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Trump's Defense Team Takes Over After Democrats Rely on New Footage of Capitol Incursion

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After a prosecution case based on violent footage of the Capitol incursion, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial shifts on Friday to defense lawyers who will argue Trump did not incite the deadly Jan. 6 riot.

“They haven’t in any way tied it to Trump,” David Schoen, one of the president’s lawyers, told reporters near the end of two full days of Democrats’ arguments.

He previewed the essence of his argument on Tuesday, telling the Senate jurors: “They don’t need to show you movies to show you that the riot happened here. We will stipulate that it happened, and you know all about it.”

In both legal filings and in arguments earlier in the week, Trump’s lawyers have made clear their position that the people responsible for the riot are the ones who actually stormed the building and who are now being prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Impeachment managers spent days trying to pin the rioters’ actions on Trump, showing never-before-seen video footage alongside clips of the president’s tweets questioning the results of the election.

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Democrats, who wrapped their case on Thursday, used the rioters’ own videos and words from Jan. 6 to try to incriminate Trump. “We were invited here,” said one. “Trump sent us,” said another. “He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.”

The prosecutors’ goal was to cast Trump as the “inciter in chief” who spent months riling up supporters to challenge the election.

“This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, one of the impeachment managers, said. “And so they came, draped in Trump’s flag, and used our flag, the American flag, to batter and to bludgeon.”

In addition to seeking conviction, they also are demanding that he be barred from holding federal office in the future.

Do you think Trump incited the Capitol incursion?

“What makes you think the nightmare with Donald Trump and his law-breaking and violent mobs is over?” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead prosecutor, said.

He said earlier, “When Donald Trump tells the crowd, as he did on Jan. 6, ‘Fight like hell, or you won’t have a country anymore,’ he meant for them to fight like hell.”

The historic second trial of Trump could wrap up with a vote by this weekend, with little chance of conviction by the required two-thirds of the Senate.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said he believed “some minds may be changed” by the new video, though he has previously said that conviction is unlikely.

By Thursday, most of the jurors seemed to have made up their minds and many seem to be prepared to move on.

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“I thought today was very repetitive, actually. I mean, not much new. I was really disappointed that they didn’t engage much with the legal standards,” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said.

After an uneven performance on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers are expected to highlight different parts of the same speech focused on by prosecutors, in which Trump told supporters outside the White House to “fight like hell.”

They will remind jurors that Trump in the very same remarks encouraged the crowd to behave “peacefully” and that his words are protected under the First Amendment. Democrats deny that assertion, saying his words weren’t political speech but rather amounted to direct incitement of violence.

The defense lawyers also may return to arguments made Tuesday that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president.

The Senate rejected that contention on Tuesday as it voted to proceed with the trial, but Republican senators have nonetheless signaled that they remain convinced by that argument.

One Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, said during a break: “To me, they’re losing credibility the longer they talk.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the events of Jan. 6, though “unpatriotic” and even “treasonous,” were not his chief concern.

Rather, he said Thursday, “The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent.”


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