LIVE COVERAGE: Democrats focus on Trump remarks before attack on Capitol

Rep. Joe Neguse presents case at Trump impeachment trial
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The Senate kicks off day two of the second impeachment trial of former President Trump on Wednesday.

While the first day focused on the constitutional question of whether the Senate could hold a trial for a former president, the actual oral arguments begin today.

The historic trial centers on whether Trump incited a mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, sending lawmakers fleeing for safety and temporarily halting Congress’s certification of President Biden’s victory.

Five people died in connection to the riot, including a Capitol Hill police officer. The violent rioters were seeking to stop the Electoral College count after weeks of Trump and his allies arguing — without evidence — that massive voter fraud contributed to his loss.

Follow along for live updates below:

Impeachment managers say Trump’s failure to call off rioters ‘a dereliction of duty’

8:45 p.m.

House impeachment managers Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) wrapped up arguments on the second day of former President Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, using their time to make the case that Trump was directly responsible for the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

They showed dramatic never-before-seen video clips of the violence and juxtaposed some of the footage with tweets by Trump during the riot in which Democrats and some Republicans have deemed supportive of the pro-Trump mob overtaking the Capitol. The managers highlighted that Trump never told the rioters to leave, instead urging them to “remain peaceful” and saying he loved them.

“President Trump told his supporters over and over again, nearly every day, in dozens of tweets, speeches and rallies, that their most precious right in our democracy — their voice, their vote — was being stripped away and they had to fight to stop that,” Castro told senators. “And they believed him. So they fought.”

Cicilline and Castro both noted the then-president’s attacks on then-Vice President Mike Pence after Pence said he would not intervene in the counting of Electoral College votes. Castro played a clip of one of the rioters reading a tweet over a megaphone during the riot in which Trump said Pence lacked “the courage” to take action.

Cicilline also noted Trump’s attacks on Pence and his failure to “not once condemn the attackers.”

“In fact, on January 6th, the only person he condemned is his own Vice President Mike Pence, who was hiding in this building with his family, in fear for his life. In the first crucial hours of this violent attack, he did nothing to stop it, nothing to help us,” the Rhode Island congressman said.

Castro similarly hit Trump for failing to issue a call for the rioters to disperse and go home, citing numerous White House officials and Republican members of Congress who appealed to the president to make a statement.

“How simple would it have been to give a simple command, stop, leave,” Castro told the Senate. “This was a dereliction of duty, plain and simple.”

– Zack Budryk

Senate gavels out for the day

7:45 p.m.

House impeachment managers wrapped up the first day of their opening arguments around 7:40 p.m. and the Senate adjourned. 

Castro: Trump further incited the mob ‘against his own vice president’

7:36 p.m.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) accused Trump of directly inciting the rioters against then-Vice President Pence, noting that Trump accused Pence of lacking the “courage” to overturn the election results after the attack began.

Castro cited Trump’s tweet, in which he said Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” after Pence declined to intervene while presiding over the counting of electoral votes.

“Over an hour and a half into the attack and this is what he tweeted,” Castro said. “He still, even at this point, did not acknowledge the attack on the Capitol, let alone condemn it. Instead, he further incites the mob against his own vice president, whose life was being threatened.”

“Some of you may ask, who was paying attention anyway? Well, that mob was paying attention,” Castro said, citing video of a rioter reading Trump’s tweet over a megaphone.

– Zack Budryk

Cicilline on the mob: ‘And but for the grace of God, they would have gotten us’

7:24 p.m.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) made one of the most direct appeals to senators as he argued the impeachment managers’ case that Trump did not appear concerned about the threats to lawmakers’ safety as a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol.

Cicilline cited news reports describing how Trump’s advisers and Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) were unsuccessfully imploring him to do something to stop the violence.

Cicilline then highlighted a CNN report that around 2 p.m., as senators had just been evacuated from the Senate floor, Trump accidentally called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in search of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

Trump wanted to ask Tuberville to make additional objections to the Electoral College vote to further delay the certification of Biden’s victory. According to CNN, the call was cut short because senators were asked to move to a secure location.

“Let that sink in,” Cicilline said. “Armed insurrectionists, guns, weapons, zip ties, brass knuckles, they were coming for us. They were inside the United State Capitol, trying to stop the certification process. The police were outnumbered. And but for the grace of God, they would have gotten us. All of us.”

“And our commander in chief makes a call, about an hour after the siege began, not to preserve, protect and defend you and our country and the Capitol, but to join forces with the mob and pressure a senator to stop certification.”

– Cristina Marcos

Cicilline: Despite bipartisan pleas, Trump did nothing to protect lawmakers

7:05 p.m.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), one of the House’s impeachment managers, accused former President Trump of ignoring bipartisan appeals for help during the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Cicilline cited reports that the president disregarded pleas from GOP congressional leaders and close aides.

“Those around Donald Trump, as was later reported, were disgusted,” Cicilline said. “His close aides, his advisers, those working for him, former officials, even his family, were begging him to do something.”

