5 takeaways from Day 3 of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

Trump’s expected First Amendment, free speech defense on Friday is a “smokescreen,” said lead impeachment trial prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., on Thursday.

SHARE 5 takeaways from Day 3 of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial
Second Impeachment Trial Of Donald J. Trump Continues In Senate

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) speaks on the third day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by congress.gov via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Ex-President Donald Trump’s impeachment prosecutors rested their case on Thursday, presenting strong arguments, without an explicit smoking gun, he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and must be prevented from ever being able to trigger an attack again.

After the managers, or prosecutors, all House Democrats, laid out their case over two days, Trump’s defense team is expected to use only Friday to argue for his acquittal.

Here are takeaways from Day 3 of Trump’s trial:

Impeachment. Conviction. Disqualification.

That above phrase came up several times Thursday, intended to address GOP critics who say Trump’s trial over inciting the siege is a waste of time since Trump’s term is over and he can’t be punished by removing him from office following a conviction.

Upon conviction, the Senate could vote to ban Trump from holding federal office again. It will take a two-thirds vote to convict; a majority to ban. So far, there are not 17 Republicans who will convict, so in theory, at least, Trump’s lawyers just have to not do anything on Friday to mess up Trump’s almost certain acquittal.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., a prosecutor, argued that “lack of remorse is an important factor in impeachment, because impeachment, conviction and disqualification is not just about the past, it’s about the future. It’s making sure that no future official, no future president does the same exact thing President Trump does.”

Smoking gun

The prosecutors’ case stitched together how Trump’s push to remain in office and his lies about a stolen election influenced his extremist, violence-prone supporters who came to Washington at his invitation.

Trump’s defense lawyers are expected to dispute that Trump’s well-documented speeches, interviews, tweets and retweets about wanting to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election on Jan. 6 amounted to a smoking gun — an explicit order from Trump to go attack the Capitol.

Trump’s history of encouraging violence

For prosecutors, who did not call witnesses, Trump’s pattern and practice of cheering on supporters who are violent was all but a smoking gun, they argued as they showed clips of Trump’s incendiary remarks through the years and his refusal to condemn violent demonstrations in, for example, Charlottesville or at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., a manager, used statements by indicted rioters and their attorneys as testimony. “Their own statements before, during and after the attack made clear the attack was done for Donald Trump, at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes,” DeGette said.

“Donald Trump had sent them there. They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders. And we know that because they said so … Folks, this was not a hidden crime.”

Said DeGette, “The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment.”

Working the room

Trump’s trial is taking place in a crime scene — the Senate chamber — before senators, who are also jurors, who were being hunted down by the mob intent on blocking Congress from completing Biden’s election.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., highlighted the harm done to Congress and the Democratic process in the worst attack since the British invasion in 1812, “all because” Trump could not accept election defeat. The mob was “ready to kill” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, he noted in his appeal, more emotional than legal.

Said Cicilline, Trump “was trying to become King and rule over us, against the will of the people.”

First Amendment ‘smokescreen’

Wrapping up, prosecutors Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., launched preemptive strikes over the First Amendment free speech argument expected to be a centerpiece of Trump’s defense.

Before the mob marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump spoke to them at a rally near the White House.

“Standing in the middle of that explosive situation in that powder keg that he had created over the course of months before a crowd filled with people that were poised for violence at his signal. He struck a match and he aimed straight at this building. At us,” Neguse said.

“…There’s no serious argument that the First Amendment protects that, and it would be extraordinarily dangerous for the United States Senate to conclude otherwise.”

Said Raskin, “Incitement to violent insurrection is not protected by free speech. There is no First Amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea itself is absurd, and the whole First Amendment smokescreen is a completely irrelevant distraction.”

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