The House impeachment managers on Thursday outlined what they said was former President Donald Trump’s history of approving of violence against his political opponents, painting the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists as a predictable end to a term in office punctuated by the encouragement of violence.
The lead manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., played a series of videos showing past statements Trump made, including when the former president praised a congressional candidate for physically assaulting a journalist; urged his supporters at a rally to rough up an attendee; excused white supremacist and neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people;” and encouraged demonstrators protesting against COVID-19 restrictions to “liberate Michigan.”
Shortly after that last message, armed protesters entered the Michigan statehouse. Separately, a plot was uncovered showing a sophisticated plan to attempt to kidnap the state’s governor, who had been repeatedly criticized by Trump.
“There the pattern is. It’s staring us in the face,” Raskin said in front of the Senate on Day 3 of the former president’s second impeachment trial.
“An examination of his past statements makes it clear that when Donald Trump tells a crowd, as he did on Jan. 6, ‘fight like hell or you won’t have a country anymore,’ he meant for them to fight like hell,” Raskin said. “On Jan. 6, that became clear to all of America.”
After showing a video of the armed Michigan anti-mask demonstrators, Raskin said: “This Trump-inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you. Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo Army gear — just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on Jan. 6. The siege of the Michigan statehouse was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S. Capitol that Trump incited on Jan. 6. It was a preview of the coming insurrection.”
Democrats hope that by showing a pattern of extreme behavior, they can convince 17 Republican — the minimum number needed to convict — to join them in the vote.
“These prior acts of incitement cast a harsh light on Trump’s obvious intent, his unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of his incitement … and the clear foreseeability of the violent harm that he unleashed on our people and our republic,” Raskin said. “Jan. 6 was not some unexpected, radical break from his normal law-abiding and peaceful disposition. This was his state of mind. This was his essential MO.”
Trump’s defense team and allies have said that politicians often use such terms as “fight” to refer to causes they believe in, and that the former president on Jan. 6 told rally attendees to head to the Capitol peacefully.