The Rhode Island congressman cited appeals by former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, as well as reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and “implored her for help.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reportedly made a similar entreaty to Ivanka Trump’s husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner.

“Members of Congress from both parties who were trapped here were calling the White House, to ask for help,” Cicilline said.

“This wasn’t partisan politics. These were Americans from all sides trying to force our commander-in-chief to protect and defend our country. He was required to do that,” Cicilline said. “From the very beginning, the people around Donald Trump lobbied him to take command.”

– Zack Budryk 

Murkowski: I don’t know how Trump could be elected again

6:18 p.m.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on Wednesday that she couldn’t imagine that Trump would be elected again after voters see the details of the Capitol attack.

“I don’t see how after the American public sees the full story laid out here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again,” Murkowski told reporters.

Murkowski’s comments come as House impeachment managers are hours into their opening presentations.

On Wednesday, impeachment managers showed new security footage of lawmakers evacuating the Capitol, rioters breaking into the building and both Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) just missing coming in contact with rioters.

Murkowski called the videos “disturbing.”

“I’m angry. I’m disturbed. I’m sad. As you say, we’re reliving this,” Murkowski said, adding that she believed House impeachment managers were making a “strong case.”

“The evidence that has been presented thus far is pretty damning,” Murkowski said.

—Jordain Carney


New security video shows lawmakers fleeing Capitol

5:48 p.m.

Democrats unveiled new security footage from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in which police can be seen directing lawmakers to safety, coming within feet of rioters.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) during remarks on the second day of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial played previously unseen security footage showing lawmakers and congressional staff being rushed down a hallway just steps away from police officers holding back Trump supporters.

The hallway was also located near where Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman encountered a mob and led them upstairs and away from the Senate chamber.

“You know how close you came to the mob, some of you, I understand, could hear them,” Swalwell told the Senate. “But most of the public does not know how close these rioters came to you.”

Swalwell twice played the new security footage in which “Capitol Police created a line and blocked the hallway with their bodies to prevent rioters at the end of the hall from reaching you and your staff,” the congressman told senators.

Other new security footage from the Jan. 6 riot showed Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) being led down a hallway with his security team before being rushed back after encountering a group of rioters.

– Celine Castronuovo


Democrats release audio, footage of law enforcement getting attacked by rioters

5:41 p.m.

House impeachment managers showed graphic new audio and video of law enforcement officials being attacked by rioters while laying out their case before the Senate. 

The video included images of pepper spray and tear gas being used against the officers attempting to ward off the insurrectionists. 

“You hear the officer described they’re using munitions — they, the rioters are using munitions against us,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said before playing the clip. 

An audio clip then played of an officer alerting that the rioters had overtaken the police line. 

Video was then shown of Officer Daniel Hodges being crushed by doors as the rioters attempted to force their way into the Capitol building. 

“They threw down a huge metal object that hit me in the head, I was also when I was knocked down the medical mask I was wearing at the time, got pulled up over my eyes,” Hodges said in the clip of an interview following the Jan. 6 attack. “So I was on the ground and blinded and they started attacking me from outside.” 

In video shown during the trial, rioters can be seen using objects including a crutch, hockey stick, bullhorn and a Trump flag as weapons against police officers.

“Rioters crushed Officer Hodges, who was wedged in the doorway, blood dripping from his mouth, he was struggling to breathe all while the insurrectionists hit him. Officer Hodges’s experience reminds you of what he and many other officers experienced that day, what they went through. We’re also reminded of the three officers who lost their lives: Capitol Hill Police Officers [Brian] Sicknick, [Howard] Liebengood and Metropolitan Police Officer [Jeffrey] Smith,” Swalwell said.

—Juliegrace Brufke


New security video shows harrowing details of Capitol attack

5:15 p.m.

House Democrats unveiled harrowing new video footage Wednesday, lending a new perspective to just how close the rioters came to then-Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. senators as they breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The new footage takes advantage of Capitol security cameras positioned around the complex, depicting both the violent intentions of the mob and the heroics of several Capitol Police officers. 

The video shows a group of violent Trump supporters overwhelming Capitol Police and charging through a barricade set up at the West Front of the Capitol. In previously unreleased audio of internal Capitol Police dispatches, officers can be heard frantically warning of breaches and calling for reinforcements. 

“They’re throwing metal poles at us,” one officer shouts.   

At 1:49 p.m., the breach was formally declared a riot. 

Some of the new footage was taken from the dozens of security cameras that are positioned inside the Capitol and connected House and Senate office buildings as well as around the Capitol grounds.

Until now, video from those security cameras had not been shown to the public. The FBI has taken possession of most of those videos as part of its ongoing investigating into the Jan. 6 assault.   

—Scott Wong and Mike Lillis


GOP senators draw criticism for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to impeachment trial

4:49 p.m.

Several Republican senators drew criticism Wednesday for appearing to pay only half-hearted attention to House impeachment managers’ arguments as the trial stretched into its fourth hour.

