Trump Impeachment Lawyers: No Incitement, No Insurrection


Donald Trump’s impeachment attorneys on Friday argued the former president bore no responsibility for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The defense team, which wrapped up its arguments in just over three hours, said Trump was engaged in constitutionally protected speech when he spoke at a rally that immediately preceded the riot.

They called the impeachment trial a “witch hunt” and accused Democrats of elevating a destructive “cancel culture” to the halls of Congress.

“It has become very clear that House Democrats hate Donald Trump,” said Michael van der Veen, a Philadelphia attorney who is part of Trump’s defense team. “Hatred is at the heart.”

Here are some highlights from Friday’s impeachment proceedings:

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Regardless of what occurred after Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, the former president was simply exercising his First Amendment right to free speech, his attorneys argued.

“The Senate cannot ignore the First Amendment,” van der Veen said.


The articles of impeachment charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

Do you think the incident at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was an insurrection?

Bruce Castor, Trump’s lead attorney, said insurrection “involves taking over a country” or “having some plan on what you’re going to do when you finally take power.”

“Clearly this is not that,” he added.

In any event, Trump wasn’t responsible for what happened on Jan. 6, Castor said.

Trump’s speech was a call for the “peaceful exercise of every American’s First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and petition their government for redress of grievances,” Castor said.

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He argued that Trump wasn’t calling on his supporters to storm the Capitol but rather to get involved in the political process.

“Fight Like Hell”

Donald Trump’s defense team attempted to undermine a key Democratic argument: that the former president incited the riot by urging his supporters to “fight like hell.”

To do so, they played a lengthy montage of video clips featuring President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats repeatedly using the word “fight” during public speeches.

“This is ordinary political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years,” van der Veen said.

“The Jan. 6 speech did not cause the riots. The president did not cause the riots. He neither implicitly nor explicitly called for the use of violence or lawless action,” Castor told the Senate.

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