Donald Trump’s lawyers argue that the former president of the United States did not incite with his words or actions the assault on the Capitol starring a mob of his followers on January 6, and that his harangues to the crowd hours before the bloody episode represent a exercise of “freedom of expression protected” by the Constitution. Those are the general lines of the response that the defense presented this Tuesday before the Senate, a week before the impeachment of Trump begins “for inciting insurrection.” For the prosecution, exercised by the Democrats, the tycoon is “particularly responsible” for what happened.
The fourth impeachment in the history of the United States, the second against Trump, will begin next Tuesday in the upper house, but both the legal representatives of the former president and the nine Democratic congressmen who act as prosecutors (called managers) have already advanced the arguments that both they will use to argue if the Republican is guilty. That conviction – improbable because it requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the Republicans are not willing to sentence him – would later imply his disqualification from running again in elections, the ultimate goal pursued by the prosecution. Unlike the three political trials against a president held so far, the leader who will be tried now is already outside the White House, so a conviction would not imply his removal.
The New York magnate had spent months waving the specter of electoral fraud with the argument that early voting and by mail, which the governments of the States favored as a preventive measure against the pandemic, was fertile ground for irregularities. When he lost, he doubled down on those accusations and launched a multi-lawsuit legal crusade in key territories. No court found evidence of that massive cheating, but Trump continued to fail to acknowledge Democrat Joe Biden’s victory and encouraged protests.
On the morning of January 6, the same day that Congress was to confirm Biden’s victory, he delivered one last incendiary speech to a crowd gathered outside the White House. He lashed out at then-Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to boycott confirmation and called on his supporters to march to the Capitol to continue protesting. Once there, madness broke out. The following week, the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, approved the charge against him of “incitement to insurrection” with the support of 10 Republicans.
For Democrats, “Trump used exactly the kind of language calculated to incite violence” and the videos “remove any doubt” that the president “in fact incited violence.” Trump had harangued the protesters with expressions such as: “You will never recover your country with weakness”, “You have to show strength” or “Fight like hell”, as the letter recalls. In videos of the assault, a protester can be heard exclaiming: “We have voted and what have they done? They have stolen it (the result). Let’s take back our country! ”. Another yelled, “Mike Pence, we’re coming for you, traitor …”.
In their 80-page impeachment brief, Democrats hold Trump “particularly responsible” for the “violence and destruction” unleashed that day and dismiss the Republican argument that the Senate cannot try a leader already out of office, because the alleged crime still happened during his term as president. His “betrayal”, they emphasize, is of “historical proportions.”
Instead, the former president’s lawyers maintain that his words that morning do not imply references to violence or non-compliance with the law, but rather referred to “the need to fight for the security of the elections in general.” In their 14-page writing, they avoid insisting on the hoax of electoral theft, but argue that the former president of the United States, now retired in his Florida mansion, did truly believe it and by publicly pointing it out he was exercising protected freedom of expression by the First Amendment of the Constitution, so that he cannot be subjected to a impeachment therefore. In addition, they do not cease to sow doubt by stating: “There is not enough evidence to conclude if their statements were accurate or not and, therefore, that they are false.”
The defense insists that at no time was there an explicit request to violate the law or enter Congress and that, when the assault occurred, the Republican asked his followers to demonstrate “peacefully.” “If this speech [en referencia al pronunciado por el expresidente la mañana del 6 de enero] is considered as incitement to insurrection, so I think any passionate political speaker is at risk, “said one of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, in an interview with The Washington Post The last Sunday.
Many of the Trumpist agitators have now become a headache for the former president, since they themselves, when defending themselves against the different crimes they are charged with (public disorder or violent break-in in a building with restricted access, among the milder and more common), point out that they were limited to obeying the highest authority in the country. “When the president, on January 6, asked them to walk with him down Pennsylvania Avenue, they felt not only that the president was speaking to them, but that he was inviting them. Did our president have a role? Did it have an influence? Did it at least partially cause what happened on January 6? Yes. Categorically. Without a doubt ”, said a few days ago to EL PAÍS the lawyer Albert Watkins, who represents one of the most recognizable assailants, Jacob Chansley, who was disguised in skins and is known as the shaman of QAnon. Like him, as reported by Reuters on Tuesday, up to 170 detainees are trying to shift part of the blame to the Republican.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.