Several whispered among themselves, while others chewed gum, doodled or struggled to stay awake.

The Republicans started paying closer attention when House impeachment managers began airing footage from inside the Capitol after it was breached on Jan. 6, including some that showed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) staff barricading themselves in an office minutes before a group of rioters walked down a hallway.

But before that, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was spotted tracing the watermark of the Capitol on a legal pad while Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) appeared to read a magazine article and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) gazed at a 2021 calendar. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was studying what appeared to be a map of Southeast Asia. 

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) was described by one reporter in the chamber as appearing to struggle to stay awake while Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) didn’t seem to pay much attention to Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Colo.) presentation.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) popped snacks into his mouth under his mask and at one point walked into the cloakroom, emerging moments later with a glass of milk. Milk and water are the only beverages allowed on the floor under Senate rules.

A number of Republican senators arrived a few minutes late to the start of the second day of the trial. One reporter counted 33 seats empty when the proceeding started at noon.

The chamber didn’t fill up until about 12:20 p.m. Paul wasn’t seen on the floor for most of the first hour and a half of arguments though he was spotted in the cloakroom raising up his arms and appearing to speak loudly.

NBC reporter Garrett Haake, who was in the chamber, said the impeachment managers struggled with “the intractable nature of trying to get some of the folks in the room to actually engage with the material and be present and take this seriously.”

As the arguments stretched on, more empty desks were spotted on the Republican side of the aisle.
“I notice some of their seats empty. It’s hard for me to know what they’re paying attention to,” remarked Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I see on our side just about everyone” in their seats.

– Alexander Bolton


New video shows Romney running to safety as rioters breach security 

4:47 p.m.

House Democrats on Wednesday introduced a chilling new video at Trump’s impeachment trial showing Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in the halls of the Senate to protect him from the mob storming the Capitol.

Democrat Stacey Plaskett, a delegate from the Virgin Islands, narrated the never-before-seen footage.

In the video, Romney can be seen striding toward the Senate chamber. Goodman is running toward him and can be seen shouting orders at him as he passes, causing Romney to quickly turn around and run for safety.

“Officer Goodman passes Sen. Mitt Romney and directs him to turn around in order to get to safety,” Plaskett said.

“On the first floor, just beneath them, the mob had already started to search for the Senate chamber. Officer Goodman made his way down to the first floor where he encountered the same insurrectionists we just saw breach the Capitol.”

A bipartisan bill has been introduced into the Senate to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for his actions during the riots.

A separate, public video that went viral on social media on the day of the insurrection shows Goodman distracting the rioters to redirect them away from lawmakers who were scrambling for safety as the Capitol was attacked.

—Jonathan Easley


Capitol Police to hold no confidence vote in force’s leadership

4:35 p.m.

Members of the U.S. Capitol Police plan to hold a vote of no confidence in the force’s leadership this week over its failure to adequately prepare officers for the Jan. 6 insurrection by a violent of Trump’s supporters.

The Capitol Police force is still reeling from the violence of Jan. 6, which led to the deaths of two of its officers and left dozens injured, some severely.

“The enormity of the multiple leadership failures both in leading up to the insurrection, and in the Department’s response to it, have convinced us there is no other choice. The leadership has failed us, and we have paid a terrible price,” Gus Papathanasiou, the Capitol Police union chairman, said in a statement.

More than 140 police officers between the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police forces were injured. Some officers sustained brain injuries, one is expected to lose an eye and another officer was stabbed with a metal fence stake.

The Capitol Police union’s executive board called this week for the no confidence vote against members of senior leadership, including acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, Assistant Chief Chad Thomas, Acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher, and Deputy Chiefs Timothy Bowen, Jeffrey Pickett and Eric Waldow.

—Cristina Marcos


Democrat praises Pence’s ‘patriotism,’ accuses Trump of endangering his life

4:28 p.m.

Democrat Stacey Plaskett, a delegate from the Virgin Islands, praised former Vice President Mike Pence for his “patriotism” for refusing to buckle under Trump’s demands that he overturn the election. 

Plaskett also accused Trump of endangering Pence’s life by sending the angry mob after him. 

“Pence had the courage to stand up to the president, to tell the American people the truth and uphold our constitution,” Plaskett said. “That is patriotism. That patriotism is what put the vice president in so much danger by the mob sent here by the president. That was an all-out betrayal and the vice president was a direct target of that rage.” 

Pence was quickly evacuated from the floor of the Senate on Jan. 6 as rioters breached the Capitol.

While this was going on Trump, tweeted that Pence had let his supporters down.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump tweeted. “USA demands the truth!”

– Jonathan Easley


Raskin warns of ‘very graphic, violent footage’

4:20 p.m.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) warned the Senate that House Democrats would be presenting “very graphic, violent footage,” from the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack at the Capitol. 

Following a brief recess, Raskin said Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) would “recreate the attack as it unfolded, focusing on the threats to Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, the joint session and law enforcement.”

Raskin then added, “I do want to alert everyone that there is some very graphic, violent footage coming, just so people are aware.”

