The incitement charge is at the heart of the case against the former president, who was impeached by the House last month for supposedly inciting protesters to breach the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
The impeachment managers spent nearly two hours to reveal their evidence for the alleged incitement, mentioning Trump’s statements he gave in the spring of last year through his speech on the day of the attack. The presentation covered no smoking gun or new evidence to back that Trump knowingly provoked a mob to attack the Capitol.
“We are having a trial on the facts,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, said at the start of the second day of the trial.
The Democrats split their evidentiary display of the claimed crime into three parts: the “provocation,” the “attack,” and the “harm.” The “provocation” leg of the presentation is significant to prove the charge against Trump and is the keystone of the managers’ case. The presentation on Feb. 10 largely repeated the claims from the impeachment managers’ trial briefs, which focused on Trump’s tweets and public statements.
The impeachment managers wove a story asserting that Trump’s legal and challenges to the outcome of the election were part of a corrupt, planned campaign to program a portion of his supporters to perpetrate violence on Jan. 6. Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) presented several selectively edited video clip montage from Trump’s speeches beginning in spring last year and ending in the speech the president delivered in Washington on the day of the Capitol breach.
Swalwell, Neguse, and Castro alleged that the statements, which included words such as “fight” and “stop the steal,” amounted to evidence that the president modified and led a mob to breach the Capitol.
All of the video clips came from Trump’s public speeches and interviews and were displayed without the proper context. The selective omissions were particularly acute in the presentation of Trump’s remarks from the speech on Jan. 6. The managers never cited that Trump told supporters to make their voices heard “peacefully” and “patriotically” when speaking to the crowd about walking over to the Capitol. They instead centered on Trump’s use of the word “fight” when discussing his team’s endeavors in challenging the integrity of the election and the need for Republicans in Congress to play tougher at politics.
Perhaps the reason the managers could not present new evidence is that no such thing exists.