House Democrats will conclude opening arguments Thursday in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, after a full day of presentations that included searing footage of the U.S. Capitol riot. They painted Trump as an “inciter in chief” who systematically riled up his supporters and falsely convinced them the election had been stolen, culminating in the deadly attack.
The nine House impeachment managers hope their evidence will be compelling enough to convince more Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump on a lone charge of “incitement of insurrection.” A two-thirds majority of the Senate is required for conviction, which would require at least 17 Republicans to join 50 Democratic lawmakers.
Trump’s defense lawyers will present their arguments Friday.
More Impeachment Trial Coverage
Here are the latest updates:
Trump's Defense Team Expected to Take a Day or Less
Lawyers for former president Donald Trump are planning to begin and wrap up their defense in his impeachment trial in less than a day, using far fewer than their allotted argument hours.
That’s according to his senior adviser Jason Miller, who said there could even be enough time left over for planned questioning to begin.
The rules for the trial gave both sides two days for arguments, lasting up to eight hours each day. Democratic House impeachment prosecutors have used their time to air searing video footage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol building and to build their case that Trump was responsible for the rioters’ conduct that day.
Friday is the day Trump's lawyers are set to begin. It remains unclear when the final vote will take place, but Republicans have expressed a desire to wrap the trial quickly, even by Saturday.
South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said he thinks most senators “would like to have this completed by Saturday.”
Dems Outline Trump's 'Pattern and Practice' of Inciting Violence
Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin argued the events on Jan. 6 "was a culmination of the president's actions; not an aberration from them," as House Democrats sought to show Trump's "continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence."
"The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode — so far — in Donald Trump's continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence. But I emphasize so far," Raskin said.
Raskin then played a video montage showing Trump encouraging or praising violence, dating back to 2015.
The Maryland Democrat drew comparisons between the Michigan Capitol attack and the events of Jan. 6, noting "the president says heavily armed extremists carrying Confederate battle flags and pushing past police to overtake the Michigan State house chamber are 'very good people.'" Raskin called the siege on the Michigan statehouse "a dress rehearsal" of the Capitol riot.
Raskin noted that white supremacist and extremist groups "have spread like wildfire" across the country under Trump and played video of Neo-Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us!" in Charlottesville, Virginia. Asked to comment on the deadly clashes at the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Trump told reporters that there were "very fine people on both sides."
Court Docs Reveal Accused Extremist Was Waiting for Directions From Trump: NBC News
A woman charged in the Capitol riot indicated that she was “awaiting directions from President Trump” as the inauguration grew near, federal prosecutors said Thursday, according to NBC News' Pete Williams.
In a motion seeking pre-trial detention of Jessica Watkins, prosecutors said she texted in early November, “Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will.”
In another text on Dec. 29, Watkins said she planned to go to Washington on Jan. 6 because “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come,” the memo says.
Watkins, a military veteran, is accused of conspiring with other members of The Oath Keepers militia group to undertake violent action to prevent Joe Biden from being inaugurated. She was arrested Jan. 17, and two others were charged with conspiring with her.
Because the document was filed so recently, the House managers prosecicuting Trump's impeachment trial may not have been aware of it.
Rep. Degette: Insurrectionists Believed They Were Following Trump's Marching Orders
House impeachment manager Rep. Diana DeGette argued the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol truly believed they were following President Donald Trump's marching orders, citing remarks he made during a speech at a "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6.
"They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president's orders -- and we know that because they said so," DeGette said. "Many of them actually posed for pictures, bragging about it on social media, and they tagged Mr. Trump in tweets. This was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment."
"The crowd at Donald Trump's speech echoed and chanted his words, and when people in the crowd followed his direction and marched to the Capitol, they chanted the same words as they breached this building," she continued. "More and more insurrectionists are admitting that they came at Trump's direction."
DeGette showed video clips of rioters during the attack and in news reports after the Jan. 6 insurrection where they say they believed they were acting lawfully and as Trump had requested.
She said rioters would not have been in Washington had they not been invited by the president to "stop the steal." And they would not have stormed the Capitol if Trump didn't empower them to do so.
Biden on Harrowing Riot Footage: 'Some Minds May Be Changed'
President Joe Biden says he believes “some minds may be changed” in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after the display of searing, graphic videos of the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday that he didn’t watch any of the previous day’s proceedings live but later saw news coverage. The Democratic House impeachment managers used security video as part of their case, and the violent images of the riot shook senators and TV viewers alike.
Biden has steadfastly refused to weigh in on the trial and again on Thursday said his focus was on fulfilling his campaign promise to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Biden says the nation has “to move on.” Aides have said Biden will address the proceedings after a verdict is reached.
Highlights From Day 2 of Trump's Impeachment Trial
Trump's Words Come Back to Haunt Him
Former President Donald Trump's voice rang out in the Senate Chamber Wednesday as Democrats aired video from his rallies and other remarks to supporters. Interspersed throughout were slides of Trump's tweets contesting the election and promoting the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, which he promised would be “wild.”
The impeachment managers put Trump’s rhetoric on trial, from the months he spent laying the groundwork to contest the election results to the speech he delivered outside the White House egging his supporters to “fight” before they stormed the Capitol.
“He truly made his base believe that the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, another one of the prosecutors.
Trump, the House impeachment managers argued, whipped his supporters into a frenzy with the “big lie” that their votes had been stolen, and urged them to fight.
“This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., choking back emotion. “And so they came, draped in Trump’s flag, and used our flag, the American flag, to batter and to bludgeon.”
There was no widespread fraud in the election, as has been confirmed by election officials across the country and former Attorney General William Barr. Dozens of legal challenges to the election put forth by Trump and his allies were dismissed.