House Democrats earlier Wednesday told reporters that they would be airing new video footage providing an “extraordinary” glimpse into the Capitol during the riot, during which several people died.

– Celine Castronuovo


Impeachment manager says mob violence was ‘foreseeable’

3:35 p.m.

Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), one of the House impeachment managers, argued in her remarks that the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was “foreseeable” based on past violence displayed by some of former President Trump’s supporters, as well as Trump’s continued resistance to condemning their actions.

“Some of you have said there’s no way the president could have known how violent the mob would be. That is false, because the violence, it was foreseeable,” Plaskett said.

The delegate went on to argue, “the violence that occurred on Jan. 6, like the attack itself, did not just appear,” instead arguing, “Donald Trump knew the people that he was inciting, he saw the violence that they were capable of, and he had a pattern and practice of praising and encouraging that violence, never ever condemning it.”

Plaskett cited the use of social media among many Trump supporters to coordinate and plan an overtaking of the Capitol, which was since revealed to have been flagged by federal authorities ahead of the riot.

Plaskett then advanced her argument that Trump not only foresaw the Jan. 6 violence, but “deliberately encouraged it.”

One of the far-right groups that Plaskett cited with a history of public displays of violence was the Proud Boys, which she noted the FBI since 2018 has classified as an “extremist organization.”

Plaskett then directed lawmakers to video from the first debate between Trump and then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in which moderator Chris Wallace asked if Trump was “willing to condemn white supremacy and militia groups.”

After Trump asked for the name of a specific group to condemn, to which Biden said, “the Proud Boys,” Trump responded, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

The remarks from the September debate drew condemnation from Democrats at the time, and Plaskett on Wednesday noted that the phrase was later adopted as a “slogan” for the far-right group.

“They created merchandise with their new slogan, which they wore proudly across their backs at Trump’s rallies,” Plaskett said, as the House team displayed pictures of group members at pro-Trump events with the phrase displayed on clothing.

—Celine Castronuovo


Lieu alleges Trump ran out of ‘nonviolent options’ to maintain power 

3:26 p.m.

House impeachment manager Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) alleged that Trump ran out of “nonviolent options” to maintain power, prompting him to turn “to the violent mob” that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Lieu requested that the Senate jurors keep in mind the state and local elections officials, congressional members as well as former Vice President Mike Pence who declined to overturn the election results despite Trump’s pressure. 

“It is only because all of these people stayed strong and refused President Trump that our republic held and the will of the electorate was seen through,” he said. “And at this point President Donald J. Trump ran out of nonviolent options to maintain power.”

“What you saw was a man so desperate to try to cling to power that he tried everything he could to keep it, and when he ran out of nonviolent measures, he turned to the violent mob that attacked your Senate chamber on Jan. 6,” he added. 

“As you cast your vote after this trial, I hope each of you will think of the bravery of all these people who said ‘No’ to President Trump because they knew that this was not right, that this was not America,” he concluded before.

—Justine Coleman


House managers highlight Trump’s rash of lawsuits, pressure on election officials 

3:09 p.m.

House managers said Trump’s rash of unsuccessful lawsuits and pressure placed on election officials was part of a broader effort to retain the presidency despite losing to President Biden in both the Electoral College and popular votes. 

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) noted that Trump and his allies filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging his electoral defeat, most of which failed in the process as state and federal judges at every level of the judiciary shot down all but one of the legal bids.

“To be clear, not a single court, not a single judge agreed that the election results were invalid or should be invalidated,” Dean said. “Instead, court after court reviewing these challenges, said these cases were ‘not credible,’ ‘without merit,’ ‘based on nothing but speculation’ and ‘flat out wrong.’”

As Trump’s litigation floundered, he increasingly turned his attention to exerting influence and pressure on state and local election officials, Dean said, ticking through a list of the former president’s alleged threats.

Part of Trump’s unsuccessful persuasion campaign included outreach to two local Michigan election officials. He reportedly contacted a pair of GOP members of the four-person Wayne County canvassing board to urge them to block the vote certification in the Democratic stronghold that includes Detroit and surrounding areas.

Trump also allegedly attempted to woo state legislators from Michigan and Pennsylvania in an apparent effort to convince these swing state legislatures to bypass their state popular votes, which went for Biden, and hand Trump their electoral bounties.

Dean also highlighted the leaked January phone call in which Trump can be heard pressuring Georgia’s top elections official to “find” enough votes to reverse his election loss in the state. Prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., have reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the exchange.

“Senators, we must not become numb to this,” Dean said. “Trump did this across state after state so often, so loudly, so publicly.” 

“Public officials like you and me received death threats, and calls threatening criminal penalties,” she continued, “all because Trump wanted to remain in power.”

—John Kruzel 


Hawley watches trial from visitor’s gallery, calling Senate floor ‘claustrophobic’ 

3:04 p.m. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has come under fire for objecting to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the 2020 election, watched the afternoon’s opening arguments from the visitor’s gallery above the Senate floor, where he was spotted with his feet propped up on the seat in front of him, reading intently. 

