Democratic impeachment managers are planning to showcase President Donald Trump’s role leading up to last week’s deadly rampage at the U.S. Capitol as it tries to convict him of inciting insurrection at a Senate impeachment trial that is set to start soon after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next Wednesday.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado told CNN on Thursday that she and other impeachment managers would show video of rioters storming the Capitol shortly after Trump implored them at a rally to walk to the Capitol to “fight” to overturn his election loss to Biden. At the time, lawmakers were in the initial stages of certifying the Electoral College vote showing Biden had won.
“This is a situation where the president committed his offense right there on national TV. We’re going to be getting footage. We’re going to be telling the story to the senators,” DeGette said a day after the House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Trump.
Ten Republican lawmakers turned against Trump, a fellow Republican, joining all House Democrats in the majority.
The House vote made Trump the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. In late 2019 he was impeached by the House for soliciting Ukraine’s help in digging up dirt against Biden ahead of the November election, but was acquitted by the Senate last February.
DeGette, a lawyer, said impeachment managers are considering calling several witnesses at Trump’s trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
She said among the witnesses being considered are victims of the deadly attack, as well as Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top elections official, who Trump pushed days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol to “find” enough votes, more than 11,000, for him to overturn Biden’s victory in the southern state.
“He could talk about his conversation with the president, how the president tried to pressure him to change the legal result of the election,” DeGette said of Raffensperger.
The hour-long January 2 call Trump made to Raffensperger is referenced in the impeachment resolution passed by the House on Wednesday that charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”
DeGette rebuffed the claim by some Republicans, including Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, that Trump should not be tried after he leaves office next week. No president has ever been tried for impeachment after his White House term ended, although other U.S. officials have been tried after leaving office.
“They could prevent him from ever holding office again,” DeGette said of the senators hearing the Trump impeachment case. “They could prevent him from getting all of the perks of a retired president, and it seems to me that given the egregiousness with which he acted, we should take this kind of a step.”
A two-thirds vote would be required to convict Trump in a Senate that will be split evenly 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats by the time the trial starts, meaning 17 Republicans would have to turn against Trump for a conviction.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has been a staunch ally of Trump during his four-year presidency, but told his Republican colleagues on Wednesday, “I have not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
Shortly after the House vote, Biden said he hoped his initial legislative proposals would not be sidetracked.
“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” Biden said.
The chief impeachment manager, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, told National Public Radio that he does not consider the case against Trump to be “a punitive instrument. It is a protective instrument, and we need to protect our people.”
“Right now,” Raskin said, “the same violent white supremacist mobs that attacked us last week have said they're coming back to Washington” for the events surrounding Biden’s inauguration. “This is a clear and present danger. People who think that we should just, you know, let bygones be bygones are not dealing with the reality of what took place last Wednesday and the continuing violent threat to republican government in the United States.”
Raskin said he thinks senators hearing the case against Trump “are going to look very carefully at what took place in this absolutely unprecedented attack on their chamber and on the peaceful transfer of power.”
“Remember, all of this took place on Wednesday, January 6, for a reason,” Raskin said. “This was a concentrated, determined attack on our form of government.”
But one Trump official, trade adviser Peter Navarro, staunchly defended the president and assailed the impeachment vote.
“What happened (Wednesday) was a travesty,” Navarro told Fox News. “The Democratic Party did violence to this country by attacking a president who I believe was legally elected on November 3. If the election were held today, he’d be elected again.”
“So, I would say to these people on Capitol Hill, knock it off, stop this,” Navarro said. “Let the man leave peacefully, with his dignity. He was the greatest jobs president, the greatest trade negotiator we’ve ever had. This is just wrong what they’re doing.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer rebuffed any challenge to proceeding with the case against Trump.
“Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” he said.