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Trump Impeachment Trial Live Updates: Final Day of Arguments for the Prosecution

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The House impeachment managers are set to conclude their oral arguments on Thursday in the Senate trial of former President Donald J. Trump, a day after they delivered a dramatic presentation that showed in graphic detail the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.

The presentation, which featured never-before-seen security footage as well as police radio communications, was a chilling retelling of the harrowing events on Jan. 6, after Mr. Trump rallied his supporters on the day that Congress met to certify the election results.

The Senate is scheduled to convene at noon on Thursday, and the House managers, who are acting as the prosecution team for the trial, will have up to eight hours to finish laying out their case.

Then it will be time for the defense team, whose debut on Tuesday during a debate over the constitutionality of the trial was rocky at best, infuriating Mr. Trump. The trial is moving at a rapid pace, and a vote on whether to convict the former president could take place as soon as this weekend.

The House managers’ narration of the Capitol attack was filled with emotional power, forcing senators to take in the mayhem and underscoring the danger they and others who had been in the building — including Vice President Mike Pence — had faced as the rioters made their way inside.

“He told them to ‘fight like hell,’ and they brought us hell on that day,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, quoting from the speech Mr. Trump delivered on Jan. 6.

Although the House managers’ presentation brought the events of that day back to the forefront, the raw display might end up having little effect on the overall political contours of the trial.

On Tuesday, all but six Republican senators voted against proceeding with the trial, a clear sign of the difficulty facing the House managers as they seek to persuade members of Mr. Trump’s party to break with him.

Seventeen Republican senators would need to join all 48 Democrats and two independents to reach the two-thirds supermajority required to convict Mr. Trump of the “incitement of insurrection” charge he faces.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands rehearsing her remarks on Wednesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

House impeachment managers built their case against former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday, methodically using video and audio clips to argue that he was responsible for the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Throughout much of the day, the managers let Mr. Trump and his supporters do the talking, showing videos of Mr. Trump’s speeches, his Twitter posts and footage of his supporters answering his rallying cries that began months before the attack.

Here are five takeaways from the second day of the trial.

For a time on Wednesday, @realDonaldTrump was back.

Credit…Senate Television, via Associated Press

In their efforts to prove that Mr. Trump was undeniably behind the attack, House impeachment managers let the former president tell the story in his own words, airing a Trump Twitter blitz worthy of the former tweeter in chief himself.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he wrote on Dec. 19, a post the managers repeatedly referred to throughout the day as a “save the date.”

And then, on Dec. 26, he wrote, “The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

Twitter barred Mr. Trump permanently on Jan. 8, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” as its justification.

Video clips showed again and again just how much danger senators faced.

The House managers showed senators previously unseen footage of the attack from security cameras in the Capitol. They also played recordings of officers’ chilling pleas for backup as the chaos unfolded around them.

In clip after clip, the impeachment managers broadened the view for senators of what was happening around them as they were running for cover on Jan. 6.

“You know how close you came to the mob,” said Representative Eric Swalwell of California, one of the House managers. “But most of the public does not know how close these rioters came to you.”

Democrats let Trump and his supporters make their case to convict.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

As they started building their case on Wednesday, House impeachment managers argued that Mr. Trump was in no way an innocent bystander to the events of Jan. 6, rebutting an assertion the former president’s defense team made a day earlier.

Throughout the day, the managers let Mr. Trump and his supporters do much of the talking, showing footage of campaign rallies, screenshots of the president’s comments and clips of news interviews with supporters who said they went to Washington on Jan. 6 in response to his call.

The prosecution emphasized the role racism played in the riot and in the months before it.

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Impeachment Manager Describes Racism at Capitol Riot

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, concluded his opening remarks by quoting one of the Black police officers who faced racist attacks while battling the pro-Trump riot in the Capitol.

One of our Capitol officers who defended us that day was a longtime veteran of our force, a brave and honorable public servant who spent several hours battling the mob as part of one of those blue lines defending the Capitol in our democracy. For several hours straight, as the marauders punched and kicked and mauled, and spit upon and hit officers with baseball bats and fire extinguishers cursed the cops and stormed our Capitol, he defended us, and he lived every minute of his oath of office. And afterwards, overwhelmed by emotion, he broke down in the Rotunda. And he cried for 15 minutes. And he shouted out, “I got called an ‘n-word’ 15 times today.” And then he reporter, “I sat down with one of my buddies, another Black guy, and tears just started streaming down my face. And I said, what the f man — is this, America?” That’s the question before all of you in this trial. Is this America? Can our country and our democracy ever be the same if we don’t hold accountable the person responsible for inciting the violent attack against our country, our Capitol and our democracy, and all of those who serve us so faithfully and honorably? Is this America?