Hawley, who angered some of his Senate colleagues by voting to throw out the electoral votes of states where Trump claimed, without evidence, widespread election fraud, said it felt “claustrophobic” on the floor sitting in close proximity to other senators. 

“For me, it’s a little less claustrophobic,” he said. “So we’re not all jammed together” on the floor.

“Not that I don’t like my colleagues,” he explained, adding that he sat apart so “we’re not elbow-to-elbow.”

“Also, for me it’s a better viewpoint because I can look right at the impeachment managers and see them,” he added. “When I’m sitting in the chamber, I kind of look at the back of their head, which I did for three weeks last year,” referencing Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Hawley disputed a report that he was reading nonrelated material. 

“I’ve got the trial briefs with me and I’ve also got my notes that I’m taking during the — during the proceedings,” he told reporters during a break in the action.

NBC reporter Garrett Haake said earlier in the day that Hawley “has been sitting up with his legs up on the seat in front of him essentially reading non-related material.”

Haake said Hawley appeared to make “his feelings about these entire proceedings pretty clear.”

MSNBC contributor Claire McCaskill, whom Hawley defeated in the 2018 midterm election, criticized Hawley’s body language as “very disrespectful.”

“He’s proud to pull himself apart from everyone else and be the only guy. This is all political for him. It’s all political theater. That’s why he’s up there with his feet over the chair. He’s probably working on his book manuscript,” McCaskill said during an MSNBC appearance around 2 p.m.

But McCaskill predicted Hawley wouldn’t suffer from expressing disinterest or skepticism about the trial.

“It remains to be seen whether or not it hurts him politically in a state that voted for Trump by 15 points,” she said.

 —Alexander Bolton and Jordain Carney


Castro, Swalwell outline Trump’s alleged efforts to delegitimize election before Jan. 6

1:57 p.m. 

Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.), two of the House Democratic impeachment managers, outlined how they said Trump laid the groundwork for making his supporters believe the election was illegitimate months before Jan. 6.

Castro pointed to Trump’s repeated refusals last year to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election to President Biden.

Castro also cited a tweet from Trump in May stating that the election would be “the greatest Rigged Election in history,” and another from the former president in July claiming that “2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history” due to an increase in mail-in votes. 

“This is clearly a man who refuses to accept the possibility or the reality in our democracy of losing an election,” Castro said.

The Texas lawmaker then played television interviews of Trump supporters in September echoing the former president’s language that Biden could only win by cheating.

“All of us in this room have run for election. And it’s no fun to lose. I’m a Texas Democrat. We’ve lost a few elections over the years,” Castro added, drawing laughter from senators.

“But can you imagine telling your supporters that the only way you could possibly lose is if an American election was rigged and stolen from you?” he asked.

Trump’s actions, Castro argued, riled up his supporters in a way that was uniquely dangerous. And Castro further argued that Trump’s false claim on election night that he did win and calls for states to stop counting votes while he was ahead of Biden sowed the seeds for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“All of us know and all of us understand how dangerous that is for our country. Because the most combustible thing you can do in a democracy is convince people that an election doesn’t count. That their voice and their vote don’t count,” Castro said.

Swalwell then pointed to Trump tweets after the election claiming, without evidence, that dead people voted and people voted illegally. 

“He didn’t even try to pretend that he had evidence for that,” Swalwell said. “It was about dramatizing the election to anger his supporters.”

Swalwell later played a clip of Trump supporters chanting “stop the steal!” outside the Michigan secretary of state’s home in December.

“This was not the first time that Trump’s supporters used threats and intimidation. President Trump cannot say, ‘I didn’t know what I was inciting.'” 

—Cristina Marcos 


Trump’s alleged incitement brings First Amendment into focus

1:36 p.m.

As House managers on Wednesday sought to brand the former president as the “inciter in chief,” the scope of Trump’s free speech rights took on a central focus.

Lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), seeking to preempt one of Trump’s core defenses, said the House team would demonstrate that Trump’s speech at issue fell beyond the First Amendment’s protections. 

“We heard a lot yesterday about his claim that this incitement of insurrection was perfectly appropriate because somehow it’s protected by the First Amendment,” said Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, adding, “the factual premise and the legal underpinnings of that claim are all wrong.”

In a legal trial, the line between protected speech and unprotected incitement hinges on three elements: intent, plus the immediacy and likelihood of lawlessness. 

That standard, drawn from the Supreme Court’s 1969 ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio, is applied by courts across the country. 

Since an impeachment trial is a political rather than legal proceeding, however, senators are not bound to follow the so-called Brandenburg test. Nonetheless, that legal yardstick was cited throughout the parties’ pretrial briefs, as well as in commentary by legal scholars.

Trump’s legal team cited the landmark Brandenburg decision more than a dozen times in their brief, which argued that Trump’s speech was constitutionally protected.

