Democrats rest case against Trump in impeachment trial, argue Senate must convict to protect democracy
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The Democratic prosecution, in the third day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, sought to establish a clear link between Trump's words and his supporters' actions as they attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The impeachment managers argued that Trump had mobilized extremist groups and cultivated a culture of violence over months and years, laying the groundwork for an insurrection by his supporters which culminated in the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.
Democrats told Senate jurors that convicting Trump was essential to preserving the future of American democracy by deterring future presidents from attempting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
The Senate adjourned just before 4:30 p.m. ET and will reconvene at noon on Friday, when Trump's lawyers will present their case.
On Wednesday, the Democrats' presentation used a mix of video footage, including previously unreleased security tapes of Trump-supporting rioters at the Capitol, to make their case.
Some of the most riveting footage showed Vice President Mike Pence and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney being rushed to safety as insurrectionists breached the building.
While some Republican senators called the evidence "compelling," it remains unlikely that two-thirds of the Senate, which is split 50-50 between parties, will vote to convict Trump.
Raskin asks senators to consider history in closing remarks of day three
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked senators to consider the sweep of U.S. history and the vulnerability of democratic government in his final remarks on Thursday, finishing the day several hours ahead of schedule.
"Democracy is an extremely rare and fragile and precarious and transitory thing," Raskin said.
Raskin also listed a number of questions he hoped Trump's lawyers would answer, including why Trump did not immediately tell his supporters to end their attack on the Capitol once the then-president learned of it.
"We need to exercise our common sense about what happened," Raskin told lawmakers. "Let's not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyers' theories here. Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country."
The Maryland Democrat's remarks closed out the second day of opening arguments from House Democrats, who are arguing in favor of Trump's conviction by the Senate.
Trump's attorneys will now get a chance to present their opening arguments, for which they are granted 16 hours over two days.
— Tucker Higgins
'We're almost done,' Raskin tells senators
WASHINGTON — Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told senators Thursday that the House managers were almost finished presenting their case in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.
"We're almost done, but we don't want it to be said [that] we never proved this or we never proved that," Raskin said on the third day of Trump's trial.
"My magnificent team of managers has stayed up night after night after night through weeks to compile all of the factual evidence, and we have put it before all of you in this public trial, because we love our country that much."
Raskin said that after Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., delivers more arguments, "I will return and explain why it's dangerous for us to ignore this and why you must convict, and then we will rest."
Trump's lawyers will make their arguments after the Democrats conclude theirs.
— Amanda Macias and Kevin Breuninger
First Amendment does not give Trump immunity, Raskin argues
Lead House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., attacked a central piece of former President Donald Trump's defense: that his conduct amounted to political speech, protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
"The First Amendment does not create some superpower immunity for a president who attacks the Constitution in word and deed, while rejecting the outcome of an election he happened to lose," Raskin said on the Senate floor.
The free-speech rhetoric put forward by Trump's lawyers "is so insidious," Raskin argued, because the former president's conduct "represented the most devastating and dangerous assault by a government official on our Constitution, including the First Amendment, in living memory."
"We wouldn't have free speech or any other rights if we didn't have the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power, and a democracy where the outcome of the election is accepted by the candidate who lost," he said.
Raskin, who aims to persuade Republican senators to vote to convict Trump, at one point quoted the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: "You can't ride with the cops but root for the robbers."
A former constitutional law professor, Raskin also repeated the famous quote attributed to Enlightenment writer Voltaire: "Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
Raskin said there is "no merit whatsoever to any of the empty free-speech rhetoric you may hear from President Trump's lawyers. He attacked the First Amendment, he attacked the Constitution, he betrayed his oath of office."
"Presidents don't have any right to do that," Raskin said. "It's forbidden."
— Kevin Breuninger
Russia, China and Iran used Capitol attack for propaganda, Castro says
WASHINGTON — Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told senators during former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial how foreign adversaries such as Russia, Iran and China seized the opportunity to mock and define the United States following the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"Every foreign adversary considering attacking this building got to watch a dress rehearsal, and they saw that this Capitol could be overtaken," Castro said, explaining the national security implications of the Jan. 6 riots.
Castro read statements from leaders in Russia, Iran and China calling the United States "hypocritical" for the unfolding violence in Washington.
"The world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are. Because while other countries have known chaos our Constitution has kept order in America," Castro said.
"For generations, the United States has been the North Star in the world for freedom, democracy and human rights. Because America is not only a nation for many it is also an idea. It's the light that gives hope to people struggling for democracy in autocratic regimes. The light that inspires people fighting across the world for fundamental human rights and the light that inspires us to believe in something larger than ourselves," Castro said.
Castro added that the impeachment trial is an opportunity for lawmakers to send a message back to the world.
"Let us show the world that Jan. 6 was not America and let us remind the world that America is truly their North Star," Castro said.