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Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, concluded his opening remarks by quoting one of the Black police officers who faced racist attacks while battling the pro-Trump riot in the Capitol.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Over the course of the day, the impeachment managers raised the role racism played in the riot as well as in the preceding months. They showed scenes of Confederate flags carried inside the Capitol, which historians said did not happen even during the Civil War.

The managers also identified rioters who had links to white supremacist groups, including a far-right group, the Proud Boys, known for endorsing violence.

The lead impeachment manager, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, quoted a Black officer who battled the mob that day describing his despair at being subjected to racist taunts from a crowd of attackers that was, according to witness accounts and video, overwhelmingly white.

Mr. Trump’s affinity for groups like the Proud Boys and his refusal to condemn them publicly and forcefully at multiple points throughout his presidency has long made many Republicans bristle, a reaction the impeachment managers may have been hoping to elicit in the Senate chamber on Wednesday.

An incitement of insurrection in four acts.

Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

The impeachment managers laid out four efforts to subvert the election, each escalating as Mr. Trump’s desperation to retain his grip on the Oval Office grew. With each step, the managers said, he laid the groundwork for the mob attack on Jan. 6.

“The president realized really by last spring that he could lose — he might lose the election. So what did he do?” said one of the impeachment managers, Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado. “He started planting the seeds to get some of his supporters ready by saying that he could only lose the election if it was stolen.”

After Mr. Trump lost in November, he turned to his next plan: filing legal challenges.

And when that did not work, the president took the extraordinary step of pressuring Georgia elections officials to “find 11,780 votes” cast for him. (There is currently a criminal investigation into his attempts to overturn the state’s elections results.)

When the Georgia plan fell through, Mr. Trump saw one last opportunity to “stop the steal”: the bureaucratic counting of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.

“He incited this attack, and he saw it coming,” Mr. Raskin said. “To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness. But there was method in the madness that day.”

Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Glenn Thrush, Nicholas Fandos and Nick Corasaniti.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, talks with an aide as he makes edits to his prepared remarks on Wednesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Democratic House impeachment managers are preparing on Thursday to wrap up their case against former President Donald J. Trump as they move ahead quickly with the Senate trial.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who have yet to present their case, have dismissed the trial itself as unconstitutional. It is still unclear whether they will try at all to directly address the House prosecutors’ arguments.

The Senate will reconvene at noon Thursday.

What do House managers have left in store?

The Democrats prosecuting Mr. Trump went to great lengths on Wednesday to not only remind senators of the violence that occurred on Jan. 6, but to also link those scenes directly to statements he made.

Several senators said they came away feeling moved.

“They had a strong presentation put together in a way that I think makes it pretty compelling,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters after.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead House manager, suggested that his team intended to open its presentation on Thursday with still more, and might continue with the flood of uncomfortable memories for much of its remaining allotted time, up to eight hours. It may also be that Mr. Raskin simply hopes to summarize arguments made on Wednesday before resting his case.

Either way, House managers are expected to present for several more hours.

Will Trump’s lawyers respond?

The case presented by the managers has included numerous clips of Mr. Trump, in the weeks before the riot, in which he falsely claimed that the election was stolen from him and urged supporters to fight what he described as widespread voter fraud.

If House managers choose to spend most of the day on Thursday focused on Mr. Trump and his fiery messaging, it may add to pressure on his lawyers to mount a fuller defense in coming days.

If they do, the lawyers are widely expected to argue that the comments were simply opinions protected by the First Amendment, and that Mr. Trump was entitled to tell his supporters to fight in the name of election security or to express their own political views.

But the former president’s lawyers have made clear that they plan to move quickly. The timetable for the trial was already moved up after a member of Mr. Trump’s defense team, David I. Schoen, withdrew a request to pause the trial on Friday evening to observe Jewish Sabbath.