“Under Brandenburg, there is no doubt that the words upon which the article of impeachment issued could never support a conviction,” the brief states, claiming that Trump had not advocated lawless action or imminent violence.

Scores of legal scholars have taken the opposing view. More than 144 constitutional experts last week penned a letter deriding Trump’s First Amendment defense as “legally frivolous” and arguing that all the elements under the Brandenburg test were satisfied.

Rodney Smolla, a First Amendment expert and law professor at Widener University, told The Hill that he believes Trump’s speech rose to the level of incitement.

“The First Amendment is not absolute,” he said. “It does not shelter a sitting President who incites insurrection and seeks to disrupt the peaceful transition of power and the rule of law.”

—John Kruzel 


Cassidy defends vote to proceed with Trump trial 
1:34 p.m.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) defended his vote to proceed with Trump’s impeachment trial — a decision that sparked backlash from the state Republican Party. 

“When it comes to defending the Constitution, I don’t usually do a poll before I take my vote, but since the vote I took is the conservative constitutional position I think as people become familiar with that they will agree with me,” Cassidy said, when asked about the statement from the state party criticizing him. 
Cassidy said that he’s getting calls from his constituents, who are divided by his vote on the trial’s constitutionality.
If Republicans had been successful in declaring the trial unconstitutional it would have ended Tuesday. 
“Many of them are supportive and many of them are asking me why,” Cassidy said, adding that after he explains it “some of those to whom I explain say ‘oh I get it now,’ and some continue to disagree.” 
Cassidy also stressed that he has not made a final decision on whether to convict Trump.  
“This does not predict my vote on anything else. It does predict that I will listen to these arguments as I did to the arguments yesterday with an open mind,” Cassidy said.
—Jordain Carney

Graham assures Trump of acquittal after rocky start to trial

1:33 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s closest Senate allies, reassured Trump on Tuesday evening that he will be acquitted on a charge of inciting an insurrection, even though his lawyers received bad reviews after opening arguments.

“I think his team will do better, can do better,” Graham told reporters, summarizing his conversation with Trump. “I reinforced to the president, the case is over. It’s just a matter of getting the final verdict now.”

Graham made his confident prediction after 44 Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted against proceeding with a trial that Trump’s defense team argued was unconstitutional.

Graham said Trump didn’t appear to be frustrated with the opening arguments, even though CNN reported Tuesday that he was close to screaming at the television while watching his lawyer Bruce Castor deliver a meandering opening statement.

“Well, not, no not particularly,” Graham said when asked if he sensed frustration on the part of the former commander in chief.

“We mostly talked about the vote and I said we had 44 people saying it’s not constitutional.”

Graham also predicted that not all of the GOP senators who voted to proceed with the trial will also vote at the end of the trial to convict Trump, which — if successful — would set up a subsequent vote to bar him from holding future office.

“I think the vote for not guilty will probably grow beyond 44,” he said.

– Alexander Bolton


Neguse says his ‘proudest moment’ as a representative was returning to the floor after the attack 

1:22 p.m.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said his proudest moment as a representative has been returning to the floor in Congress after the breach at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and resuming the vote on the Electoral College results.

Neguse, who is in his second term in Congress, relayed to the Senate what he told his father over the phone the morning after the Jan. 6 attack and Congress’s early morning certification of President Biden’s election win. 

“I told him that the proudest moment by far of serving in Congress for me was going back onto the floor with each of you to finish the work that we had started,” he said while addressing the Senate as a House impeachment manager. 

“I’m humbled to be back with you today,” he continued. “And just as on Jan. 6, when we overcame that attack on our Capitol, on our country, I’m hopeful that at this trial, we can use our resolve and our resilience to again uphold our democracy by faithfully applying the law, vindicating the Constitution and holding President Trump accountable.”

The Colorado Democrat also said he was “so grateful” that he was able to thank former Vice President Mike Pence for “standing before us and asking us to follow our oath and our faith and our duty.”

—Justine Coleman


Democrats focus on Trump’s remarks, lay out roadmap alleging incitement

12:58 p.m.

House Democratic impeachment managers laid out the road map for how they intend to link Trump’s previous remarks to the violent attack on the Capitol.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) made the case that Trump planted the seeds for the storming of the Capitol months in advance by telling his supporters that he could not possibly lose a fair election, and then encouraged them to “fight like hell” once it became clear that he had lost.

“It was part of a carefully planned months-long effort with a very specific instruction, to get your people to fight this verification,” Neguse said.

Neguse laid out a three-point roadmap for the Democrats’ argument beginning with “The Provocation,” in which he played back months-old speeches from Trump when the former president alleged before Election Day that if he lost, it could only be because it was stolen. 

“We’re not going to let this election be taken from us, that’s the only way they’re going to win,” Trump said in the video played before the Senate. 

Neguse’s second point was called “Stop the Steal,” which became the rallying cry for Trump and his supporters after he lost.

“The call to arms … that his supporters thought it was their patriotic duty to fight like hell, to do what? To stop the steal, to stop the election from being stolen by showing up in this chamber to stop you, to stop us,” Neguse said. 

