Former President Trump’s legal team tried to put Democrats on trial Friday by repeatedly playing clips of their past hot rhetoric and accusing liberals of setting a new “dangerous double standard” when it comes to Trump.
Trump’s attorneys said the former president’s speech before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot where he told backers to “fight like hell” was in no way an incitement to violence and they called out each of the House impeachment managers and each Democratic senator for making similar statements.
“Every single one of you, and every one of you,” David Schoen, a Trump attorney, bellowed at Democrats in the chamber at the end of an 11-minute video featuring clips of each of them saying “fight.”
“That’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy.”
Friday was Trump’s first chance to mount a defense to the “incitement of insurrection” impeachment charge based on his actions and inactions surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
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Trump’s legal team blasted the proceedings as an unconstitutional, “sham impeachment” motivated by Democrats’ “hatred” for the former president. They said Trump’s political speech is protected by the First Amendment.
His lawyers said it’s “absurd” to think Trump was trying to promote insurrection on Jan. 6 based on his rhetoric that day and long history of promoting “law and order” and denouncing mob violence throughout his many other political rallies.
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“No thinking person could seriously believe that the president’s January 6 speech on the ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection,” said Michael van der Veen, a Trump attorney. “The suggestion is patently absurd on its face. Nothing in the text could ever be construed as encouraging, condoning or enticing unlawful activity of any kind.”
Van der Veen added: “To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.”
The defense team then played several prolonged video montages designed to embarrass Democrats and call out a “double standard.” Videos starred just about every prominent Democrat, including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., encouraging liberals to harass Trump officials, and President Biden saying if he were in high school again he’d go behind the gym and “beat the hell out” of Trump.
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Schoen teed up one of the videos by telling the chamber: “We need to show you some of their own words.”
Video clips also featured charged speech from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Kamala Harris where she quipped on the “Ellen” talk show that if she were stuck in an elevator with Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that one of us may not “come out alive.”
Trump’s legal team argued that Democrats could be impeached under the new standard they are now trying to apply to Trump.
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“Under the standards of the House impeachment article, each of these individuals should be retroactively censored, expelled punished or impeached for inciting violence by their supporters,” van der Veen said.
Democrats blasted the legal team’s focus on them as a distraction from Trump’s own conduct.
“What they are plainly doing is trying to draw a false and dangerous equivalence to distract from Donald Trump inviting and then inciting the mob and then failing his oath of office to protect the Capitol,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told Capitol Hill reporters Friday.
After Trump’s defense team concludes, senators will have an opportunity to ask questions of the lawyers on both sides.