orders were announced by rioters over their loudspeakers, demonstrating the reach and influence of his commands — reach and influence that he had earlier used to compel his followers to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
When Donald Trump called on the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by, DeGette argued, the Proud Boys stood ready to act, waiting on their call to arms, evidenced by the confessions in their charging documents.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN
Rep. Raskin argued that Donald Trump knew that his rhetoric would incite violence, not only because of all of the violent messages posted on the internet and the subsequent warnings that these messages prompted, but because he had seen many of the same groups that he was mobilizing participate in extremist violence in the past.
“These tactics were road-tested,” Rep. Raskin said, and the events that followed served as a culmination of the president’s actions, not an aberration from them. After all, under his leadership, the United States suffered a rise in white supremacism and violent extremism, with homegrown terrorism serving as the number one domestic terror threat, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Rep. Raskin proceeded to introduce video evidence of Donald Trump at his rallies both encouraging and conditioning his supporters to commit violence and sanctioning it after it took place, in a pattern of incendiary rhetoric.
And when, in the wake of his criticisms of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and his calls to “liberate” her state, a mob attacked the state capitol and a group hatched a plot to kidnap her, he did not think better of his words or call for peace; instead, he doubled down.
He saw how his words incited violence in Michigan, Rep. Raskin said, and yet he proceeded down the same path, regardless. “Is there any chance Donald Trump was surprised by the results of his own incitement?”
“His unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of his incitement, and the clear foreseeability of the violent harm that he unleashed on our people and our republic, Jan. 6 was not some unexpected radical break from his normal, law-abiding, and peaceful disposition, this was his state of mind, this was his essential M.O.”
“Is there any political leader in this room who believes … that Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way? Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”
“President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate, so if he gets back into office and it happens again, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”
REP. TED LIEU
Rep. Lieu discussed Trump’s lack of remorse on the day of the insurrection, suggesting evidence of mal-intent.
“President Trump’s lack of remorse and refusal to take accountability during the attack shows his state of mind. It shows that he intended the events of Jan. 6 to happen. And when it did, he delighted in it. President Trump’s lack of remorse and refusal to take accountability after the attack poses its own unique and continuing danger,” Rep. Lieu said. “It sends the message that it is acceptable to incite a violent insurrection to overthrow the will of the people and that the president of the United States can do that and get away with it.”
Even after the insurrection, Rep. Lieu points out, Donald Trump ended his video message to the rioters by saying, “You are very special. We love you,” later imploring them by tweet to “Remember this day!”
It was not until 30 hours after the fact that Donald Trump finally condemned the violence, and it took three days for him to lower the flag to half-staff to honor the fallen officer, whom President Trump declined to pay his respects to, despite the fact that he lay in state.
One week after the attack, Donald Trump released a video “unequivocally” condemning the violence, but this video was neither forceful nor emphatic, Rep. Lieu argued, and he continued to refuse to admit that the election was not stolen.
Ultimately, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and a number of former Republican officials attributed the attack on the Capitol to Trump’s disinformation campaign, with 16 officials resigning in protest, while Trump continued to refuse responsibility.
“President Trump has made clear that if he is not held accountable, he will not be accountable,” Rep Lieu said.
“Impeachment, conviction, and disqualification is not just about the past, it is about the future. It’s making sure that no future official, no future president does the same exact thing President Trump does. President Trump’s lack of remorse shows that he will undoubtedly cause future harm if allowed, because he still refuses to account for his previous high-grade crime against our government.”
REP. DIANA DEGETTE
Rep. DeGette returned to discuss the harm incurred by our country at the hands of Donald Trump.
Domestically, Trump’s conduct, Rep. DeGette argued, emboldened domestic violence extremists (DVEs), who exhibited a rise in radicalism following the Jan. 6 attack, threatening future attacks on the inauguration and at all 50 state capitols, fueled by a “shared false narrative of a stolen election,” according to a Joint Intelligence Bulletin.
At least $483 million has been spent securing our country in the wake of these threats.