— Amanda Macias
Trump attorney says impeachment trial is causing harm to Americans
As the House impeachment managers delivered their presentation, a member of former President Donald Trump's defense team appeared on Fox News to slam the prosecutors and the trial itself.
"There is no reason for us to be out there a long time," attorney David Schoen said on Fox. Senior Trump advisor Jason Miller told CNBC earlier Thursday that the defense team expects to wrap up its arguments by Friday, giving it just one day to present its defense.
Schoen noted that his view from the outset has been that "this trial never should have happened, and if it happened, it should be as short as possible, given the complete lack of evidence, and the harm that this is causing to the American people."
"This is the antithesis of a process that will lead to healing or unity or accountability," Schoen said. "It tears the country apart."
"You think it leads to healing to show and re-show the tragedy that happened here at the Capitol, lives lost, that had nothing whatsoever to do with President Trump?" Schoen asked rhetorically. "But they want you to believe that it did."
Schoen was asked if Trump's defense team planned to alter its strategy in light of attorney Bruce Castor Jr.'s poorly reviewed performance Tuesday.
"No change in legal strategy," Schoen said, adding that he thought Castor has been "very, very unfairly maligned."
Schoen accused House prosecutors of ignoring crucial context surrounding the Capitol invasion, including Trump's use of the word "peacefully" in his speech at his pre-riot rally outside the White House.
Schoen added: "Everyone in that room and in the House will look bad, our politicians will look bad if this thing goes forward."
— Kevin Breuninger
'President Trump's mob' is primed for more violence, Rep. DeGette says
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., praised police and National Guard troops who have been deployed to protect government buildings after the Jan. 6 riot but said that Americans are shouldering a heavy burden because Trump made that protection necessary.
"We must uphold our oaths, as the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers have done in the wake of Jan. 6, because if we do not, President Trump's mob stands ready for more attacks," DeGette said.
The Colorado Democrat cited figures showing that taxpayers had spent more than $480 million since Jan. 6 paying for security to guard the U.S. Capitol and capitol buildings throughout the country, the bulk of which was spent on deploying 25,000 National Guard troops to Washington.
"Thank God there wasn't an insurrection sequel here on Jan. 20. But look at the price we've paid. The price we are still paying," DeGette said. "It's not just dollars and cents — this Capitol has become a fortress, as state capitols have all across the country."
She added, "Our constituents no longer have access to the elected representatives."
— Tucker Higgins
Senate must convict Trump to make sure no future president incites insurrection, Lieu says
House manager Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said that the push to convict former President Donald Trump and disqualify him from running for federal office is "not just about the past, it's about the future."
"This can, and must, be a wake-up call," Lieu said on the Senate floor.
"That's why President Trump is so dangerous. Because he would have all Americans believe that any president who comes after him can do exactly the same thing."
"That's why lack of remorse is an important factor in an impeachment: because impeachment, conviction and disqualification is not just about the past, it's about the future," Lieu said.
"It's making sure that no future official, no future president, does the same exact thing President Trump does."
Lieu added: "I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose — because he can do this again."
— Kevin Breuninger
Raskin says that insurrection was part of Trump 'pattern and practice' of inciting violence
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., sought to situate Trump's rally speech on Jan. 6 within a broader pattern of inciting his supporters to violence, saying that Trump knew what the mob was likely to do because the ex-president had seen his most ardent loyalists act the same way before.
"He'd seen many of the exact same groups he was mobilizing participate in extremist violence before," Raskin said, asserting that Trump's "tactics were road tested."
"Jan. 6 was a culmination of the president's actions, not an aberration from them," Raskin added. "The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode so far in Donald Trump's continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence — but I emphasize 'so far.'"
"This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring into life out of thin air. We saw how Trump spent months cultivating America's most dangerous extremist groups. We saw how he riled them up with corrosive lies and violent rhetoric, so much so that they were ready and eager for their most dangerous mission: Invalidating the will of the people to keep Donald Trump in office," Raskin said.
— Tucker Higgins
Trump's legal team expects to finish its arguments by Friday
Former President Donald Trump's lawyers expect to wrap up their arguments in his impeachment trial by Friday, senior Trump advisor Jason Miller told CNBC.
Miller in an email confirmed reporting from CNN that Trump's defense team would finish before the weekend. Each side was allotted 16 hours to make presentations in the trial.
But Miller pushed back on CNN's description of what Trump's lawyers are expected to say during their presentation.
"Your intel about what may or may be said on Friday, or who might say it, is all f----- up," Miller said in the email.
He had been asked about CNN's reporting that Trump's team plans to argue that Democrats "glorified violence by recreating" the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. CNN also reported that the lawyers will claim the trial is unconstitutional and that they will emphasize Trump's First Amendment rights.
"I would not rely on the information you presented," Miller told CNBC.
But when asked for his own description of what the defense team's arguments would look like, Miller declined.