President Biden is convening a meeting in the Oval Office with senators from both parties to discuss infrastructure. 
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President Biden plans on Thursday to continue ignoring the impeachment trial of his predecessor, hosting lawmakers for a discussion about infrastructure and touring a facility at the National Institutes of Health.

Mr. Biden and his advisers have insisted for days that he is not paying close attention to the Senate trial of former President Donald J. Trump.

Instead, the new president is determined to deliver the message that he is focused on the economic plight of the country and the pandemic that is still killing about 3,000 people each day.

Mr. Biden is scheduled to begin his day convening a meeting in the Oval Office with senators from both parties in what the White House described as a discussion about “the critical need to invest in modern and sustainable American infrastructure.” Officials said that Pete Buttigieg, who was confirmed as Mr. Biden’s transportation secretary last week, will join the meeting via video conference, officials said.

Mr. Biden said throughout the campaign that he supports a vast effort to rebuild the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and other critical infrastructure, in part as a way to help put Americans back to work. Many Republicans have said for years that they, too, support new investments in infrastructure, though reaching agreement on the size and scope of legislation has been elusive.

While the White House has prioritized the passage of the president’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, Mr. Biden has signaled that he plans to push for more spending after that is approved. The strategy is part of his effort to “build back better,” a slogan he used during his presidential campaign.

Later Thursday afternoon, the president is scheduled to tour the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and deliver remarks to underscore the efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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Prosecution Argues Trump Incited Capitol Riot

House impeachment managers argued that former President Donald Trump had convinced his supporters over months that the election was stolen, incited the Jan. 6 riots and refused to stop the mob.

“Now, I want to be very clear about what we will show you during the course of this trial. As my fellow managers present our case to you today, tonight, tomorrow, it’ll be helpful to think about President Trump’s incitement of insurrection in three distinct parts. The provocation, the attack and the harm. Let’s start with the provocation. We will show during the course of this trial that this attack was provoked by the president, incited by the president. And as a result, it was predictable and it was foreseeable. And as you evaluate the facts that we present to you, it will become clear exactly where that mob came from.” “You saw President Trump prime for months, his supporters to believe that if the election was lost, it only could have been so because it was rigged. But that took time. Just like to build a fire, it doesn’t just start with the flames. Donald Trump for months and months assembled the tinder, the kindling threw on logs for fuel to have his supporters believe that the only way their victory would be lost was if it was stolen. So that way, President Trump was ready if he lost the election, to light the match. And on Nov. 7, after all the votes were counted, President Trump did lose by seven million votes. But for Donald Trump, all was not lost. He had a backup plan: Instead of accepting the results or pursuing legitimate claims, he told his base more lies. He doused the flames with kerosene.” “I’ll start by discussing President Trump’s actions leading up to the election when he set up his big lie. Beginning in the spring of 2020, President Trump began to fall behind in the polls. And by July, President Trump had reached a new low. He was running 15 points behind his opponent. And he was scared. He began to believe that he could legitimately lose the election. And so he did something entirely unprecedented in the history of our nation. He refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power.” “Let’s start with Dec. 12. You will see during this trial a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence. ‘We have just begun to fight,’ he says, more than a month after the election has taken place. On Dec. 19, 18 days before Jan. 6, he told his base about where the battle would be, that they would fight next: Jan. 6 would be wild, he promised. ‘Be there, will be wild!’ said the president of the United States of America. They were invited here by the president of the United States of America. And when they showed up, knowing of these reports that the crowd was angry and it was armed, here’s what Donald Trump told them. ‘If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’ And then he aimed straight at the Capitol declaring, ‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.’ He told them to fight like hell, and they brought us hell.” “By 2:15 P.M., the crowd was chanting in unison, ‘Hang Mike Pence’ outside the very building he had been evacuated from with his family. Now, even if President Trump didn’t know that his inflammatory remarks about his vice president would result in chants of ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ by 2:15 P.M., he surely knew.” “Even when President Trump knew what his words were causing, he didn’t do any of those things to stop the crowd.”

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House impeachment managers argued that former President Donald Trump had convinced his supporters over months that the election was stolen, incited the Jan. 6 riots and refused to stop the mob.

When Donald J. Trump was running for president in 2016, he pointed to some protesters at one of his rallies and told the crowd to “get ’em out of here.” The protesters, who said they were then viciously assaulted, sued him for inciting a riot.

