Managers present dramatic new video of Capitol mob at impeachment trial
House impeachment managers showed a dramatic new video of the mob storming the Capitol in the opening minutes of former President Trump's impeachment trial, as Democrats look to make the case that Trump must be held accountable for his actions even if he is no longer in the White House. Democrats created the disturbing video documenting the Jan. 6 siege by interweaving Trump’s address to a group of supporters calling on them to march on the Capitol with violent footage of the attack.
“We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones … we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country,” Trump says in the video.
The video then follows the mob down Pennsylvania Avenue and into the building, where lawmakers were gathered to certify the Electoral College vote count.
The video shows new footage of the pro-Trump mob shouting “take the Capitol,” engaging in violent confrontations with police officers and damaging the building as they flooded the hallways looking to disrupt the vote count.
Text at the end of the video reads: “At least seven people lost their lives, more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, and many more have been severely impacted by their experiences that day.”
The video then shows the text of a tweet Trump sent four hours later:
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
“If that is not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) concluded.
Raskin opened the impeachment trial by arguing that a failure to convict would create a “January exception” that absolves all future presidents of illegal conduct.
Raskin blasted Trump’s attorneys, who plan to argue that it is illegal to try a former president for impeachment.
“Their argument is that if you commit an offense in your last few weeks of office, you have constitutional impunity, you get away with it,” Raskin said. “This would create a brand new January exception to the Constitution of the United States of America … it’s an invitation to the president to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means … to block the peaceful transfer of power … it’s an invitation to our founder’s worst nightmare.”
Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana was none too impressed with Donald Trump’s defense team.
Cassidy told HuffPost’s Igor Bobic: “They talked about many things but they didn’t talk about the issue at hand”
Cassidy voted with 54 other Republicans on 27 Jan in a procedural vote dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional, but today defected voted with Democrats on the question of constitutionality.
It still looks unlikely that the requisite 17 Republicans would vote at the end of this to convict Trump, but it’s significant that in what both parties are seeing as a trial with foregone conclusion, one Republican has already waffled.
Cassidy isn’t the only Republican who was displeased with Donald Trump’s defense team.
“The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on,” said senator John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas. “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”
Senator Ted Cruz, a Trump loyalist told the Washington Post: “I don’t think the lawyers did the most effective job.”
Here are some impeachment trial FAQs, answered:
What is Donald Trump claiming in his defense?
Trump has had trouble assembling a legal team. His usual personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had to recuse himself because he also gave a speech at the event where the former president is accused of fomenting insurrection. Trump then appears to have fallen out with his first legal team, which was led by Butch Bowers.
Now led by lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L Castor, Trump’s team issued a thinly argued 14-page document last week that said his speech did not amount to a call to storm the Capitol and that his trial was unconstitutional anyway, because he has left office. Trump will not testify personally.
How long will the trial last?
How long the trial will take is not known, but most people believe it will be much shorter than the three-week trial the last time Trump was impeached over his actions over Ukraine, when he was accused of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
It is unclear yet whether the Senate will vote to allow the legal teams to call witnesses in person, although the trial is highly unusual in that the jury are witnesses, as senators were present in the Capitol and were forced into hiding as the mob invaded the very chamber where the trial will be held. The prosecution team are expected to include video footage and eyewitness testimony from members of Congress while building their case.
Will Trump be found guilty?
On the face of it, it seems unlikely. An impeachment trial requires a two-thirds majority for a conviction. If every senator votes, then at least 17 Republicans would need to vote against their former president to reach the required 67-vote threshold.
Already, 45 senators have supported a motion presented by Kentucky Sen Rand Paul that the process itself is unconstitutional and against holding the trial at all. It would be quite a leap for them in the space of a few weeks to go from saying the trial should not take place, to finding Trump guilty.
For many Republican senators the calculation is political. House Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, such as Republican Liz Cheney, have already faced protest and censure from their state Republican parties over their failure to back Trump, who still has strong grassroots support despite losing November’s election.
Will a second impeachment bar Trump running from office in 2024?
Not necessarily. If he was found guilty, there’s no immediate punishment, since he is no longer in office. The Senate could, with a simple majority vote, bar him from holding federal elective office in the future. With the Senate split 50-50, and the vice-president, Kamala Harris, holding the casting vote, that could pass quite simply.
There is a constitutional argument to be had that the Democrat-controlled Senate might try to do this anyway even if Trump is found not guilty, by invoking section three of the post-civil war 14th amendment to the US constitution. That forbids anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holding federal office, but that is likely to be the subject of a significant legal dispute should it arise.
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