WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s lawyers said on Friday Democrats had provided no evidence the former president incited last month’s deadly U.S. Capitol riot and had used his second impeachment trial to settle political scores.
Trump is on trial in the U.S. Senate on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters who stormed the seat of Congress in Washington to stop lawmakers from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory, resulting in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
Trump’s lawyers argued that his remarks, including a fiery speech that day urging supporters to “fight like hell” to stop the certification, were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures the right to free speech.
“To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie,” said Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers.
The Senate wrapped up its session at 6:29 p.m. A final up-or-down vote to convict could come as soon as Saturday.
In arguments this week, Democratic members of the House of Representatives showed videos and shared tweets they said made clear Trump had set the stage for the violence by falsely claiming the election results were fraudulent and egging on his supporters with his rhetoric long before Jan. 6.
They said he summoned the mob to Washington, gave the crowd its marching orders and did nothing to stop the violence as it played out on television. His one request to act peacefully did not absolve him, they said.
“You rob the bank, and on the way out the door you yell, ‘Respect private property!’ That’s not a defense to robbing the bank,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin.
The Democrats are unlikely to gain a conviction, as few Republican senators have come out against Trump, who remains popular among Republican voters.
Trump’s team played a roughly 10-minute video showing prominent Democrats using the word “fight” in political speeches.