Donald Trump accused of inciting rioters and failing to protect Capitol as Democrats close historic prosecution

'If he gets back into office and it happens again we'll have no one to blame but ourselves'

Griffin Connolly
Washington DC
,Andrew Buncombe@AndrewBuncombe
Friday 12 February 2021 02:36
comments
Democrats close historic impeachment prosecution of Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been accused of both inciting rioters and failing to protect those inside the US Capitol during the assault last month, as Democrats concluded their historic impeachment prosecution of the former president.

As it emerged Mr Trump’s lawyers may only take up three of the 16 hours available to them for their defence, Democrats drilled home the message that the former president was guilty on multiple fronts for the violence that swept the federal legislature building on 6 January.

He incited his already angry and dismayed supporters with more false claims that the election had been rigged, when he addressed them that Wednesday morning, the Senate was told.

After the violence broke out, and as his vice president and politicians from both parties were besieged by the rioters, he did nothing to condemn the rioters, instead posting a video in which he spoke of his love for them. 

READ OUR IMPEACHMENT LIVE BLOG

Finally, when the Capitol Hill police were overrun, he failed to send in support, one of his duties as commander-in-chief.

“Senators, I talked a lot about common sense in this trial because I believe that's all you need to arrive at the right answer here,” said Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, the party’s chief prosecutor, as he concluded his case.

Over the course of their final day, Democrats played the senators video recordings showing Mr Trump repeatedly praising acts of political violence, whether they were carried out by his supporters, or else by individuals such as Gregory Gianforte, a former Republican governor of Montana, who had body slammed a reporter. 

“Any guy that can do a body slam is my guy,” Mr Trump said at the time.

Impeachment 'offensive to the American people' Senator Hawley claims

They were also told that the individuals who took part in the riot and protest - more than 200 people have been arrested and an inquiry is ongoing - told police they believed they were there at the behest of the former president.

“I want to step back from the horrors of the attack itself. And look at January 6 from a totally different perspective, the perspective of the insurrectionists themselves,” said Democratic congresswoman Diana DeGette, another of the party’s prosecutors in the Senate.

“Their own statements before, during, and after the attack make clear, the attack was done for Donald Trump, at his instructions and to fulfil his wishes.”

She added: “Folks, this was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment.”

Last month, just a week before he left office, Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, which charged him with "inciting an insurrection" in his speech on 6 January, when hundreds of his supporters gathered for a "Stop the Steal" rally, at which he repeated his false claim that the election had been rigged.

The rally was called the day members of both houses of Congress met to ratify the electoral college votes of Mr Biden.

Just three US presidents have been impeached by the House - Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Mr Trump. Mr Trump is the only person to have been impeached twice.

None has been found guilty by the Senate, which needs to vote by a two-thirds majority to find a president guilty.

Most observers believe Democrats do not have the votes to find Mr Trump guilty, or vote to prevent him from holding office again.

Mr Trump was on Thursday seen playing golf close to his home in Florida, as one of his lawyers appeared on Fox News to defend the performance of a colleague, whose meandering opening remarks earlier this week were widely condemned, reportedly also by Mr Trump.

David Schoen said Bruce Castor has been "unfairly maligned”.

“Listen, Mr Castor got up the first day, he jumped right into it to respond to something that had been said. And I think he's been very unfairly maligned, frankly. He's a lawyer with a long 35 years of experience or so,” he said. “Let's just see how this thing plays out.”

Mr Trump's adviser Jason Miller said on Twitter that the defence would wrap up its case on Friday, and some Republican senators said they expected the proceedings to end on Saturday.

Mr Trump's successor has largely sought to avoid questions about the impeachment, insisting it is a matter for the Congress. Mr Biden appears to have taken the decision to try and work with members of both parties, apparently believing he risks upsetting an already delicate situation were he to comment unnecessarily.

Yet at the White House, spokesperson Jen Psaki said the president had watched some of the video on Thursday morning, adding: "Anyone who watched that video ... found it harrowing and deeply disturbing. That's certainly how the president felt."

In his comments, Mr Raskin quoted from both the French writer Voltaire and the British-born Revolutionary-era political activist Thomas Paine.

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, but we have this saving consolation: the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory,” he said, quoting Paine.

He also said it was foreign nations, and not the United States, who usually had to suffer from tyrants and despots as their rulers.

“My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way,” asked Mr Raskin.

“Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that, bet the safety of your family on that, bet the future of your democracy on that?"

He added: “President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So if he gets back into office and it happens again, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments