A very visceral reaction.
That’s what Rep. Joe Neguse said he expected from Senators when impeachment managers presented their case. And that’s exactly what they got.
Using new footage from security cameras and body cameras, alongside social media posts and police radio dispatches, the impeachment managers created a coherent, detailed and damning timeline of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
They showed how close rioters came to potentially harming the government’s line of succession — threatening the second (Vice President Mike Pence), third (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was taken out of the Capitol Complex) and fourth (Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley) positions after the president, as well as other leaders and senators.
“I think that the House Managers are making a very strong case for a timeline that laid out very clearly, the words that were used, when [Trump] used them, how he used [them] to really build the anger, the violence that we saw here in this Capitol,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski after the first day.
Neguse draws a line from Trumps’ rallying words to his supporters’ actions
Neguse kicked off the case by laying out a roadmap: the provocation, the attack and the harm.
“Senators, this clearly was not just one speech. It didn't just happen. It was part of a carefully planned, months-long effort with a very specific instruction: show up on Jan. 6, and get your people to fight the certification,” Neguse said. “[Former President Donald Trump] incited it. It was foreseeable.”
The provocation included the months-long drumbeat of claims about fraud and a stolen election that Trump began long before Election Day. What Neguse called "the big lie."
Neguse tried to connect the dots, from Trump’s words to the actions of his supporters. He used their own words, lifted from affidavits and criminal complaints, saying those who stormed the Capitol believed it was what Trump wanted.
“You heard it from them. They were doing what he wanted them to do. They wouldn’t have listened to you, to me, to the Vice President of the United States, who they were attacking. They didn't stop in the face of law enforcement,” Neguse said looking at the Republican side of the chamber. “They were following the President. He alone, our Commander in Chief, had the power to stop them. And he didn’t.”
Neguse went on to ask what would have happened if Trump asked the rioters to stop and leave peacefully half as forcefully as he cried “fraud” and “stop the steal.”
The Lafayette Democratic, who recently started his second term in the House, also helped make the closing case for impeachment. Part of that included trying to knock down some of the arguments his side anticipates the Trump defense will make. Neguse’s portion focused on the First Amendment.
Negsue argued, despite what Trump’s lawyers may say, Trump’s words were not protected political speech. And he acknowledged that the defense may show footage of Democrats at rallys stating hurtful and violent opinions themselves.
“We trust you to know the difference,” Neguse said. “Because President Trump wasn’t just some guy with political opinions who showed up at a rally … he was the President of the United States and he had spent months — months — using the unique power of that office, of his bully pulpit, to spread that big lie that the election had been stolen.”
These proceedings have been a star turn for Neguse, who has had prominent speaking roles over the last three days and has garnered much praise. That didn’t surprise Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who called his performance “outstanding,” with Colorado pride.
“I thought he was the best that they had. And I thought everybody's presentation was very good, but I was incredibly proud of Joe Neguse,” Bennet said.
He added that colleagues in the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans had come up to him asking about the Congressman.
It’s also not surprising. Neguse, who is part of the leadership team, was tapped by Pelosi to help lead the arguments on Jan. 6 against the Electoral College objections.
DeGette shows, in videos and in their own words, that rioters believed they were acting for Trump
He wasn’t the only Coloradan with a big role on the last day of the case. Rep. Diana DeGette helped launch Democrats’ closing arguments.
Her job was two-fold: showing the attack on the capitol from a different perspective and the impact it had.
Using videos and criminal complaints of arrested rioters, DeGette showed many of them were there because they believed Trump wanted them to be.
“The insurrectionists made clear to law enforcement that they were just following President Trump's orders,” DeGette said. “They didn't shy away from their crimes because they thought they were following orders from the Commander in Chief.”
Clip after clip backed up her words.
“All of these people who have been arrested and charged, they're being ... held accountable for their actions,” she said. “Their leader, the man who incited them, must be held accountable as well.”
The other main argument DeGette made was how the attack emboldened domestic extremists. She noted that the inauguration of President Joe Biden was a target, as were the Capitols in all 50 states.
“These extremist groups were emboldened because President Trump told them repeatedly that their insurrectionist activities were the pinnacle of patriotism. Well, let today be the day we reclaim the definition of patriotism,” DeGette said, and stressed this impeachment was not to punish Trump. “We are here to prevent the seeds of hatred that he planted from bearing any more fruit.”
That was a goal Neguse also emphasized in his closing remarks.
“We humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of," Neguse said. "If you don’t, if we pretend this didn't happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won't happen again."
The case that impeachment managers laid out and senators’ visceral reaction to having to relive that day, however, is not expected to change many Republican minds. Over the course of the impeachment managers' two-day presentation, Republicans praised their effort, but continued to argue the Senate is not the place to try a former president.
Bennet isn’t ready to accept the likely outcome yet.
“I hope that fair-minded people in the Senate chamber that are watching this put partisanship aside and do the right thing here,” Bennet said.
On Friday, Trump’s legal team will mount their defense, and try to sway as many senators as they can against impeachment.
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