House Impeachment Managers Wrap Their Case

5 hours ago
Originally published on February 11, 2021 8:52 pm

Democratic House impeachment managers wrapped up their arguments Thursday night in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for his actions leading up to and on the day of the Capitol insurrection.

The trial, which began Tuesday and is Trump's second impeachment trial, comes just over a month after a mob of pro-Trump extremists violently breached the Capitol, leading to the deaths of at least seven people.

In his closing remarks, House impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said Trump is "overwhelmingly guilty" and asked the Senate for a vote to convict.

"Because if you don't, if we pretend this didn't happen or, worse, if we let it go unanswered, who's to say it won't happen again?"

The Senate is adjourned until noon ET Friday, when Trump's defense team will present its case.

Here's a look at some of the main takeaways from the arguments on Thursday:

Jan. 6 through the eyes of the rioters

House manager Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., began the day by telling senators that she would walk through the events of Jan. 6 through the perspective of the rioters.

She played footage of rioters shouting, "Fight for Trump!" as they stormed the Capitol, along with quotes from and interviews with members of the mob.

"Their own statements before, during and after the attack make clear the attack was done for Donald Trump, at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes," she said. "They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president's orders, and we know that because they said so."

So far, NPR's Investigations team has found that at least 26 of the alleged rioters who face criminal charges made specific statements that they stormed the Capitol at Trump's behest.

DeGette noted that many rioters posed for pictures in the Capitol, bragging about the breach on social media and tagging the former president in the process. In other words, she explained, they wanted him to see what they were doing.

At one point, DeGette played a video in which a man yells at a police officer, arguing that the crowd shouldn't be blocked from entering the complex.

"We are listening to Trump — your boss!" he screams.

"Folks, this was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment," DeGette said.

A warning against future attacks

House manager Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., made a point of stressing that the trial is not just about holding Trump accountable for his past actions but also safeguarding the country's future against similar attacks.

"Because impeachment, conviction and disqualification [from office] is not just about the past. It's about the future," he said. "It's making sure that no future official, no future president does the same exact thing President Trump does."

Lieu played audio and read quotes from various White House officials who resigned in the wake of the attack, along with comments from Republican lawmakers condemning Trump for his actions leading up to the insurrection. The strategy here was to undermine the defense team's argument that the trial is merely a partisan exercise.

America's global role

House manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, pointed to statements from various world leaders in the days following the attack and argued that letting Trump's actions stand without consequence puts the country's international stature in jeopardy.

"What message will we send the rest of the world?" he asked.

He referenced a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that read: "What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters incited by the current president and other politicians."

Castro said the "world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are" and told senators the trial is a chance to stand up for the rule of law.

What is an impeachable offense?

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., once again offered a prebuttal of the defense's argument that Trump's speech is protected under the First Amendment.

He also argued there can be no doubt that Trump's actions constitute an impeachable offense.

"I hope we all can agree today that if a president does incite a violent insurrection against the government, he can be impeached for it," Raskin said. "I hope we all can agree that that is a constitutional crime."

Raskin, who taught constitutional law for decades, offered a historical view of impeachment as well.

"Centuries of history, not to mention the constitutional text, structure and original intent and understanding, all confirm the teaching of James Wilson, another framer, who wrote that impeachments and offenses come not within the sphere of ordinary jurisprudence," he explained.

"Simply put, impeachment was created for a purpose separate and distinct from criminal punishment. It was created to prevent and deter elected officials who swear an oath to represent America but then commit dangerous offenses against our republic. That's a constitutional crime."

Watch Raskin's full closing remarks below.

Has Biden reacted to the trial?

Yes, President Biden told White House reporters Thursday morning that he had seen news coverage of the trial thus far but had not watched the hearing live.

As to the ultimate outcome of the trial, Biden said he guesses "some minds may be changed."

Seventeen Republicans would need to join the Democratic conference to secure a conviction.

Later on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki downplayed Biden's comment, saying he was expressing a personal reaction, not indicating how senators should vote once the proceedings conclude.

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