House Managers Rest Their Case Against Trump, but Most Republicans Are Not Swayed
House impeachment managers wrapped up their emotionally charged incitement case against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday by warning that he remains a clear and present danger to American democracy and could foment still more violence if not barred from running for office again.
With the sounds of a rampaging mob still ringing in the Senate chamber, the managers sought to channel the shock and indignation rekindled by videos they showed of last month’s attack on the Capitol into a bipartisan repudiation of the former president who inflamed his supporters with false claims of a stolen election.
“My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, asked the senators. “Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”
The argument was meant to rebut Republicans who have said that holding an impeachment trial for a former president was pointless and even unconstitutional because he has already left office and can no longer be removed. But if Mr. Trump were convicted, the Senate could bar him from holding public office in the future, and the managers emphasized that the trial was aimed not at punishment but prevention.
“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years,” said Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, another of the managers. “I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose, because he can do this again.”
In the final day of their main arguments, the managers also sought to pre-empt the defense that Mr. Trump’s legal team will offer on Friday by rejecting his claim that he was simply exercising his free-speech rights when he sent a frenzied crowd to the Capitol as lawmakers were counting Electoral College votes and told it to “fight like hell.” The First Amendment, managers said, does not protect a president setting a political powder keg and then lighting a match.
“President Trump wasn’t just some guy with political opinions who showed up at a rally on Jan. 6 and delivered controversial remarks,” said Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado and another manager. “He was the president of the United States. And he had spent months using the unique power of that office, of his bully pulpit, to spread that big lie that the election had been stolen to convince his followers to ‘stop the steal.’”
But for all of the drama of the prosecution’s case, most Republican senators appeared unswayed and Mr. Trump seemed to retain enough support to block the two-thirds vote required under the Constitution for conviction on the single “incitement of insurrection” count. While a handful of Republican senators may break from the former president, others seemed to go out of their way on Thursday to express impatience with the trial, the second that Mr. Trump has faced.
With Republican positions hardening and President Biden’s agenda slowed by the proceedings, Democratic senators began signaling that they had seen enough, too, and members of both parties were coalescing around a plan to bring a quick end to the trial with a vote on guilt or innocence as early as Saturday.
The Trump Impeachment ›
What You Need to Know
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
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