Neguse’s third point was titled “Fight Like Hell,” the core of the Democratic argument that Trump directly incited the mob. 

For weeks leading up to Jan. 6, Democrats said Trump told his supporters that they would lose the country if they did not fight for him to overturn the outcome.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said in the video played by Democrats.

“It was part of a carefully planned, months-long effort with a very specific instruction, to get your people to fight this verification,” Neguse said. “He incited it. It was foreseeable.”

— Jonathan Easley


GOP senators say Trump impeachment trial could wrap this weekend

12:50 p.m.

Republicans say Trump’s second impeachment trial could wrap as soon as this weekend, if both sides agree to skip trying to call witnesses. 

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told reporters that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) updated Republicans during a closed-door lunch on the potential timeline for the trial, though Cramer stressed that it wasn’t locked in. 

“The optimistic view, and I think Mitch shares this, is that we could wrap up Saturday night,” Cramer said. 

Asked if McConnell believes the trial could wrap this weekend, Cramer responded: “He does.” 

Senate aides had initially viewed Tuesday, Feb. 16 as the likely day for the final vote that will end the trial, after an attorney for Trump asked to pause the trial between Friday at 5 p.m. and Sunday. Trump’s team subsequently withdrew that request and the Senate is now scheduled to convene the trial on both Saturday and Sunday. 

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership and close ally of McConnell’s, indicated to reporters on Tuesday that he also believed the trial would wrap either on Saturday or Sunday. 

“I think there’ll be a lot of interest in getting this done by the time you get to the weekend,” Blunt said. “I think it will become obvious that stretching this out in the next week doesn’t change the outcome.” 

The Senate has a previously scheduled recess for next week, if they are able to wrap the trial in time. 

Asked about the recess, Cramer quipped: “My guess is that’s a great motivator for somebody.” 

—Jordain Carney


Raskin calls Jan. 6 ‘a day that will live in disgrace’

12:24 p.m.

House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Wednesday described Jan. 6 as “a day that will live in disgrace,” as he argued that Trump was responsible for inciting the riot that consumed the Capitol when lawmakers gathered to certify the election results. 

Addressing members of the Senate, Raskin showed tweets from Trump on Jan. 6 praising the rioters and pushing a false claim that he won the election in a landslide.

“He’s still promoting the big lie responsible for inciting the mob in the first place,” Raskin said. “His focus was not to defend or console us … it was to continue to act as inciter-in-chief … by telling the mob the election had been stolen.”

“This is a day that will live in disgrace in American history,” Raskin said.

— Jonathan Easley


Day Two of impeachment trial begins with opening prayer

12:19 p.m.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black on Wednesday began day two of Trump’s second impeachment trial with a prayer calling on God to give lawmakers “the gift of discernment so that they will know truth from falsehood.” 

“All powerful God, sovereign of this beloved land, you are our fortress, and you desire justice to be done,” Black began. “As our Senate jurors remember their accountability to you, use them to cause justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” 

He went on to say, “Lord, during this impeachment trial, give our lawmakers the gift of discernment so that they will know truth from falsehood. Inspire them to commit their thoughts and decisions to you. Let your kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is done in heaven.”

The prayer came before House Democratic prosecutors are expected to try and prove Trump’s intent to incite his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6. House Democrats are also expected to unveil unseen footage of the attack, in which several people died amid the chaos.

—Celine Castronuovo

Castor on Day One criticism: ‘Only one person’s opinion matters’

12:04 p.m.

Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s defense attorneys, is downplaying the criticism surrounding his widely panned performance on day one of the Senate trial, telling reporters Wednesday morning that Trump’s judgment is his sole concern.

“Only one person’s opinion matters, and that’s what I’m going by,” Castor said shortly before the day two proceedings were set to begin.

Asked if he plans to change his strategy on Wednesday, he answered tersely. 

“Not at all,” he said.

Castor launched Trump’s defense on Tuesday, the first day of the former president’s impeachment trial, with what appeared to be a rambling, hourlong speech that struggled to find a common theme and left senators on both sides of the aisle scratching their heads.

Numerous reports have emerged that Trump, now living in Florida, was irate after watching Castor’s performance.  

Asked if Trump had expressed that discontent directly, Castor said, “Far from it.”

David Schoen, another of Trump’s defense attorneys, received more complimentary reviews for his performance on Tuesday, when he sought to make the case that Congress has no authority to convict Trump in the impeachment trial because he’s no longer in office.

Schoen said he spoke with Trump following the day one proceedings, but declined to reveal details of the conversation, citing attorney-client privilege. Schoen hinted that he might take the lead in the case, saying Trump “always gives good advice.”

He also declared there would be no change in the defense strategy following Tuesday’s rocky start.

“We’re just getting started here and — going to do the best we can at all times, try to be prepared and do the best we can,” Schoen said. 

