The House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump rested their case on Thursday, branding him a clear and present danger to United States democracy who could sow new violence like the deadly assault on the Capitol last month if he was not barred from holding office again.
Calling on senators to render “impartial justice” and embrace the “common sense” of the country’s founders, the nine impeachment managers closed their case by laying out the grave damage the Jan. 6 riot had caused not just to lawmakers or police officers at the Capitol, but to the democratic system and America’s standing around the world. None of it, they argued, would have happened without Mr. Trump.
“Senators, America, we need to exercise our common sense about what happened,” said Representative Jamie Raskin of Mayland, the lead manager, reading from Thomas Paine. “Let’s not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyers theories here. Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country.”
Mr. Raskin said the evidence that Mr. Trump cultivated, incited and then showed no remorse for the attack warranted making him the first impeached president ever to be convicted and the first former president to be disqualified from holding future office.
“If you don’t find this a high crime and misdemeanor today, you have set a new terrible standard for presidential misconduct in the United States of America,” he said.
A day after delivering the Senate a harrowing account of the deadly violence, replete with chilling, previously unseen security footage, the prosecutors returned for the trial’s third day with new video clips, court documents and interviews in which the rioters defended their actions by citing Mr. Trump’s directives and desires.
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
“We were invited here,” one of them screamed, the clip echoing through the Senate chamber.
“Their own statements before, during and after the attack made clear the attack was done for Donald Trump — at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes,” said Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado.
They also argued that Mr. Trump had encouraged and celebrated violence before Jan. 6 — such as a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and scuffles during his campaign rallies — and shown no remorse for whipping up thousands of his loyal supporters by telling them to “fight like hell” that day. Afterward, they noted, Mr. Trump called his speech “totally appropriate.”
“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years,” said Representative Ted Lieu of California. “I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose, because he can do this again.”
Their task to convict remains a daunting one as they aim to persuade Republican senators who have shown no appetite for breaking with Mr. Trump to do so.
By turn, the managers sought to appeal to Republicans’ sense of patriotism and decency. They read the words of Republicans who voted in the House to impeach Mr. Trump and from the former president’s own cabinet secretaries,who resigned in protest after the deadly riot. They played audio of traumatized aides who had contemplated leaving government after the attack. And they recounted the humiliating taunts of foreign adversaries who looked on in glee.
But already on Wednesday, Republican senators who sat through a vivid retelling of an assault they had lived through appeared unmoved from their determination to acquit Mr. Trump.
Seventeen Republicans would have to join every Democrat to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected to present his defense beginning at noon on Friday. They intend to deny that he was responsible for the attack or meant to interfere with the electoral process underway at the Capitol, despite his repeated exhortations to supporters to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”
One of the lawyers, David I. Schoen, derided the Democrats’ presentation as a thinly sourced “entertainment package” and “offensive” during an appearance on Fox News during the trial on Thursday.
“In no setting in this country where someone’s guilt or innocence is being adjudicated would this kind of approach be permitted,” he said.
The trial is moving quickly, and senators could reach a verdict by the end of the holiday weekend. But first, they will have a chance to question the prosecution and the defense, and the managers may force a debate and vote on calling witnesses.
Aishvarya Kavi contributed reporting.