2/2 © Reuters. A banner that reads: “Convict or be an accessory” hangs over a bridge in view of the United States Capitol on the first day of the Senate impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump in Washington 2/2
By David Morgan and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats argued Wednesday that Donald Trump planted the seeds of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol long before Jan.6 with false claims that the 2020 elections were stolen, and said that legislators had an obligation to hold the former president accountable. The House of Representatives accused Trump, a Republican, of inciting an insurrection by urging thousands of supporters to march on Capitol Hill the day Congress convened to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden. The rioters stormed the building, sending lawmakers into hiding and leaving five people dead, including a police officer. The nine Democratic House trustees prosecuting the impeachment case, an uphill task in a narrowly divided Senate, said Wednesday that the incitement began long before January 6. “Trump realized last spring that he could losing the November election and began planting seeds of anger among his supporters by saying he could only lose if it was stolen, “said Rep. Joseph Neguse. “If we want to protect our republic and prevent something like this from happening again, it must be condemned.” Rep. Joaquín Castro cited what he called blatant acts of political intimidation against poll workers in the states Trump was losing. In Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee, Castro said, Trump supporters tried to use armed force to disrupt the vote count. “They believed it was their duty to literally fight to stop the count,” Castro said. Trump’s actions threatened a hallmark of American democracy, the peaceful transfer of power, Democratic managers said. “This case is not about blaming an innocent bystander for the terrible violence and damage that took place on January 6,” said lead manager Jamie Raskin opening the process. “It’s about holding the person singularly responsible for inciting the attack.” Democrats face a high chance of getting convicted, which could lead to a vote banning Trump from seeking public office again. A two-thirds majority in the Senate must vote to convict, meaning that at least 17 Republicans would have to challenge Trump’s still potent popularity among Republican voters. Republican Senator Ron Johnson, a Trump ally, told reporters in a recess that the process would get “pretty tedious.” “This is a political exercise,” he said. On Tuesday, only six of the 50 Republican senators broke their caucus to vote that the trial could advance even though Trump’s term ended on January 20. In an Ipsos poll for Reuters released on Wednesday, 47% of those polled said Trump should be condemned, while 40% said no, with opinions divided along partisan lines. The Senate trial is not the only investigation Trump faces after leaving the White House and losing the presidential protections that protected him from prosecution. Prosecutors in Georgia‘s largest county opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s attempts to influence state election results after he was logged in a Jan. 2 phone call pressuring the Secretary of State to “find” enough votes. to reverse his defeat in Georgia. FIRST AMENDMENT Trump’s attorneys, who will have 16 hours to present their side of the argument after House managers have finished, argue that the former president’s rhetoric is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and that the people who violated the Capitol were responsible for their own criminal behavior. They also say the trial is politically motivated. “We are really here because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future,” Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers, told senators on Tuesday. It was not yet clear if either party would present witnesses, but Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told CNN Wednesday: “We have a lot of witnesses. We have 100 witnesses sitting in the chairs and the senators.” The Senate trial could conclude on Saturday or Sunday, according to a senior Senate aide. Some Democrats had raised concerns that a lengthy trial could delay progress on Biden’s agenda, including a proposed $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package. Biden did not plan to see the trial, the White House said. When asked about procedures Tuesday, the president said he was focused on his own work. “The Senate has its job; they are about to begin. I am sure they will behave well,” he said. Trump is the first president of the United States to be indicted twice. His first impeachment trial, stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, ended in an acquittal a year ago in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate. No president of the United States has been removed from office by impeachment. Bill Clinton was indicted in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, but they were also acquitted. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 instead of facing impeachment over the Watergate scandal.