News & Politics

5 Must-Watch Moments From Team Trump's Impeachment Defense

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

On Friday, former President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense lawyers made their case for the Senate to acquit the former president of “incitement of insurrection” regarding the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The Democrats’ case revolves around the idea that Trump incited the riot by questioning the results of the 2020 election and using the term “fight like hell” in his January 6 speech at The Ellipse.

Trump’s lawyers dismantled this argument, piece by piece. They exposed Democrats’ hypocrisy on alleged incitement, highlighted the Democrats’ extensive use of the term “fight” in a political context, revealed how Democrats repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of election results, and demonstrated that the Democrat impeachment managers had selectively edited Trump’s January 6 remarks.

“This case, unfortunately, is about political hatred. It has become very clear that the House Democrats hate Donald Trump. This type of political hatred has no place in our political institutions and certainly no place in the law,” Michael Van Der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers, argued. “This hatred has led the House managers to manipulate and selectively edit Mr. Trump’s speech and make it falsely appear that he sought to incite the crowd to violently attack the Capitol. He didn’t and we will show you why.”

Here are five must-watch moments from the Trump impeachment defense.

1. Impeachment managers torpedo their own credibility

Trump defense lawyer David Schoen laid out multiple examples of how the House Democrats who prosecuted the impeachment case twisted evidence and selectively edited footage of Trump’s January 6 speech. Schoen exposed the Democrats’ shoddily constructed recreation of a Trump tweet screenshot.

Perhaps most damningly, however, he revealed that Democrats had selectively edited parts of Trump’s speech. He played the full footage on one side of the screen and House managers’ misleading edits on the other.

The House managers played footage of Trump’s speech saying, “We’re gonna go down… to the Capitol,” but they cut the footage where the president said the crowd “will soon be marching over to the Capitol Building to peacefully and patriotically make their voices heard.”

Schoen cited the Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), explaining that the standard for incitement involves “whether the speech was intended to provoke imminent lawless action and was it likely to do so.”

“‘Go to the Capitol and cheer on some members of Congress but not others.’ They know it doesn’t meet the standard for incitement, so they edited it down,” Schoen argued.

VIP: The Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemy in Impeachment

2. Due process

“The hatred that the house managers and others on the left have for President Trump has driven them to skip the basic elements of due process and fairness, and to rush an impeachment through the House, claiming ‘urgency.'” Schoen argued. “But the House waited to deliver the articles to the Senate for at least two weeks, only after Democrats had secured control over the Senate.”

Schoen went on to effectively dismiss the Democrats’ claim that they held up the article of impeachment because then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not accept it. He cited Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who publicly said that Democrats had considered holding up the articles for 100 days in order to allow President Joe Biden to implement his agenda.

Schoen also noted that the Democrats built their case against Trump on news reports and anonymous sources rather than an independent investigation. This impeachment made a mockery of due process in the name of speed — and then Democrats delayed the trial for political reasons.

Trump’s Defense Brief Eviscerates the Democrats’ Case for Impeachment

3. Incitement.

Van Der Veen presented a video contrasting Trump’s law-and-order remarks with remarks from Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Pelosi had said, “I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country. Maybe there will be.” Waters had notoriously encouraged supporters to harass Trump administration staff in public places. Biden had said that if he was in high school, he would “beat the hell out of” Trump.

To be fair, Trump himself has occasionally supported political violence, as in the case of Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a Guardian reporter in 2017. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) presented a montage of his own that twisted some of Trump’s remarks, most notably the canard that Trump praised white nationalists in Charlottesville.

Trump’s lawyers were not arguing that Democrats should be expelled from Congress, but rather that intense partisan language does not necessarily constitute “incitement.”

“For those who would say that those quotes must be understood in their greater context, i.e., that they were clearly meant to be political speech- we say exactly. The truth is that both … Mr. Trump’s speech and these comments are acceptable political free speech; it is the double standard at play here that is entirely unacceptable, and Mr. Trump [asks] that the Senate reject it in no uncertain terms,” Trump’s lawyers argued in their defense brief.

WATCH: Team Trump Exposes Democrat ‘Incitement’ in Hard-Hitting Video

4. “Fight like hell”

Throughout the impeachment trial, House managers repeatedly quoted Trump’s words encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell” in order to preserve the country. As PJ Media’s Victoria Taft previously noted, however, politicians have often used the metaphor of “fighting” for political causes.

Team Trump effectively demonstrated this point by playing an extremely long montage of Democrats repeatedly pledging to “fight,” just as Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell” on January 6.

5. About those election results…

While Democrats have accused Trump of “incitement of insurrection” based on his decision to contest the 2020 presidential election results, Democrats are themselves no strangers to contesting election results.

Trump’s lawyers played two montages of Democrats — including Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager for the current Senate trial — raising objections to the certification of Electoral College votes in previous years.

A second video showed then-Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and then-Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) complaining about electronic voting machines in 2001.

Hillary Clinton: Trump Will Only Get Acquitted Because the Senate Is Also Guilty or Something

 

“The House Democrats opened the door to turning this into a trial over reckless political rhetoric, to make it hard to distinguish for some between the accused, the jurors, and the prosecutors, if it comes down to that type of irresponsible language,” George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley explained after Team Trump’s arguments.

Turley noted that Trump’s lawyers “landed a couple of haymakers today.” That may be an understatement.

Many Republicans have made the claim that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a president after he leaves office, but the true weaknesses of the Democrats’ case have always been the egregious double standard this impeachment presented.

Trump may have gone too far in contesting the 2020 election, but so have Democrats. Trump may have made a few dangerous comments in his political rhetoric, but Democrats have arguably done far worse.

Trump’s lawyers referenced the 2017 congressional baseball game shooting that nearly claimed the life of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). The shooter had supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but Republicans did not blame Bernie Sanders for the shooting. That would have been absurd. Sanders condemned the shooting, just as Trump loudly condemned the Capitol riot. Trump did not unequivocally condemn the rioters immediately — a point on which I criticized him — but he does not share responsibility for the heinous breach of the Capitol.

When the Senate votes to acquit Trump, that august body will have made the right call. Perhaps more importantly, Trump’s lawyers made the cogent case against the idea that Republicans as a whole are guilty of inciting the Capitol riot — an argument that Democrats seem to be preparing in order to expel Republicans from Congress and launch a domestic “War on Terror” to silence conservative speech.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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