Impeachment trial: Democrats say Trump ‘fanned the flame of violence’

Rioters in support of former President Donald Trump breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count on January 6. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Feb. 10 (UPI) — House impeachment managers opened their case on Wednesday arguing for a conviction in the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump for “deliberately” inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month.

House Democratic managers laid out their case against Trump, presenting tweets, news reports, videos and photos that Delegate Stacey Plaskett from the U.S. Virgin Islands said proved he “fanned the flame of violence, and it worked.”

She and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., provided a timeline of the Capitol attack, showing models of the insurrectionists’ progress through the building alongside security, cellphone and media footage of the scene.

In one previously unreleased security video, Vice President Mike Pence and his family can be seen being whisked away from an area near the Senate chamber by Secret Service officers as rioters entered the hallways nearby.

Plaskett’s presentation also showed a fresh angle of the scene as Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman led a group of rioters away from the Senate chambers and toward a group of officers. Lawmakers have since introduced legislation seeking to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal “for his bravery and quick thinking” in that moment.

But Democratic managers introduced another previously unseen security video, this one showing Goodman redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, down a hallway after he unknowingly headed toward the mob.

Swalwell said he later measured that the mob was within 58 steps of reaching lawmakers at one point in the afternoon.

Plaskett highlighted videos and tweets showing Trump’s apparent support of a group of trucks displaying Trump campaign flags appearing to intimidate and run a bus of Joe Biden’s campaign off the road in Austin, Texas.

Plaskett said Trump’s tweet praising his supporters’ actions in Texas was evidence that he encouraged violence on his behalf.

“For anyone who says Donald Trump didn’t know the violence he was inciting, I ask you to consider: His supporters tried to drive a bus off the highway…to intimidate his opponents’ campaign workers and his response was to…call those individuals…patriots,” she said.

In his remarks Wednesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., rejected arguments from defense attorneys and said freedom of speech does not protect inciting violence.

“You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater,” he said, adding that Trump’s behavior was more like a case of a fire chief sending a mob to set the fire and then watching the flames “spread on TV with glee and delight.”

House manager Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said the riot was incited and “foreseeable.”

“He told them it was their patriotic duty because the election had been stolen and invited them to march to the Capitol,” he said.

“The president used this speech as a call to arms. It was not rhetorical,” Neguse added. “[Trump] assembled, the mob; he summoned the mob and he incited the mob.”

Both sides will have an opportunity to give opening arguments Wednesday before the clock starts on the 16 hours allotted to House managers to make their case. Afterward, senators will ask questions, in writing. Arguments on each trial day will last for no more than eight hours.

Impeachment managers face significant opposition in the Senate, where most Republicans continue to signal that they aren’t interested in holding Trump to account for the Capitol attack that resulted in five deaths.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 56-44 to reject a move by Trump’s attorneys to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional.

While six Republicans broke ranks to vote with Democrats in favor of trying Trump, it’s far from the 17 they will need to cross the aisle for a conviction. If he is convicted, Democrats would need only a simple majority to pass a measure to bar Trump from ever holding public office again.

Trump’s attorneys are expected to begin making their arguments on Friday and the trial is expected to last into next week.

CNN, The New York Times and Fox News reported that Trump was upset by the performance of his legal team and their efforts to defend him Tuesday. He remains out of public view at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where he’s been since leaving Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20.


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