After 12 hours of indictment, marked by unpublished videos and a moving account of the attack on the Capitol, it was the turn of Donald Trump’s defense to enter the field on Friday (12). On the fourth day of the former president’s impeachment trial, his lawyers argued that the Republican was the victim of political persecution and was not responsible for inciting the invasion of Congress. According to them, the Senate trial represents “the culture of constitutional annulment”.
In a presentation of just over three hours, the defense tried to give new meaning to Trump’s words, calling the accusation an “absurd and monstrous lie”, under the thesis that the speech of the former president – asking supporters “to fight like never before” on January 6 – is part of a common political rhetoric, used even by Democrats and protected by the right to free speech.
“[Falar em lutar] It is political rhetoric, language used by politicians around the world, for hundreds of years, “said Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s supporters.” This judgment involves much more than Donald Trump, it is about silencing the speech with which most do not agree, canceling the 75 million votes he had and criminalizing political opinions. “
Lawyer Michael Van Der Veen, who used the term cancellation culture – a name given to negative reactions on social media – to refer to the trial, followed the same line: “Historically we will remember this. shameful effort as a deliberate attempt by the Democrat. Party to defame, censor and annul not only President Donald Trump but the 75 million Americans who voted for him. “
In order to corroborate their arguments, the lawyers resorted to incendiary resources, as usual in the position of the former president. They showed a ten-minute video, with edited and decontextualized footage, of Democratic politicians using combative language and variations of the phrase “you must fight.”
In one of the passages, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was in the Senate on Friday, spoke at the Women’s March in 2017. “We have to fight back,” she said.
In another, the Biden administration’s veterans affairs secretary, Denis McDonough, said, “I am a fighter and I am relentless.” US Vice President Kamala Harris also appeared in the video selection, as did singer Madonna and actor Johnny Depp, asking “when was the last time an actor murdered a president?” “Depp apologized for this statement.
“I did not show these robust speeches to excuse or balance my client’s speech, because I don’t have to,” said Michael Van Der Veen, also a lawyer for Trump. “I have shown why in this political forum all robust speech must be protected in a uniform manner.”
The speed of the defenders was already expected, as well as the main axes of his thesis: 1) the ex-president cannot be held responsible for the action of the group which invaded the Capitol; 2) his speech is figurative and is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which deals with freedom of expression; 3) pursuing the removal of a former president is unconstitutional.
This last point had already been overcome on Tuesday (9), the first day of the trial, when the Senate decided, by 56 votes to 44, that Trump could, yes, be tried even out of office.
During the indictment, Democrats repeatedly referred to Trump’s statements during the rally hours before the Capitol invasion. At the event, the ex-president asks his supporters to “fight like never before” and come to Congress, which certified Biden’s victory at that time.
According to Trump’s lawyers, the former president’s statements have been distorted because he has always stood for “law and order.”
Van Der Veen mistakenly suggested that the invading Congress were “extremists of different colors and political beliefs,” although videos and audios from that day showed people with flags and caps bearing Trump’s name, many of them saying they were there because of the ex-president.
Lawyers did not intend to downplay the violence of the attack, which left five senators dead and terrified. They called the episode “tragedy” and “illegal event,” but disagreed on a crucial point in the accusation, saying Trump had nothing to do with what happened.
The argument serves to contemplate Republican senators who wish to be seen as condemning acts of violence, without having to punish the former president.
To be found guilty, Trump must get 67 votes out of 100 senators – a scenario now considered unlikely. That’s because the Senate is split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and there is no political appetite for 17 supporters to raffle Trump at the moment.
The base of the Republican Party has radicalized to the right, and parliamentarians – who will run for parliamentary elections next year – do not intend to risk losing a large part of the electorate.
Although they are entitled to 4 p.m. to make their case, Trump’s lawyers – knowing the risk of losing the case is low – have chosen to end their exposure in a single day.
After the end of the prosecution and defense presentations, senators entered the phase of sending written questions for the prosecution and defense and, if there is no call for witnesses, as expected, the verdict is expected to be delivered this weekend.
Trump’s presentation of his defense on Friday was closely watched after the performance deemed weak and disorganized on Tuesday, when lawyers were scheduled to defend the unconstitutionality of the trial – and was rejected in that vote, which only required a simple majority.
In that session, only six Republican senators voted with Democrats to continue the trial, a far cry from the 17 dissidents needed to convict Trump, but enough to keep the process going.
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), for example, said he changed his vote and supported constitutionality because the defense had done a “terrible” job, but few believe he will vote for conviction.
In the first three days of the trial, Democrats created a timeline until January 6 to try to prove that Trump spawned the attack on Congress for months on end, inciting supporters without remorse.
The Democratic conclusion is that if Trump is not convicted, he could unleash more violence if he returns to the White House. Condemned, he could lose his political rights and no longer stand for election.