Friday , September 22 2023

Impeachment Managers label Trump ‘inciter-in-chief’

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House Democrats prosecuting Donald Trump for igniting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol say they will prove that the former president’s incitement occurred in three stages: Provoking his supporters, kick-starting the attack and sitting on his hands while the violence proliferated.

“He told them to fight like hell, and they brought us hell that day,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, as the House opened its formal trial arguments on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“This case is not about blaming an innocent bystander. This is about holding accountable the personal singularly responsible for this attack,” Raskin added, referring to Trump as the “inciter-in-chief.”

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), another impeachment manager, initiated the arguments by laying out a post-election chronology of Trump’s comments and actions seeking to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results. He played a series of clips of Trump vowing to “never surrender” in his fight to flip the election outcome.

“People listened. Armed supporters surrounded election officials’ homes. The secretary of state for Georgia got death threats. Officials warned the president that his rhetoric was dangerous and it was going to result in deadly violence,” Neguse said. “He didn’t stop it. He didn’t condemn the violence. He incited it further.”

That incitement got more specific over time, Neguse said, eventually resulting in his order for supporters to show up in Washington on Jan. 6 at the precise moment Congress was certifying Biden’s victory, and to schedule a speech — and order backers to march on the Capitol — just as the votes were beginning to be tallied.

Later, the managers addressed Trump’s false claims of voter fraud head-on, debunking some of the central allegations that fueled the riots and outlining Trump’s weeks-long effort to promote a campaign dubbed “stop the steal.” Inside the Senate chamber, several Democratic senators as well as GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska could be seen shaking their heads as clips played of Trump calling the election “stolen” and “fraudulent.”

The impeachment managers began their opening arguments after aides to the House impeachment team said Wednesday morning that the prosecutors plan to introduce never-before-seen footage of the riots.

The footage, which may be drawn from Capitol security cameras and other sources, will shed light on the rioters’ “extreme violence” from a new vantage point, aides to the House impeachment team said. It’s part of what Democrats maintain will be an overwhelming display of evidence that Trump directly fueled the deadly insurrection and committed “the most heinous constitutional crime possible.”

“The easiest trials to try are the trials where you have the goods. We have the goods,” said a senior aide to the House impeachment team.

According to aides, the brand new footage will also underscore the risk that the violence could have spiraled further “but for the brave action of the officers” securing the building even when they were outnumbered by a pro-Trump mob.

The managers’ use of video footage underscores a central theme of their trial strategy — to make senators re-live the horrors of Jan. 6 and the raw emotions that come with it. One of the managers’ aides said the team is still convinced that it can marshal the power of those moments to “move hearts, minds, the consciences of 100 jurors,” even as an acquittal seems exceedingly likely.

Wednesday’s argument will also focus on the weeks before the Jan. 6 insurrection, when the managers say Trump primed his base with false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. The managers intend to show that the violence of last month’s insurrection was the “foreseeable” result of Trump’s rhetoric, aides said.

They will also argue that Trump’s remarks on Jan. 6 to a group of his supporters, urging them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop Joe Biden’s presidency, were “filled with meaning” — and directed at a group he knew included “folks with violent backgrounds.”

The Democrats are taking heart from the unexpected decision of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to support their case that the trial is constitutional. Cassidy, who praised the House managers’ presentations on Tuesday, was the only senator whose vote was not forecast in advance.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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