Remember when former President Trump gave a speech before a crowd of his aggro supporters on January 6 and told them that he “won this election... by a landslide” and if they don’t “fight like hell” they won’t “have a country anymore”? What about the bit of the speech when he said they were going to “stop the steal” and are “going to the Capitol”? Or what happened after the speech, when hundreds of pro-Trump insurrectionists violently descended upon the Capitol to disrupt the count of the electoral votes that officiate Joe Biden’s election victory, resulting in a clusterfuck of a riot that left five people dead? Yeah, well, President Trump’s lawyers are insisting he didn’t incite shit!
On Monday, the eve of Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump’s legal team submitted a 78-page brief dismissing the case against him as partisan “political theater.”
From the New York Times:
... the lawyers asserted that Mr. Trump’s speech just before the attack “did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions,” and that he deserved no blame for the conduct of a “small group of criminals” who rioted at the Capitol on Jan 6. after he had urged them to “fight like hell” against his election loss. They also insisted that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try him at all because he was now a private citizen, calling such an effort “patently ridiculous.”
“This impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice,” wrote the lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr., David I. Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen. “Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a few hundred people.”
Though dense, the legal briefing is worth taking a look at, if only to see the myriad of random typos laced into this flop of an argument.
Check out this nugget, accusing House Democrats of operating through double standards with regards to inciting violence:
It is truly incredible that House Democratic leadership is feigning horror at the President’s choices of words considering some of their own members recent public comments. For example, in 2018, Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference in the Capitol Visitor Center. In reference to a policy she disagreed with, the most powerful Democrat in the Country said: “I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country. Maybe there will be.” Was she advocating violence? Sending a silent dog whistle to radical protesters? Should she be held accountable for her extremist rhetoric and removed from office?
As political violence grew last summer, Representative Ayana Pressley went on national TV and said that “there needs to be unrest in the streets.” Should we hold her liable to pay for all of the businesses that were destroyed when people heeded her call and removed from office?
In perhaps the most egregious call for physical confrontation, Rep Maxine Waters told a crowd at a rally that they should accost members of the government that they do not like.
For those who would say that those quotes must be understood in their greater context, i.e., that they were clearly meant to be political speech- we say exactly. The truth is that both the Mr. Trump’s speech and these comments are acceptable political free speech; it is the double standard at play here that is entirely unacceptable, and Mr.Trump ask that the Senate reject it in no uncertain terms.
First of all, Ayanna Pressley’s name was spelled wrong. Putting that aside, perhaps if people took to the streets and acted upon the words of Pelosi, Pressley, and Waters, Trump’s lawyers might have a cogent argument. But that’s not what happened. What did happen is that a massive crowd of Trump die-hards, who believe every word out of his mouth is gospel, decided they must do whatever they could to prevent Biden from becoming president after their God-King actively encouraged them to do just that. (He even said he would join them!)
Of course, he didn’t join the march. But it’s hard to suggest the link is hyperbole given the hold Trump has on his supporters, a hold Trump himself has acknowledged. Back in 2016, Trump said he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” This would be an exaggeration coming from literally anybody else than a man who quite literally had a small army of armed creeps ready to riot and, apparently, kill on his behalf.
While many questions remain about the constitutionality of impeaching Trump now that he is a private citizen, that line of argument has more standing than the idea that Trump, the most powerful man in the world on January 6, didn’t have any significant influence on the behavior of his followers.
But I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a person who knows what words mean.