The Maryland Democrat’s comments on a caucus call Wednesday offered a preview of how the House impeachment managers plan to poke holes in the former president’s defense during next week’s trial, while they also make their case that Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. Trump’s lawyer, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the defense will focus on the “technical” reasons Trump should not be convicted and will avoid Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud.
Trump’s lawyers argued Tuesday that it was unconstitutional for the Senate to hold an impeachment trial for a former president. Trump’s team also contended that the former president’s speech about election fraud did not incite the rioters and was protected by the First Amendment. “The 45th President exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
But Raskin argued on the Democratic call that Trump’s remarks at a January 6 rally before the rioters attacked the Capitol were not First Amendment-protected speech. His comments weren’t like shouting fire in a crowded theater, Raskin said, but like a fire chief sending a mob to the theater, according to the source.
Raskin added on the call that extremist elements in Russia and Germany view the storming of the Capitol as a great victory for 21st Century fascism.
It will be one of the key questions during next week’s trial, though Senate Republicans have already signaled with a 55-45 procedural vote last week they’re highly unlikely to convict Trump.
Raskin told Democrats on Wednesday that one Capitol Police officer has lost three fingers in the attack, and another is likely to lose his eye.
A ‘technical’ defense
“There are plenty of questions about how the election was conducted throughout the country, but that’s for a different forum. I don’t believe that’s important to litigate in the Senate trial, because you don’t need it,” Castor said.
“I said I wasn’t going to go down that road,” he added. “Nobody’s pressured me. It hasn’t even been discussed. So I don’t know where people got that notion that was some sort of a litmus test to get to defend the President.”
Senate Republicans have publicly warned Trump’s team not to try to argue election fraud at the trial. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said this week it would be a “disservice” to Trump’s defense.
Castor said the impeachment defense plans to argue that the Senate doesn’t have jurisdiction to try Trump because he’s no longer in office, as well as that Trump’s speech on January 6 ahead of the Capitol riots did not meet the criminal definition of incitement and was protected by the First Amendment.
“Just because somebody gave a speech and people got excited, that doesn’t mean it’s the speech-makers fault — it’s the people who got excited and did what they know is wrong that are at fault,” Castor said. “That’s the focus that we’re going to take.”
Questions loom over next week’s trial
“No idea,” Raskin said about how long the trial will last.
And asked if he believed it would include witnesses, Raskin said, “I think all that remains to be seen in the Senate.”
Pressed on his preference, Raskin said, “justice” as he walked into the House chamber.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.