—Mike Lillis


Cardin: Prosecutors will focus on Trump’s intent

11:25 a.m.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he is expecting the House Democratic prosecutors on Wednesday to try to prove Trump intended to incite thousands of his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.  

“If I were to anticipate, you’re going to get a chronology of starting before the election, after the election, leading up to the Jan. 6 rally, the Jan. 6 rally, what the crowd did, and how President Trump reacted. I think that’s going to be the way to show intent,” Cardin told reporters in the Capitol before oral arguments were set to begin in Trump’s impeachment trial.    

“There’s no question that there was an insurrection. There’s no question that the president’s words motivated the crowd,” Cardin continued. “The question is the president, did he really intend for something like this to happen? And I think that’s an area that I expect them to spend a lot of their time on.”

Cardin is close to Rep. Jamie Raskin, a fellow Maryland Democrat who is serving as the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager.  

The Maryland senator also praised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for signaling to fellow Republicans that the vote to convict Trump is a vote of conscience. 

“I was impressed by Mitch McConnell saying this is a matter of conscience, which I agree with him,” Cardin said, adding that winning over 17 Republicans to convict Trump is still extremely challenging.  

“Look, we recognize we operate in a political world and you can’t remove that. So I think we recognize it’s an uphill battle.”

— Scott Wong


Dems say new footage will provide ‘extraordinary’ window into ‘extreme violence’ of Capitol attack

10:11 a.m.

House Democrats on Wednesday offered a small window into their day two argument before the Senate, promising to air new video footage providing an “extraordinary” glimpse of both the violence and heroics that accompanied the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“We’ll be using footage never seen before that shows a view of the Capitol that is quite extraordinary, and a view of the attack that has never been public before, which you will see for the first time, starting today,” a senior aide to the impeachment team told reporters Wednesday morning on a phone call.

Pressed for more details, the aide demurred, saying only that the footage will feature both the violence of the pro-Trump rioters, and the valorous efforts of law enforcement officers to repel the mob during the attack.

“It will provide new insight into both the extreme violence that everyone suffered, the risk, and the threat that it could have led to further violence and death to many, but for the brave actions of the officers,” the aide said. “And shows really the extent of what Donald Trump unleashed on our Capitol.”

A second aide for the impeachment managers described the new video as “Capitol security footage,” although it’s unclear precisely what that was a reference to.

Countless hours of dramatic footage from the Capitol siege have already been circulating publicly in the five weeks since the attack, much of it captured by the rioters themselves.

Yet there remains a good deal of footage yet unreleased, including that captured by the numerous cameras positioned around the enormous Capitol complex. In the hours immediately following the assault, FBI agents roamed the building seeking that footage to guide their own investigation.

Capitol Police officers are not required to wear body cameras, but some officers on duty during the siege said they used their smart phones to capture parts of the attack, providing Democrats another potential source of new footage.

The Democratic impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), launched the Senate trial on Tuesday with a dramatic airing of a 13-minute video showing some of the more brutal scenes from the hours-long attack.

All of that footage had been previously public.

—Mike Lillis


Impeachment managers’ team: ‘We have the goods’

10:08 a.m.

On day two of former President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, the House prosecutors’ team expressed hope Wednesday that they could convince more Republicans to vote to convict the ex-president, declaring that “we have the goods.”

“You know, I always say as a trial lawyer, the easiest trials to try are the trial where you have the goods. We have the goods,” a senior aide working on the Democratic managers’ team told reporters on a call Wednesday morning. 

“Yesterday was our dry constitutional argument day. Today, the actual trial begins. We have the goods, we will be presenting the goods, we will be tying the evidence all together in a compelling case. And we’ll make it clear for everyone — Democrats, Republicans, everyone — that Donald Trump committed the most heinous constitutional crime,” the aide said. “An armed insurrection against his own government, his own country, Congress, democracy.”

While conviction is highly unlikely — 17 Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats in finding Trump guilty — the prosecution team said there was still time to change minds. Senior aides pointed to GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy’s (La.) vote Tuesday ruling that the trial was constitutional. The conservative Louisiana senator had voted last month that it was unconstitutional.    

“I can’t think of a senator whose politics I have disagreed with more often than Dr. Cassidy’s,” said a second senior Democratic aide on the team. “But the way that he has honored his oath as an impartial juror really deserves to be commended. 

“And we see other indications of movement from the Republicans. The managers are going to go in and they are going to move hearts, minds and the consciences of 100 jurors. None of them have voted yet and we fully expect to prevail,” the aide continued.

—Scott Wong

Tags Ben Cardin Bill Cassidy Capitol breach Charles Schumer Chris Wallace Claire McCaskill David Cicilline Donald Trump Eric Swalwell Impeachment Ivanka Trump Jamie Raskin Jared Kushner Joaquin Castro Joe Biden Joe Neguse Josh Hawley Kellyanne Conway Kevin Cramer Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Madeleine Dean Marsha Blackburn Mike Braun Mike Lee Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Rand Paul Richard Burr Roy Blunt Stacey Plaskett Ted Lieu Tim Scott
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