- House impeachment managers relied heavily on Trump’s statements, speeches, and tweets to build a case against him.
- In other words, Trump didn’t testify at his impeachment trial, but he still did most of the talking.
- Impeachment managers played hours of footage showing how Trump’s lies paved the way for the Capitol siege.
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Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers rejected a request this month from Democratic House impeachment managers for him to testify at his Senate impeachment trial. But on Wednesday, as oral arguments in the trial kicked off, the managers still made sure Trump did most of the talking via tweets, rally speeches, news conferences, and other public statements.
The former president is barred from social media and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight since the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6. On Wednesday, however, it was like he was in the room as the House managers pieced together a damning portrait of how his own words paved the way for the siege.
“You will see during this trial a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence” weeks before the insurrection, lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin said.
It was a stark contrast to Trump’s first impeachment, when the public heard testimony from a dozen witnesses who painted a broad picture of the extent to which the then president went to pressure a foreign government into meddling in a domestic election.
This time, the impeachment managers emphasized that they would rely solely on “cold, hard facts” and footage of the siege to draw a straight line between Trump’s rhetoric and the violence at the Capitol.
Raskin opened Wednesday’s proceedings by laying out a timeline of Trump’s public efforts to overturn the election results, pointing to a December 12 Trump tweet in which he wrote, “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!”
A week later, on December 19, Trump told his followers to show up to a “big protest” in Washington, DC, on January 6. “Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted.
Raskin emphasized that in addition to social media posts and news stories, there were also “credible reports” from the FBI and US Capitol Police warning of potential violence at the January 6 rally.
“This mob got organized so openly because, as they would later scream in these halls and as they posted on forums before the attack, they were sent here by the president, they were invited here by the president of the United States of America,” he said.
‘He wanted to make sure that his supporters were angry’
Later, impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro detailed Trump’s months-long campaign to sow doubt about the integrity of the 2020 race before Election Day.
Castro pointed to specific statements Trump made on Twitter, during news conferences, and at political rallies in the run-up to the election:
- May 24, 2020: Trump tweeted that the November election would “be the greatest rigged election in history.”
- June 22, 2020: Trump tweeted that the election would be “rigged” and the “scandal of our times.”
- July 19, 2020: Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace he would not commit to the peaceful transfer of power
- July 30, 2020: Trump tweeted that the November election would be the “most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.”
- July 31, 2020: Trump told reporters that “this is going to be the greatest election disaster in history.”
- August 17, 2020: At a rally in Wisconsin, Trump told supporters, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged, remember that.”
- August 24, 2020: Trump said at a news conference in Charlotte that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”
- September 12, 2020: “It’s a rigged election, it’s the only way we’re going to lose,” Trump told supporters at a Nevada rally.
- September 23, 2020: When asked at a White House press briefing if he would commit to a peaceful transition, Trump floated lies about mail-in ballots and added, “There won’t be a transfer, frankly, there will be a continuation.”
- October 8, 2020: During a Fox News phone interview, Trump said, “This will be one of the greatest fraudulent, most fraudulent elections ever.”
“He didn’t care if the claims were true,” Castro said after running through the montage. “He wanted to make sure that his supporters were angry, like the election was being ripped away from them.”
“He urged them, again and again, with increasingly forceful language, to fight to stop the steal,” Castro added. “And even as the certification got closer and he grew even more desperate, he gave them specific instructions on how, when, and where to fight to stop the steal.”
The insurrection ‘never would’ve happened but for Donald Trump’
Rep. Madeleine Dean went next, laying out how after losing the election, Trump tried to strongarm election officials into doing his bidding.
She pointed to his tweets and public statements attacking Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and a January 2 phone call in which Trump ordered Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to flip the state’s results in his favor.
Dean said Trump’s conduct with respect to Georgia was “the most egregious” and said he went on a “relentless attack” against officials in the state. She then threw up four different Trump tweets in which he described Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as “hapless” and called him and Raffensperger “fools” and a “disaster” who “don’t have a clue.”
As a result of those attacks, Dean noted, Raffensperger and his family received death threats and feared for their safety. Georgia’s chief election official, Gabriel Sterling, also publicly called on Trump to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence” and warned that “someone’s going to get killed.”
The threats against Raffensperger were public knowledge. But in the days after, Dean said, instead of condemning the attacks, Trump “doubled down.”
She then played a video montage of Trump claiming there was “massive fraud” in Georgia and saying Raffensperger was “an enemy of the people.”
“This was attack after attack in the face of clear threats of violence,” Dean said.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker later choked up as she recalled what it was like being trapped in the Capitol while Trump’s supporters stormed the building to hunt down members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence. The attack “never would’ve happened but for Donald Trump,” she said.
“And so they came, draped in Trump’s flag, and used our flag, the American flag to batter and to bludgeon,” Dean said. “And at 2:30 [on January 6], I heard that terrifying banging on House chamber doors. For the first time in more than 200 years, the seat of our government was ransacked on our watch.”
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