Former president Donald Trump directly provoked and incited the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6th, the US Senate was told on Wednesday, as the second day of Mr Trump’s impeachment trial got under way in Washington, DC.
Addressing the 100 members of the Senate, who are jurors in the trial, House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said the former Republican president “was no innocent bystander” to the event, but “incited this attack and he saw it coming”.
Opening proceedings on Wednesday, Mr Raskin said that the evidence presented would show that Mr Trump “became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection . . . that he saw it coming and was not remotely surprised by the violence. To us it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to that madness.”
Much of the evidence presented on the trial’s second day consisted of Mr Trump’s own tweets, interviews and video messages, as the prosecutors made the case that the former president deliberately fomented the attack, which took place as Congress gathered to certify the results of the presidential election last November won by Mr Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden. But the House impeachment managers also played previously unseen security footage from the Capitol Hill attack, warning parents and teachers that some of it would be violent in content.
Drawing a link
As they set out their argument methodically, the Democratic House members drew a link between Mr Trump’s repeated false claims of election fraud and the events on January 6th, arguing that the protesters who stormed the Capitol were “following the president’s orders”, as Colorado representative Joe Neguse said.
The president “didn’t just tell them to fight like hell. He told them how, where and when. He made sure they had advanced notice – 18 days’ advance notice. He sent his save the date for January 6th,” said Mr Neguse, pointing out that Mr Trump began sowing doubts about the election result last spring.
“Those false claims of election fraud? That was the drumbeat being used to inspire, instigate and incite to anger,” he said.
Mr Neguse also zeroed in on comments made by some of those arrested after the riot, in which they claimed they believed they had been following Mr Trump’s instructions.
Mr Neguse also displayed in the Senate chamber written quotes from individuals indicted over the riot, including from one man who spoke about his desire to shoot leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi “in the friggin’ brain”.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” said representative Eric Swalwell. “President Trump’s conduct leading up to January 6th was deliberate, planned and premeditated,” he said, displaying several tweets from Mr Trump in the days running up to the incident.
Several Democrats told the trial about their experience as immigrants and how they felt that the events of January 6th were not emblematic of America. Ted Lieu, a representative from California who was born in Taipei, told the floor: “President Donald J Trump ran out of non-violent options to maintain power. What you saw was a man so desperate to cling to power that he tried everything he could to keep it, and when he ran out of non-violent measures, he turned to the violent mob that attacked your Senate chamber.”
Representative Madeleine Dean reminded the assembled senators of Mr Trump’s phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state in which Mr Trump ordered him to “find” 11,800 votes, an exchange that is now at the centre of an investigation in Georgia. “Senators, we must not become numb to this,” she said.
Democrats were permitted to hold up to eight hours of debate on Wednesday, with a further eight hours scheduled for Thursday, although they are not obliged to use all of their allotted time. Lawyers for Mr Trump will then deliver their presentations.
The impeachment trial is expected to continue through the weekend and could finish before President’s Day on Monday, a federal holiday.