Former President Donald Trump’s legal team called the impeachment process against their client “a complete charade from beginning to end,” arguing that the “spectacle” was fueled by a partisan vendetta against the former president.
In his closing remarks, Michael van der Veen claimed Trump’s words on the day of the Capitol insurrection were taken out of context.
“At no point did you hear anything that could ever possibly be construed as Mr. Trump encouraging or sanctioning an insurrection,” he said. “The act of incitement never happened. He engaged in no language of incitement whatsoever on Jan. 6 or any other day following the election.”
House managers had pointed to Trump’s speech to supporters on Jan. 6, encouraging them to “fight like hell” and urging them to march to the Capitol where lawmakers were tallying electoral college votes.
Van der Veen referenced the disturbing footage of the riot that House impeachment managers presented during their arguments, but denied that Trump was to blame for the violence of his supporters.
“No matter how much truly horrifying footage we see of the conduct of the rioters, and how much emotion has been injected into this trial, that does not change the fact that Mr. Trump was innocent of the charges against him,” he said.
He sought to draw parallels between Democratic lawmakers’ support of protests over police brutality and racial protests last summer, arguing that Democrats “want two different standards, one for themselves and one for their political opposition.”
Van der Veen reiterated one of the defense team’s central arguments: that a president no longer in office can be impeached, a claim disputed by many constitutional scholars.
He also argued that Trump’s due-process rights were violated and that his speech is protected under the First Amendment.
“They have carried out a grossly unconstitutional effort to punish Mr. Trump for protected First Amendment speech. It’s an egregious violation of his constitutional rights,” he said. “It is an unprecedented action with the potential to do grave and lasting damage to both the presidency, and the separation of powers and the future of democratic self government.”
Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., had spent a good deal of his arguments this week claiming that as a president, not all of his words are, in fact, protected as free speech.
“They present President Trump as merely, like a guy at a rally expressing a political opinion that we disagree with and now we’re trying to put him in jail for it,” he said earlier this week. “That has nothing to do with the reality of these charges or his constitutional offense.”