From our correspondent in California,
They weren’t ready, and it showed. On the first day of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which opened Tuesday in the US Senate, his lawyers, hired just a week ago, had a hard time as Democratic prosecutors fired red balls on the former president, indicted for “inciting insurgency” after the attack on the Capitol. If he should logically escape impeachment and therefore possible ineligibility, Donald Trump was “furious” in front of his television, according to the New York Times. After a vote of the senators which confirmed the constitutionality of the trial by 56 votes against 44, the hearing continues Wednesday.
A shocking video to open the debates
Democratic Chief Prosecutor Jamie Raskin has let Donald Trump’s words and the actions of his supporters speak for themselves. He opened his argument with a 13-minute video chronologically presenting the events of the January 6 attack. We first see Donald Trump’s speech promising “to stop the theft” of the election (“stop the steal”) and invite his supporters to “march on Capitol Hill”. And then a supporter of the American president shouts: “We’re going to the Capitol, it’s that way!” “
Thousands of supporters break through the security barriers. Hundreds enter Congress, where elected officials voted to validate the election results, smashing windows and forcing doors. Overwhelmed police officers are beaten with flags or sticks. The elected officials are evacuated a few minutes before rioters enter the precincts of the House and the Senate chanting “Pendons Pence” and “No Trump, no justice”. Two hours after the start of the attack, Donald Trump called for calm in a video, while assuring: “We were stolen the election” and telling his supporters “You are special, I love you”.
“At least seven people lost their lives and 140 police officers were injured,” the video said. This total includes a police officer killed by protesters, a rioter shot dead by police trying to force open the door to the hallway leading to the House, three protesters who died of medical emergencies outside the Capitol, and two police officers who defeated themselves. committed suicide over the following days. The video ends with this tweet from Donald Trump published four hours after the start of the attack, in which he called on his supporters to return home in “calm and peace”, concluding: “Here is what happens when we deprive great patriots of a victory by a tidal wave. Remember this day forever. “The Democratic prosecutor concludes by pointing to the screen:” You wonder what the crime is [passible d’une destitution] ? That’s it. “
The constitutionality of the trial confirmed
It was the most important moment of that day. Senators confirmed by 56 votes to 44 that judging him a former president after the end of his term was indeed constitutional. Six Republicans voted with the Democrats: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, Mitt Romney and Bill Cassidy. The latter, who had yet voted no to the same question at the end of January, explained with being convinced by the arguments of the prosecutors.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell has remained loyal to the former US president. But according to Bloomberg, he said in private that he considered that elected officials could vote no on the question of the constitutionality of the trial but yes on that of the guilt of Donald Trump during the verdict. The former tenant of the White House, however, has a comfortable margin: a conviction requires a two-thirds majority (67 senators). Unless 17 Republicans betray him, he should therefore escape impeachment, and a second vote which could have declared him ineligible.
Trump lawyers caught off guard
Donald Trump’s trial has been postponed by two weeks, in particular to give his lawyers time to prepare. But while he was let go by his advice, Donald Trump was forced to hire, eight days ago, a new team led by David Schoen and Bruce Castor. In a suit two sizes too big, this former Pennsylvania district attorney had the difficult task of responding to the Democrats’ video. And he was obviously not ready.
Delivering a confused argument, he partly improvised and explained: “I’ll be frank, we changed what we were going to do because the presentation of the prosecutors was very good. He seemed to expect this first day to focus only on the question of the constitutionality of the trial, and the 13-minute video forced him to reconsider his strategy.
The moment when Trump’s lawyer explains that he improvises: “I’ll be frank, we changed what we were going to do because the presentation of the prosecutors was good” (he intended to speak constitutionality and was taken aback by the opening video on the bottom) #TrumpImpeachment pic.twitter.com/a2sZzLkKA2
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) February 9, 2021
“I saw a lot of pleadings of lawyers, and this one was not part of it,” quipped the influential Republican Senator John Cornyn. Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who defended Donald Trump during his first trial, shook his head, disappointed, on the Newsmax channel, with a harsh judgment against his colleague: “There was no argument. I don’t understand what he’s doing. “