Senators to hear opening arguments as Trump fumes over trial

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Source: MGN Online Credit: The White House Image Source Link

WASHINGTON (AP) — Opening arguments begin Wednesday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after an emotional first day that wrenched senators and the nation back to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump’s attorneys sought to halt the trial on constitutional grounds, but lost that bid on Tuesday. Their arguments were meandering at times, leaving Trump fuming over his lawyers’ performance and allies questioning the defense strategy. Some called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

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House Democratic prosecutors are seeking to link Trump directly to the riot that left five people dead, replaying videos of the rioters trying to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory and Trump’s statements urging them to fight the election results.

On Wednesday, they plan to use Capitol security footage that hasn’t been publicly released before as they argue that Trump incited the insurrection, according to Democratic aides working on the case.

Senators, many of whom fled for safety the day of the attack, watched Tuesday’s graphic videos of the Trump supporters who battled past police to storm the halls, Trump flags waving. More video is expected Wednesday, including some that hasn’t been seen before.

Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached. The riot followed a rally during which Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” words his lawyers say were simply a figure of speech. He is charged with “incitement of insurrection.”

“That’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., declared in opening remarks. “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

On Wednesday and into Thursday, the managers plan to tell a “succinct” story, according to the aides, who were granted anonymity to discuss the upcoming arguments. They will start with Trump’s false claims that there was massive election fraud and build to the Jan. 6 riots as a “culmination” of his efforts to overturn his defeat.

The Democrats will argue that Trump inflamed and encouraged groups that had violent backgrounds, the aides say, and they will show how much worse it could have been. The aides said they will use the new Capitol security footage to make that case, but did not describe it.

Security remains extremely tight at the Capitol, fenced off with razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not be watching the trial.

“Joe Biden is the president, he’s not a pundit, he’s not going to opine on back and forth arguments,” she said.

The House impeachment managers described police officers maimed in the chaos and rioters parading in the very chamber where the trial was being held. Trump’s team countered that the Constitution doesn’t allow impeachment at this late date.

That’s a legal issue that could resonate with Senate Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.

Lead defense lawyer Bruce Castor said he shifted his planned approach after hearing the prosecutors’ emotional opening and instead spoke conversationally to the senators, saying Trump’s team would denounce the “repugnant” attack and “in the strongest possible way denounce the rioters.” He appealed to the senators as “patriots first,” and encouraged them to be “cool headed” as they assessed the arguments.

Trump attorney David Schoen turned the trial toward starkly partisan tones, arguing the Democrats were fueled by a “base hatred” of the former president.

Republicans made it clear that they were unhappy with Trump’s defense, many of them saying they didn’t understand where it was going — particularly Castor’s opening. Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, who voted with Democrats to move forward with the trial, said that Trump’s team did a “terrible job.” Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who also voted with Democrats, said she was “perplexed.” Sen. Lisa Murkowki of Alaska said it was a “missed opportunity” for the defense.

Six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote to proceed with the trial, but the 56-44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes that would be needed for conviction.

At one pivotal point, Raskin told his personal story of bringing his family to the Capitol that day to witness the certification of the Electoral College vote, only to have his daughter and son-in-law hiding in an office, fearing for their lives.

“Senators, this cannot be our future,” Raskin said through tears. “This cannot be the future of America.”

The House prosecutors had argued there is no “January exception” for a president to avoid impeachment on his way out the door. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., referred to the corruption case of William Belknap, a war secretary in the Grant administration, who was impeached, tried and ultimately acquitted by the Senate after leaving office.

If Congress stands by, “it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability,” he said.

It appears unlikely that the House prosecutors will call witnesses, and Trump has declined a request to testify. The trial is expected to continue into the weekend.

Trump’s second impeachment trial is expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated affair of a year ago. In that case, Trump was charged with having privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, then a Democratic rival for the presidency.

This time, Trump’s “stop the steal” rally rhetoric and the storming of the Capitol played out for the world to see.

The Democratic-led House impeached the president swiftly, one week after the attack.

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Erica joins the ABC 36 family as a Co-Anchor of Good Morning Kentucky weekday mornings from 5am-7am with Cody Adams and Good Day Kentucky weekday mornings from 9am to 10am. Erica also anchors News at Midday from 12-12:30pm. She is also a Web and Social Media Content Producer. Erica graduated in three and a half years from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and specialization in Women, Gender and Social Justice. Although she hails from Michigan, Erica has worked as a News Reporter/Sports Anchor for the CBS-affiliate in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to that, she worked for a PBS-affiliate there covering all types of news – even providing live reports for The Weather Channel during her first hurricane. She then moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and worked as the Weekend Anchor/Reporter at KPLC, the NBC/FOX/CW affiliate. Erica comes to Lexington from the Huntington area where she worked at WSAZ, an NBC/CW affiliate in West Virginia, as a weekday evening anchor covering the tri states of Ohio and Kentucky as well. In addition to her background on TV, Erica has worked in radio, served as the PA announcer for the Class A "Lansing Lugnuts" and hosted Carnival parades in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of her favorite hobbies include running, reading, hiking, spending time with her husband and taking pictures of their furbabies. Erica is big on community involvement, having served as a board member for Dress for Success, volunteered as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked on the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission in Lake Charles and hosted countless events. She hopes you can connect with her on Facebook: EricaBivensTV and on Twitter: @ericabivens or Instagram: erica.bivens. You can also email her at ebivens@wtvq.com. Please send all event inquiries via email. Erica is excited to explore Lexington and the outdoors and - of course - meet all of you!