The first full day of arguments in the US Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started yesterday as the former President is being accused of ‘incitement of insurrection’ for his words and actions preceding the deadly US Capitol riot on January 6.
The second impeachment trial, which began on Tuesday focused on the constitutionality of holding impeachment proceedings for a former president; with the Senate voting 56-44 that the trial is legal.
Trump’s lawyers and supporters in the Senate had argued it is unconstitutional to put a private citizen through this process but Tuesday’s voting has made the trial legal.
The prosecution and defence will now have 16 hours each to present their case, with House impeachment managers going first.
Seventeen Republicans will need to turn against their former president to convict him. It is unlikely, but if successful, it would lead to a subsequent vote to bar him from seeking public office again.
The Democrats decried Trump as ‘inciter in chief’ at impeachment trial and their prosecutors are expected to show unseen images of the attack on the Capitol.
The House impeachment managers argument is based on Trump’s campaign of misinformation to overturn the victory of President Joe Biden, and his comments to supporters before the US Capitol riot on January 6, amounted to ‘incitement of insurrection’.
After arguing that a president cannot be convicted in the Senate after leaving office, the defence is expected to focus on the argument that Trump’s statements are protected as free speech.
House manager Joe Neguse said the prosecution will focus on three repeated phrases Trump used: The “election was stolen”, “Stop the steal”, and “fight like hell”.
Neguse called the riot “part of a carefully planned months long effort with a very specific instruction to show up on January 6, and get his supporters to fight the certification”.
“This mob was well orchestrated. Their conduct was intentional. They did it all in plain sight proudly, openly and loudly, because they believed, they truly believed that they were doing this for him,” he said.
Neguse said Trump’s January 6 speech moments before the riot was a “call to arms. It was not rhetorical. Some of his supporters had been primed for many months.”
The mob that ransacked Congress last month “was sent here by the president” Democrat Jamie Raskin, said.