Antifa, insurrection and ‘fight like hell’: Trump’s lawyers fact checked in real time for trial claims

Ex-president’s legal team wrapped up defence in under four hours

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 12 February 2021 22:36
Elizabeth Warren painted as violent 'fight' advocator in impeachment trial

Donald Trump’s legal team finally got their chance to lay out their impeachment defence of the ex-president’s role in the Capitol riots.

But as they offered their rebuttal of the powerful case of House impeachment managers that Mr Trump incited the violence that left five people dead on 6 January, they found many of their claims immediately under heavy scrutiny.

Mr Trump’s lawyer Bruce Castor claimed during the defence that “there was no insurrection” at the Capitol.

But on the night of 6 January, then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, called what had happened just hours earlier a “failed insurrection.”

Michael van der Veen claimed that the “entire Democratic Party and national news media” had falsely claimed “without evidence” that there was hacking during the 2016 election.

The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign were hacked by operatives of the Russian government who stole and leaked documents and emails, according to the US intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mr van der Veen claimed that Mr Trump’s first two tweets during the violent attack asked for calm and urged his supporters to “stay peaceful” and for there to be “no violence.”

But those Tweets came at 2.38pm ET and 3.13pm ET, and were his second and third tweets after the Capitol building was stormed, says CNN.

His first tweet was in fact at 2.24pm and stated: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Mr Trump’s defence team also showed a video in which Democratic lawmakers, such as Elizabeth Warren, used the word “fight” and the phrase “fight like hell.”

Those Democrats used the word in media interviews and peaceful campaign rallies, and none used it at a 6 January rally to a crowd that would go directly to the Capitol and illegally enter the building.

Mr van der Veen also claimed that the House articles of impeachment, passed by all Democrats and 10 Republicans, were a “blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance.”

Before the trial itself started the Senate voted 56 to 44 that the proceedings were constitutional, with all but six GOP senators voting against it on the grounds that Mr Trump is no longer president.

The Constitution is silent on whether a former president can be convicted when out of office, but Democrats have argued that the violence occurred while Mr Trump was still in the White House and he was impeached by the House while still in office.

“The President,” vice president and all civil officers “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” states the Constitution.

Mr van der Veen also claimed that an antifa leader was the first person arrested and released at the Capitol riot, apparently referring to John Sullivan.

However, Mr Sullivan is believed to have been involved in both right-wing and left-wing groups, and is not thought to be the “leader” of antifa.

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