Democrats label Trump "inciter in chief" for assault on Capitol
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks through the US Capitol in Washington on Feb. 10, 2021. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
Lawmakers walk through the US Capitol in Washington on Feb. 10, 2021. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
By Lucia Leal
Washington, Feb 10 (efe-epa).- The Democratic "managers" at ex-President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial on Wednesday labeled the former president the "inciter in chief" for egging on the mob that assaulted the Capitol, accusing him of "deliberately encouraging" the violence to try and remain in power.
On the second day of the impeachment trial against Trump, Democrats exhibited never-before-publicly-viewed images of the attack on the Capitol complex on Jan. 6 and articulated a comprehensive argument against the former leader, who stands accused of "inciting to insurrection" his followers, a violent attack that resulted in five deaths.
"The evidence will show you that ex-President Trump was no bystander," the Democratic head of the managers, Congressman Jamie Raskin, said in his opening argument. "The evidence will show that he clearly incited the Jan. 6 insurrection. It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role of commander in chief and became the inciter in chief."
The former president told his followers to "fight like hell" and they brought hell to the Capitol, Raskin added.
In the Senate chamber, where the trial is under way, the managers showed videotaped images from Jan. 6 drawn from Capitol security cameras, images that had never been publicly seen before, as well as never-before-released police radio communications from that day.
Those materials enabled them to reconstruct, step by step, the extraordinary attack from the moment when Trump's followers broke windows in the Capitol and poured into the building, just as lawmakers were meeting to certify now-President Joe Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 election, a loss that Trump has never acknowledged and has done everything he could to subvert.
The security camera videos combined with other videos recorded by the press and by the attackers themselves, showed how close Trump's followers got to then-Vice President Mike Pence, whom some were demanding be "hanged" for having refused to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's win.
"During the assault on the Capitol, extremists reportedly coordinated online and discussed how they could hunt down the vice president. Journalists in the Capitol reported they heard rioters say they were looking for Pence in order to execute him," said Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, another manager.
The videos also showed how staffers working for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holed up in another office shortly before the mob got to the office of the Democratic congresswoman, whom the mob "would have killed" if they could have located her, Plaskett said.
Trump had put a target on the backs of Pence and Pelosi and then sent a mob to the Capitol to hunt them down, said Plaskett.
The managers also showed a police bodycam video showing how the mob beat the officer when he was on the floor and they revealed how officers deployed near the Capitol called for reinforcements almost half an hour before the mob broke into the building.
The managers argued that, with his unfounded claims of election fraud, Trump for weeks in advance of the attack sowed the seeds of the assault and in delivering a speech loaded with baseless claims that the election had been "stolen" from him sparked the fury of thousands of his supporters in the crowd, pushed them to action and urged them to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell."
Trump built up the mob over "many months" by repeating the same unfounded claims until they believed that the election had been stolen, and then he fired them up to use them to "steal the election," said Democratic manager Eric Swalwell.
Another one of the managers, Congressman Ted Lieu, said that Trump resorted to inflaming the anger of his followers because he had been left with no non-violent options to remain in power after fruitlessly trying to pressure election authorities in several key states to challenge and overturn the legitimate election result.
Lieu's Democratic colleague Joe Neguse said that the attack was predictable given Trump's comments for weeks in advance and he described the repeated calls over many months by the ex-president to "stop the steal" as a "call to arms."
In addition to being the first impeachment in US history of an ex-president, the proceedings are unusual because both the prosecutors - comprising nine Democratic congresspeople - and the jurors, the 100 senators, were also victims of the deeds that are under examination.
That fact gave rise to several emotional moments during the argument presented by the managers, and one of them - Madeleine Dean - in a trembling voice described the fear she felt when the mob burst through the doors of the House of Representatives chamber, saying that she would never forget that sound.
The managers are aware of the apparent improbability that the proceedings will end with Trump's conviction, given that two-thirds of the senators, 67 in all, would have to vote to do so and the Democrats control only 50 seats in the chamber with more Republicans apparently unwilling to break from the GOP ranks and convict the former president.
Lacking a conviction, it would seem that Democrats will be unable to achieve their main objective: barring Trump from holding political office in the future.
Despite that scenario, the managers made clear the overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to Trump's responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6 and emphasized several points that could be especially convincing for Republicans, such as the serious danger Pence, a member of their party, was in during the attack.
"After the American public sees the full story laid out here ... I don't see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again," Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told reporters.
It is expected that the managers will finish presenting their argument against Trump on Thursday and then it will be the defense team's turn to argue why the president - who is not scheduled to testify in person - should be acquitted.
Trump's defense team - just like the prosecution - will have a maximum of 16 hours to present their case and it is expected that the trial could end as soon as this weekend if no witnesses are called.