Mr. Trump won the suit. A federal appeals court, relying on a case concerning the Ku Klux Klan, ruled that his exhortation was protected by the First Amendment. And now his lawyers are making the same argument at his impeachment trial, where he stands accused of inciting an insurrection.

But Democrats say that argument misses two key points. An impeachment trial, they contend, is concerned with abuses of official power, meaning that statements that may be legally defensible when uttered by a private individual can nonetheless be grounds for impeachment.

Equally important, they say that Mr. Trump’s statements on Jan. 6 should not be considered in isolation but as the final effort of a calculated, monthslong campaign to violate his oath of office in an effort to retain power.

Stacey E. Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager, said Mr. Trump’s statements were the culmination of a pattern of conduct that deliberately encouraged lawlessness. “Donald Trump over many months cultivated violence, praised it,” she said. “And then when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event.”

Mr. Trump’s call to the crowd in 2016 had none of that baggage, but Judge David J. Hale of the Federal District Court in Louisville, Ky., allowed a lawsuit against him to proceed, writing that incitement is a capacious term. Quoting Black’s Law Dictionary, he wrote that it was defined as ‘the act or an instance of provoking, urging on or stirring up,’ or, in criminal law, ‘the act of persuading another person to commit a crime.’”

But the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, reversed Judge Hale’s decision, ruling that the Supreme Court’s decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio protected Mr. Trump. “In the ears of some supporters, Trump’s words may have had a tendency to elicit a physical response, in the event a disruptive protester refused to leave,” Judge David W. McKeague wrote for the majority, “but they did not specifically advocate such a response.”

It was significant, too, Judge McKeague wrote, that Mr. Trump had added a caveat to his exhortation, according to the lawsuit. “Don’t hurt ’em,” Mr. Trump said. “If I say ‘go get ’em,’ I get in trouble with the press.”

Mr. Trump offered a similarly mixed message on Jan. 6. Even as he urged his supporters to “go to the Capitol” and “fight like hell,” he also made at least one milder comment. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” he said.

Ordinary courts might consider the speech in isolation and credit the occasional calmer passage. But the House managers are urging the Senate to hold a president to a different standard, one that takes account of the months of actions and statements leading to the speech and that holds him responsible for any call to violence or lawlessness.

Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, invoked an impeachment rule that allows senators to raise questions during the trial.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

An emotional second day of the trial ended in procedural chaos as a Republican senator objected to testimony that cited him as a source for a conversation former President Donald J. Trump had during the Capitol attack that is at the heart of the case.

In the final hour of arguments on Wednesday, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and one of the impeachment managers, spoke of Mr. Trump mistakenly calling Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, in an effort to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. In describing the call, which was detailed in news reports, Mr. Cicilline asserted that Mr. Lee had stood by as Mr. Trump asked Mr. Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification of President Biden’s electoral votes.

As Mr. Cicilline spoke, Mr. Lee could be seen writing furiously on a notepad in large letters: “This is not what happened.” When Democrats concluded their arguments for the day, Mr. Lee invoked an impeachment rule that allows senators to raise questions during the trial, including about the admissibility of evidence, and asked that the statements about him be struck as false.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the presiding officer for the impeachment trial, ruled the request as out of order. Mr. Leahy, who consulted with the Senate parliamentarian, pointed to a rule specific to this impeachment trial that allows the House managers to include elements in their oral arguments that were not in their original pretrial submissions.

A visibly outraged Mr. Lee demanded an appeal.

“My point was to strike them because they were false,” he said.

As some lawmakers, including Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, demanded that Mr. Lee explain why the description was false, the murmuring and confusion among senators and staff temporarily derailed the final moments of the day’s proceedings.

After a series of intense huddles on the floor, where Mr. Lee could be heard insisting that he did not make those statements, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, agreed to take back the words. But he reserved the ability to bring the issue up again and litigate it later in the trial.

“We’re going to withdraw it this evening and without any prejudice to the ability to resubmit it, if possible,” Mr. Raskin said. “We can debate it if we need it. But it’s not — this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in any way to our case.”

As Mr. Raskin spoke, Mr. Lee could be heard across the Senate chamber making a snide retort: “You’re not the one being cited as a witness, sir.”


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