Donald Trump, Rep. DeGette noted, has even gone so far as to retweet a video in which a New Mexico official said that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Said DeGette of this repeated pattern of incendiary language, “Having a commander-in-chief who incites violence has given life to the existing violent groups he spent years cultivating and has inspired new coalitions among extremist groups who actually view January as a success. According to the FBI, President Trump’s assemblage of his mob was particularly dangerous because ‘in-person engagement between DVEs of differing ideological goals during the Capitol breach likely served to foster connections, which may increase DVEs willingness, capability, and motivation to attack and undermine a government they view as illegitimate.'”
“Impeachment is not to punish but to prevent. We are not here to punish Donald Trump; we are here to prevent the seeds of hatred that he planted from bearing any more fruit. This was not the first time that President Trump inspired violence, but it must be the last time that he is given a platform to do so.”
You can read the herein referenced Joint Intelligence Bulletin below.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE
Rep. Cicilline noted that the first, second, and third in the presidential line of succession all faced a dangerous threat in the same location, with the first two being specifically targeted.
“This mob was trying to overthrow our government,” Rep. Cicilline said. “And they came perilously close to reaching the first three people in line to the presidency … All because Donald Trump could not accept his election defeat. Trump chose himself, above the people, above our institutions, above our democracy, above all of you. We have heard Trump espouse for years now this ‘America First’ policy, but his true North Star isn’t America’s well-being. It’s not ‘Country First’ like our dearly departed colleague John McCain. No, his directive is ‘Trump First,’ no matter the cost and no matter the threat to our democracy.”
Rep. Cicilline then shared firsthand video accounts from members of Congress, delving into the trauma and the myriad emotions that they experienced that day. The effects were far-reaching. Nearly 200 National Guard members tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake. Seven people lost their lives as a result of that day. 140 police officers were injured.
“We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection. Another officer has tragically taken his own life,” the Capitol Police Labor Committee said in a statement. “Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”
Said Rep. Cicilline, “These people matter. These people risk their lives for us … These people are in deep pain because they showed up here to serve … And I ask each of you when you cast your vote to remember them and honor them and act in service of them, as they deserve.”
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO
Rep. Castro spoke of the harm visited upon America’s national security and the damage to our national reputation.
On Jan. 6, our most sensitive information was exposed to the group assembled by Donald Trump — a group that included people on the FBI watchlist and the National Terrorist Screening Database. And, according to charging documents, at least one of these individuals may have intended to steal information and give it to a foreign adversary.
We spend trillions of dollars on our national defense, Rep. Castro argued, precisely to prevent just such an attack.
And yet, now, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, “Materials were stolen, and we have to identify what was done, mitigate that, and it could have potential national security equities.”
“These investigations are necessary now because of the actions of President Trump,” Castro said. And not only must we investigate these byproducts of the past, we must grapple with the fact that we have exposed a vulnerability to our adversaries that could prove devastating in the future. What’s more, we have lost our international standing, with other nations suggesting that our pro-democracy efforts elsewhere are hypocritical, considering our own struggles at home.
As Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee of the Russia upper house, said, “The celebration of democracy is over. This is, alas, actually the bottom, I say this without a hint of gloating. America is no longer charting the course, and therefore has lost all its rights to set it. And especially to impose it on others.”
In fact, according to the text of a Joint Threat Assessment, “Since the incident at the US Capitol on 6 January, Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”
And a bipartisan statement by the Foreign Affairs Committee stated, “What happened at the Capitol today has scarred our reputation and has damaged our standing in the world. Today’s violence — an inevitable result when leaders in positions of power misled the public — will certainly empower dictators and damage struggling democracies.”
“The world watched President Trump tell his big lie. The world watched his supporters come to Washington at his invitation. And the world watched as he told his supporters to march here to the Capitol. And President Trump, our commander-in-chief at the time, failed to take any action to defend us, as he utterly failed in his duty to preserve, protect, and defend. And now the world is watching us, wondering whether our constitutional republic is going to respond the way it should, the way it’s supposed to. Whether the rule of law will prevail over mob rule. Because the answer to that question has consequences far beyond our own borders,” Castro said.
REP. JOE NEGUSE
Rep. Neguse addressed the idea that Donald Trump’s actions are protected by the First Amendment, a claim that conservative constitutional scholars have deemed “legally frivolous.”
