Delegate Stacey Plaskett presented part of the impeachment case against former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, arguing he deliberately incited violence for the purpose of altering the 2020 election outcome.
Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with “incitement of insurrection” for making false statements to his followers about the election results, falsely claiming it was stolen and claiming to have won.
He tweeted invitations to his followers to come to a rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the day Congress was carrying out its constitutional duty of counting electoral votes. He told them to demand Congress “do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.” (All the electors were lawfully slated. Trump filed multiple lawsuits to try to overturn the election, and dozens of different judges, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, ruled they had no merit.)
Then he sent them marching to the Capitol, telling them “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
His attorney Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat” at the rally.
In his 11,000-word speech, Trump said “peacefully” once.
Thousands in the rally followed Trump’s direction to march on the Capitol and to “fight like hell.” They overran the Capitol, attempting to keep Trump in office, and five people were killed in the process. Some set up working gallows with a hangman’s noose. The crowd chanted “hang Mike Pence.”
Large numbers of far-right militia members, including the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, III Percenters and others were among the insurrectionists, along with many other devoted Trump supporters. Many carried flags and signs showing they were adherents of the QAnon belief community, which falsely asserts that Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are part of a giant worldwide pedophile conspiracy to molest children and harvest an imaginary drug called “adrenochrome” from their brains.
On Wednesday, Plaskett focused on whether Trump intended to incite violence.
Plaskett showed a Dec. 19 Trump tweet in which he said it was impossible he lost the election and that there was going to be a rally on Jan. 6. in D.C., the same day as the counting of the electoral votes.
Days later, Women for America First, amended their rally permit to move it up several days to Jan. 6, copying Trump in their tweets.
“Reports confirm that the president himself, President Trump, became directly involved with the planning of the event.”
The Women for America First planned to stay at the rally location. “It was not until after President Trump and his team became involved in the planning that the march from the Ellipse to the Capitol came about,” Plaskett said.
She argued, “The violence was not only foreseeable to President Trump, [but] the violence was what he deliberately encouraged.”
“If the president had only said something once about fighting to ‘stop the steal’ and violence erupted, there would be no way to know he intended to incite it or saw it coming. But just as he spent months spreading his big lie of the election, he also spent months cultivating groups of people, who, following his command, repeatedly engaged in real, dangerous violence. And when they did, when the violence erupted as a response to his calls to fight against a stolen election, he did not walk them back. He did not tell them no. He did the opposite. He praised and encouraged the violence so that it would continue. He fanned the flame of violence. And it worked.”
Six Republican senators voted to proceed with the impeachment on Tuesday, making it the most bipartisan impeachment of a president in U.S. history. But 67 senators, including at least 17 Republican senators, would need to vote to convict Trump. Large majorities of Republican voters still support Trump and oppose the impeachment, and most political pundits say it is highly unlikely 17 Republicans will vote to convict.
Separate from the impeachment, the State of Georgia announced on Tuesday it was opening a criminal investigation into election tampering, triggered by a phone call Trump made to Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, saying “I need you to find 11,800 votes,” and “there’s nothing wrong with saying that, um, you’ve recalculated.” Readers can listen to that call here.