'The President Did Not Cause the Riots'

Impeachment lawyers for former president wrap up their defense
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2021 11:16 AM CST
Updated Feb 12, 2021 5:00 PM CST
Trump's Defense Begins
Bruce Castor, left, and Michael van der Veen, lawyers for former President Trump, arrive at the Capitol on Friday.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Defense lawyers for former President Trump wrapped up their arguments in his impeachment trial Friday, making the case that Trump cannot be held responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Senators then had a question-and-answer session with lawyers from both sides, and they are now on track to vote on Saturday. Highlights from the Trump team's defense:

  • Attorney Michael van der Veen dismissed the trial as a “blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance," per the Washington Post. He also used the phrases "appalling abuse of the Constitution" and "constitutional cancel culture," per the AP.
  • Trump didn't incite the rioters, he insisted. Yes, the former president urged supporters to "fight like hell," but that was metaphorical, said van der Deen, per the Hill. “Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles," he added. "Joe Biden’s slogan was ‘battle for the soul’ of America. No one believes that the use of this political terminology was incitement of political violence."
  • He also played video clips of Democrats urging on protesters during the civil unrest over the summer. For example, Democratic Rep. Ayanna Presley was shown saying, “There needs to be unrest in the streets for as long as there is unrest in our lives." Said van der Deen: “Democratic politicians endorsed and encouraged the riots that destroyed vast swaths of American cities last summer."
  • Trump's team also showed clips of Democratic lawmakers using the word "fight" repeatedly, though without context, per the AP. "You didn't do anything wrong" in using the word, Trump attorney David Schoen told the senators. “But, please, stop the hypocrisy.” A separate AP story notes that Democrats mostly chuckled and whispered to themselves at the video attempting to equate what they said to Trump's statements. “Donald Trump was warned, if you don’t stop talking about a stolen election, people will be killed,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine during a break. “He was specifically warned that. He kept talking about it, and a violent mob attacked the Capitol and seven people are dead who would be alive today, had he just followed their advice. That’s what I thought about those videos.”

  • Attorney Bruce Castor says what happened at the Capitol was not an insurrection. “Insurrection is a term of art defined in the law," he said. "It involves taking over a country, a shadow government, taking the TV stations over and having some playing what you’re going to do when you finally take power. Clearly, this is not that." The impeachment charge alleges "incitement of insurrection."
  • Castor's closing pitch: “All of these facts make clear the January 6th speech did not cause the riots. The president did not cause the riots. He neither explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action." Instead, Castor he noted that Trump told supporters to “peacefully and patriotically” march to the Capitol.
(Trump's attorneys met with GOP senators on Thursday, reportedly to talk strategy.)

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