President Trump, Rep. Neguse argued, did not simply make a controversial speech at a rally. He, the president of the United States, engaged in a months-long campaign to subvert our democracy using the powers of his office. He assembled a group of supporters, supporters he knew to be angry and potentially violent, “struck a match,” and “aimed it” at Congress.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN
“Incitement to violent insurrection is not protected by free speech. There is no First Amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea itself is absurd, and the whole First Amendment smokescreen is a completely irrelevant distraction from the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors governing a president who has violated his oath of office,” Rep. Raskin said. “The power we entrust to people in public office, in government office — especially our presidents — comes with special obligations to uphold the laws and the integrity of our republic.”
A private citizen, for example, could not be punished for advocating totalitarianism or pledging allegiance to a foreign adversary, shielded by the protections of free speech. But, Raskin argued, it would be inconceivable to suggest that a president could do either of those things and retain office.
“The opposite viewed pressed here by Trump’s counsel would leave the nation powerless to respond to a president who uses the unmatched power, privilege, and prestige of his or her office — the famous bully pulpit — in ways that risk the ruin of the republic, all for his or her own ambition and corruption and lust for power,” Raskin said.
As Justice Scalia said, “You can’t ride with the cops but root for the robbers.”
In other words, when a president sides with insurrectionists at the expense of the Constitution and his oath of office, there is nothing in the First Amendment that can shield him from consequences. Further, the Brandenburg standard need not apply, as this is not a criminal proceeding and Donald Trump risks neither fine nor imprisonment.
REP. TED LIEU
Rep. Lieu argued that Donald Trump was not denied due process, as previously suggested by the defense.
The House functions as a grand jury or prosecutor, Lieu explained, and its powers are discretionary.
Indeed, when a crime is committed in plain view, it must not be preceded by months of investigation in order to result in an indictment. Especially in exigent circumstances, where future violence is a potentiality.
Also contrary to the defense’s claims, the House did not purposefully delay proceedings, as they had indicated their readiness to proceed to trial immediately following the bipartisan vote to impeach. The Senate, however, was not in session at the time, and House managers were told by Senate leaders that any articles of impeachment delivered to the clerk would ultimately be turned away.
REPS. JAMIE RASKIN AND JOE NEGUSE
Rep. Raskin explained that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” mentioned in the Constitution need not mirror offenses in criminal law, as the consequences and, thus, the criteria are not the same.
And Rep. Neguse posed three questions in an attempt to establish that House managers proved their case.
- Was violence foreseeable?
- Did he encourage violence?
- And did he act willfully?
Rep. Neguse argued that violence was entirely foreseeable, as many in the crowd on Jan. 6 were armed and inflamed, and violence had been threatened at multiple points along the way, in everywhere from Texas to Georgia to Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania. Donald Trump then joined forces with those same groups who had erupted into violence, and in the days leading up to Jan. 6, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of warnings.
But Donald Trump did not heed those warnings, choosing, instead, to continue to stoke fears of a stolen election. And then he invited his supporters to an organized event, meant to coincide with the joint session of Congress, and implored them to fight like hell, or else they wouldn’t have a country anymore.
“When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules,” he said.
And we know that he incited it because the rioters told us so. And because Republicans in and outside of Congress begged Donald Trump to “call it off,” knowing that he had sole power to do so.
And how do we know that Donald Trump acted willfully? Not only did he stand before a crowd prone to violence and provoke them, his conduct throughout the rest of the day further confirms it, as he engaged in what can only be considered a dereliction of duty and continued to inflame the situation with lies and incendiary rhetoric.
Implored Rep. Neguse, “We humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelming guilty of, because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or, worse, if we let it go unanswered, who is to say it won’t happen again?”
Continued Rep. Raskin, “I have talked a lot about common sense in this trial because I believe that is all you need to arrive at the right answer here … Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, but we have this saving consolation: the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory. Good luck in your deliberations.”
And with that, the impeachment managers rested their case, with the defense set to advance their opening arguments at noon tomorrow.
We’ll see you then.