Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial rushed to an early conclusion on Friday, paving the way for a vote this weekend on whether to convict the former president for incitement to insurgency.
Trump’s lawyers closed their case on Friday after using up a fraction of their allotted 16 hours, after which senators on both sides questioned Democratic impeachment officials and the former’s legal team. President.
Trump’s lawyers accused Democrats of a “campaign of retaliation” against him and called the impeachment article an “unjust and patently unconstitutional act of political revenge.”
The former president was impeached last month by the House of Representatives for incitement to insurgency for his role in the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead.
His lawyers anchored their arguments in multiple fixtures featuring Democrats, including reels of lawmakers calling for Trump’s impeachment in early 2017, as well as snippets of House members and senators urging their supporters to ” fight ”for what they believe in.
The legal team sought to equate Democrats’ use of the word “struggle” with Trump’s own invocation of crowds of his supporters on the National Mall on January 6. Shortly before the riot, he said: “If you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country. “
Speaking to Democrats in the Senate chamber, trial lawyer David Schoen said: “You haven’t done anything wrong. . . It’s a word people use, but stop the hypocrisy.
At one point, Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers, claimed that “extremists of various political persuasions and beliefs” participated in the January 6 siege, and repeated the false claim that the rioters arrested were members of Antifa, or of the far left. activists.
Trump’s legal team argued that the former president’s speech was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His lawyers have also repeatedly argued that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to try a former president.
Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr, a former Pennsylvania prosecutor, were widely criticized earlier this week for their performance in a debate over the constitutionality of the trial. A Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, responded to their arguments by voting with the Democrats. “As an impartial juror, I will vote for the team that did a good job,” he said.
Cassidy was pictured on Thursday holding a statement suggesting he was preparing to acquit the president, although his staff said that did not mean he had made a final decision.
Trump’s lawyers met with a small group of GOP senators who are among the most ardent supporters of the former president on Thursday, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas. The move drew criticism as senators vowed to act as impartial jurors in the trial.
Cruz told reporters after the meeting that senators shared their “thoughts” on the team’s legal strategy.
“I think the end result of this impeachment trial is clear to everyone,” he added. “Donald Trump will be acquitted, and everyone in the Senate chamber understands that there are no votes to convict him.”
Friday’s presentation came after two days of arguments House Democrats, who are acting as prosecutors in the case. Led by Jamie Raskin, a Democrat congressman from Delaware, their presentation included hundreds of Twitter posts, videos and speeches from the former president, as well as never-before-seen security camera footage from inside the Capitol during the riot.
Several Republican senators praised the Democrats’ presentation. But a critical mass of Republicans is unlikely to vote to condemn Trump, or prevent him from taking future office, with a majority of them. voting before that the trial is not constitutional.
Under the constitution, two-thirds of the US Senate would have to convict Trump to be sentenced – which would require the support of 17 Republican lawmakers given that the upper house of Congress is currently divided, 50-50, between Republicans and Democrats. Trump could then be banned from holding future positions with a simple majority vote.
Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday morning that he was “anxious” to see how Republicans voted in the trial.
“I just can’t wait to see what my Republican friends do, if they stand up,” he said. Biden, who was sworn in as president on Jan.20, spent several decades in the Senate before becoming vice president under Barack Obama.
Last month, more than 150 legal scholars, including the founder of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society and several members, wrote an open letter arguing that the constitution allows for trials of current and former officials.
Trump’s impeachment exposed lingering tensions within the Republican Party and underscored the hold the former president retains over the party’s elected voters and lawmakers.
In an interview published in Politico Magazine on Friday, Nikki Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina who is widely regarded as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, said the impeachment process was a “waste of time.” but insisted Trump would not be running. for the office again.
“I don’t think he’ll be in the picture,” she said in the interview, which was conducted on Jan.12, a day before Trump was impeached by the House. “I don’t think he can. He has fallen so far.