Washington, Feb 13 (PTI) Donald Trump's insurrection incitement charge is a 'monstrous lie' and the impeachment proceedings against the former president a 'politically motivated witch hunt' by the Democrats, his lawyers said as they presented evidence in the US Senate. Trump, a Republican, is accused of inciting riots in the US Capitol on January 6 which left five people, including a police officer, dead.
Trump's lawyers Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen each took turns addressing the Senate members on Friday, day four of Trump's impeachment trial, to describe Trump as a staunch supporter of law and order, not someone who incited the chaos at the Capitol.
His attorneys had up to 16 hours over the course of two days to push back on House impeachment managers case that Trump should be convicted and barred from running for future office for inciting the attack on the Capitol to try to stop Joe Biden's presidential election victory being certified.
There is a complete lack of evidence on the article of impeachment against Donald Trump, his lawyers told the United States Senate.
'We have a complete lack of evidence for the article of impeachment presented by the House managers,' Trump's lawyer Castor said.
The impeachment by the House, the case for which was laid out by the House managers in the Senate during the last two days, was political.
'Their goal is to eliminate a political opponent, to substitute their judgment for the will of the voters,' he said as he showed clips of various Democratic leaders.
Castor said that the critical issue in this case is the very narrow issue that is charged against the 45th president. 'That issue is did the 45th president engage in incitement of -- they continue to say -- insurrection. Clearly there was no insurrection,” he said.
Trump's lawyer van der Veen used his opening remarks to dispute the Democrats' case that the former president had incited violence during his speech to supporters on January 6.
Trump had made allegations of voter fraud and urged his supporters to converge at the Capitol building a short while before the riot broke out.
'To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behaviour is a preposterous and monstrous lie. In fact, the first two messages the president sent via Twitter once the incursion at the Capitol began were 'Stay Peaceful' and 'No violence because we are the party of law and order,'' the lawyer said.
'The article of impeachment now before the Senate is an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance,” Trump attorney van der Veen argued.
'Like every other politically motivated witch hunt the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people,” he added.
Citing reports from the FBI, the Department of Justice, and several former and present officials, Trump's lawyers argued that the riots were pre-planned.
Trump's attorneys told the senators that the former president had every right to dispute his election loss to his Democratic rival and that Trump's 70-minute speech just minutes before the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol did not amount to inciting the violence.
Trump's lawyers presented their case for nearly four hours. After this the Senators, who act a juror for the impeachment trial, began the question-and-answer sessions from both the sides.
The 100-member Senate would vote on the impeachment trial after the closing arguments are made by the two sides. To impeach Trump, the Senate needs 67 votes, which the political analysts said is a tall order for the Democrats. The Democrats have 50 members and they need the support of 17 of the Republican Senators.
Several Republicans have said they do not believe an ex-president should be impeached, although ahead of the trial a Senate vote rejected that position.
If Trump were convicted, the Senate could then vote to bar him from holding elected office again.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for the first time on December 18, 2019. The House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. However, the Senate where the Republicans had a majority then, acquitted him in February 2020 on both counts.
According to US media reports, the current timeline makes it all the more likely that Trump's historic second impeachment trial could be concluded as early as Saturday. After questions, there remains the option for managers to request a debate on witnesses followed by a four-hour window for closing arguments before the final vote on whether to convict Trump.
Impeachment prosecutors contended on Thursday there is 'clear and overwhelming' evidence that Trump incited insurrection by sending a mob of his supporters to the Capitol to confront lawmakers as they were certifying that he had lost the November 3 election to Democrat Biden.
While wrapping up his presentation, lead impeachment manager Raskin told the 100 members of the Senate acting as jurors they should use 'common sense on what happened here.' 'It is a bedrock principle that no one can incite a riot' in the American democracy, Raskin emphasised. PTI LKJ SMN AKJ AKJ