Donald Trump’s lawyers have used a barrage of selectively edited videos to claim the former president acted no differently to any other politician when he urged his supporters to “fight” in his now infamous 6 January speech.
In a strident attempt to portray Mr Trump as an impassioned but peaceful leader, lawyers defending him against an impeachment charge played to senators a compilation of video clips continuing more than a dozen Democrats using the word.
“Hatred and anger has led House managers to ignore their own words and actions and set a dangerous double standard,” said lawyer David Schoen.
But their efforts were rapidly condemned by commentators who pointed out the lawyers were not equating like with like.
One of the videos played by Mr Schoen showed Democratic senator Chuck Schumer talking about “fighting the health crisis of Covid”.
The lawyers said Mr Trump’s impeachment was an “unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance” that amounts to a witch hunt.
A day after Democrats concluded their case against Mr Trump, during which they played videos showing the violence that swept the US Capitol on 6 January and the ex-president’s fiery speech that preceded it, his lawyers played senators clips of Democrats themselves using combative language.
“This appalling abuse of the Constitution only further divides our nation when we should be trying to come together around shared priorities,” said lawyer Michael van der Veen.
“Like every other politically motivated witch hunt, the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence, and the interests of the American people. The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it.”
He added: “No thinking person could seriously believe that the president’s speech on January 6 was an incitement to violence or insurrection. [It] is absurd on its face.”
Mr Schoen also alleged that Democrats had “manipulated” evidence played to the Senate.
He claimed Democrats had “reconstructed” some of Mr Trump’s tweets without informing senators they had done so. He said the appearance of “blue ticks” on the Twitter accounts of individuals who do not have one was proof of something underhand.
Many on social media argued that the Democrats’ condensing of some of the former president’s claims into a package did not equate to manipulation,
Mr Schoen also played senators a package of Democrats repeatedly using the word “fight”, seeking to equate it to Mr Trump’s comments on the the morning of 6 January, when he told supporters: “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper said Elizabeth Warren talking to a crowd of “tote bag clutching supporters in Massachusetts”, about fighting for healthcare, was not the same as Mr Trump’s remarks to a “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall. The rally was held as a joint session of Congress voted to affirm the electoral college tallies of Joe Biden.
Also included in the “fight club” package were words by congresswoman Maxine Waters, congressman Al Green, and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, urging for Mr Trump’s impeachment.
He also played a compilation of Democrats including senator Jon Tester saying “you need to go back and punch [Trump] in the face” and House speaker Nancy Pelosi saying “you’ve got to be ready to throw a punch”.
The lawyers’ speeches, the content of which many speculated had been included at the behest of Mr Trump, came after Democrats spent two days laying out a detailed case against the former president.
Mr Trump was last month impeached by the House of Representatives, for the second time.
His trial in the Senate was opposed by a majority of Republican senators, who said the constitution only permitted the impeachment of a sitting president.
Mr van der Veen said: “The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it.”
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