"Not going to do that here. They're trying to bait us into laying out our full strategy by reporting fake news and then try to force our hand," Miller wrote.
— Kevin Breuninger
'The president told them to be there' — House managers argue rioters followed Trump's orders
House managers began by aiming to establish that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 believed they were following former President Donald Trump's orders.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said at the top of her remarks on the Senate floor that the prosecution would examine "the perspective of the insurrectionists themselves."
"Their own statements before, during and after the attack made clear the attack was done for Donald Trump at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes," DeGette said. "Donald Trump had sent them there."
"This was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there," she added, "and so they actually believed they would face no punishment."
— Kevin Breuninger
American public mirrors Congress' partisan divide on Trump culpability for Jan. 6 attack
The American public is sharply divided along partisan lines over former President Donald Trump's culpability for the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, according to a poll from the Survey Center on American Life.
According to the survey, which was conducted last month and released on Thursday, 87% of Democrats said that Trump was responsible for inciting his supporters to violence, compared with just 15% of Republicans. Nearly three-quarters of the GOP respondents surveyed said Trump did not encourage the mob to attack the Capitol.
The poll also showed that, while nearly every Democrat believes that President Joe Biden's victory was legitimate, two-thirds of Republicans disagree.
One bleak area of agreement between both Democrats and Republicans in the poll: American democracy is not serving the needs of most members of the public. Seventy percent of Democrats and 66% of Republicans told pollsters that the political system is only serving the needs of the wealthy and powerful.
The survey of 2,016 adults was conducted between Jan. 21 and Jan. 30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
— Tucker Higgins
Biden: 'Some minds may be changed' in impeachment trial
President Joe Biden said that some senators' minds might have been changed after listening to Democratic House managers lay out their case for convicting former President Donald Trump.
Biden, whose administration has taken pains to stay focused on its legislative agenda, said he had not watched the Senate trial live but watched news coverage of the proceedings.
"I'm focused on my job," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office at the start of an infrastructure meeting with a bipartisan group of senators, as well as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
But "my guess is some minds may be changed," Biden said when asked about the trial.
— Kevin Breuninger
Trial could pick up with Sen. Mike Lee's objection
The House impeachment managers' first full day of arguments ended on a sour note, with one Republican demanding that part of their case be stricken from the record.
The Senate on Thursday could be forced to grapple with the issue again.
Just before the trial adjourned for the evening, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, stood up and asked presiding Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to strike from the record part of the prosecution's argument.
"Statements were attributed to me moments ago by the House impeachment managers, statements relating to the content of conversations between a phone call involving President Trump and [Alabama Sen. Tommy] Tuberville," Lee said.
Those statements "were not made by me, they're not accurate, and they're contrary to fact and I move ... that they be stricken from the record," Lee said.
Lee was disputing part of House manager David Cicilline's remarks, in which he cited reporting about a phone call that former President Donald Trump made to senators during the Capitol riot.
The objection immediately sparked confusion and bickering in the chamber, with a vote on the issue suggested and then withdrawn.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead impeachment manager, then defended the remarks in question, saying his colleague had "correctly and accurately" quoted a news report "which the distinguished senator [Lee] has taken objection to."
"We're going to withdraw it this evening ... and then we can debate it" if needed, Raskin said, adding that "This is much ado about nothing, because it's not critical in any way to our case."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the issue may be relitigated Thursday "if we have to."
— Kevin Breuninger
Impeachment managers must connect Capitol rioters to Trump conduct, NBC legal analyst says
The impeachment managers effectively prosecuted the Capitol rioters, NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said, but will they be able to prove that former President Donald Trump incited the riot?
"What they need to make sure to do is make a nexus — connect that up to the conduct of President Trump," Cevallos said Wednesday evening on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."
House managers presented effective arguments for Trump's impeachment by crafting a rigorous timeline of the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to Cevallos.
"It shows that in real time President Trump knew what was going on and disregarded it, or at least focused on things that were far less important," Cevallos said.
Trump lawyers should frame his defense as free speech, Cevallos said, though that argument could have limitations.
"Speech that is lawful, or at least protected under the First Amendment, may still be impeachable," Cevallos said.
— Hannah Miao
Democrats to wrap up their case against Trump
House Democratic impeachment managers will make their second day of arguments that Donald Trump incited an insurrection against the U.S. government.
The Senate will convene at noon ET for the third day of the former president's trial. As part of a swift proceeding, the Democrats making the case against Trump will have up to eight more hours to present evidence.
Trump's lawyers will then have up to 16 hours over two days to mount their defense.
The House managers over nearly eight hours on Wednesday used video and audio to recreate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and illustrate how close the mob came to former Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, among others.
They tied the events both to the president's weeks of promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election results and tweets criticizing Pence as the riot unfolded.
It is unclear yet whether the gripping presentation changed the minds of any Republican senators who were not already leaning toward convicting Trump.
— Jacob Pramuk