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Impeachment trial: Democrats say Trump 'fanned the flame of violence'

Lead House impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md.,  is seen leaving the U.S. Capitol building after the second day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Lead House impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md.,  is seen leaving the U.S. Capitol building after the second day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- House impeachment managers opened their case on Wednesday arguing for a conviction in the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump for "deliberately" inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month.

House Democratic managers laid out their case against Trump for about seven hours before adjourning on Wednesday night, presenting tweets, news reports, videos and photos that Delegate Stacey Plaskett from the U.S. Virgin Islands said proved he "fanned the flame of violence, and it worked."

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She and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., provided a timeline of the Capitol attack, showing models of the insurrectionists' progress through the building alongside security, cellphone and media footage of the scene.

In one previously unreleased security video, Vice President Mike Pence and his family can be seen being whisked away from an area near the Senate chamber by Secret Service officers as rioters entered the hallways nearby.

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Impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said that Trump was responsible for making Trump a target of the riots in the lead up to Congress certifying the election results by suggesting the vice president could halt the process and "ramped it up again" at his rally that morning.

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"You'll recall Donald Trump had made Vice President Pence a target. He attacked the vice president at rallies, in speeches and on Twitter," Castro said.

Plaskett's presentation also showed a fresh angle of the scene as Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman led a group of rioters away from the Senate chambers and toward a group of officers. Lawmakers have since introduced legislation seeking to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal "for his bravery and quick thinking" in that moment.

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But Democratic managers introduced another previously unseen security video, this one showing Goodman redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, down a hallway after he unknowingly headed toward the mob.

Swalwell said he later measured that the mob was within 58 steps of reaching lawmakers at one point in the afternoon.

Plaskett highlighted videos and tweets showing Trump's apparent support of a group of trucks displaying Trump campaign flags appearing to intimidate and run a bus of Joe Biden's campaign off the road in Austin, Texas.

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Plaskett said Trump's tweet praising his supporters' actions in Texas was evidence that he encouraged violence on his behalf.

"For anyone who says Donald Trump didn't know the violence he was inciting, I ask you to consider: His supporters tried to drive a bus off the highway...to intimidate his opponents' campaign workers and his response was to...call those individuals...patriots," she said.

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In his remarks Wednesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., rejected arguments from defense attorneys and said freedom of speech does not protect inciting violence.

"You can't yell fire in a crowded theater," he said, adding that Trump's behavior was more like a case of a fire chief sending a mob to set the fire and then watching the flames "spread on TV with glee and delight."

House manager Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said the riot was incited and "foreseeable."

"He told them it was their patriotic duty because the election had been stolen and invited them to march to the Capitol," he said.

"The president used this speech as a call to arms. It was not rhetorical," Neguse added. "[Trump] assembled, the mob; he summoned the mob and he incited the mob."

Castro provided a timeline of Republicans and those close to the former president urging him to call off the insurrectionists. Trump did make posts encouraging the rioters to leave but also addressed them as "patriots."

"How simple would it have been to give a simple command, stop, leave," said Castro. "This was a dereliction of duty, plain and simple."

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In the closing minutes of Wednesday's proceedings, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, raised an objection an account by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., of a phone call Trump accidentally placed to him in an attempt to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., in which he tried to urge the senator to delay the certification process.

"Statements were attributed to me moments ago by the House impeachment managers. Statements relating to the content of conversations between a phone call involving President Trump and Sen. Tuberville were not made by me. They're not accurate and they're contrary to fact. I move pursuant to Rule 16 that they be stricken from the record," Lee said.

After some confusion on the floor over what exactly Lee was describing as inaccurate, Raskin agreed to strike the comments from the record.

"Mr. Cicilline correctly and accurately quoted a newspaper account, which the distinguished senator has taken an objection to, so we're happy to withdraw it," said Raskin. "This is much ado about nothing because it's not critical in any way to our case."

Both sides were granted an opportunity to give opening arguments Wednesday before the clock began on the 16 hours allotted to House managers to make their case. Afterward, senators will ask questions, in writing. Arguments on each trial day will last for no more than eight hours.

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Impeachment managers face significant opposition in the Senate, where most Republicans continue to signal that they aren't interested in holding Trump to account for the Capitol attack that resulted in five deaths.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 56-44 to reject a move by Trump's attorneys to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional.

While six Republicans broke ranks to vote with Democrats in favor of trying Trump, it's far from the 17 they will need to cross the aisle for a conviction. If he is convicted, Democrats would need only a simple majority to pass a measure to bar Trump from ever holding public office again.

Trump's attorneys are expected to begin making their arguments on Friday and the trial is expected to last into next week.

CNN, The New York Times and Fox News reported that Trump was upset by the performance of his legal team and their efforts to defend him Tuesday. He remains out of public view at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where he's been since leaving Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20.

Donald Trump supporters breach Capitol, riot over election results

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on Wednesday in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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