By Alexander Schott
On Jan. 6, 2021, in the Eclipse in the National Mall, former President Donald Trump supporters organized a “Save America” rally in which supporters gathered to hear speeches from Donald Trump; Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer; family members of Donald Trump, like Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; and leaders of many conservative groups. On the same date, the House of Representatives were planned to meet to count the electoral ballots and ultimately certify Joe Biden as the victor in the presidential race.
Throughout the speeches at the rally, multiple speakers, including Donald Trump, were alleged to have used language that incited the riot at the capital that was next to come. Starting with some of the secondary speakers at the rally, representative Madison Cawthorne (R-NC 11th District) said, “ … this crowd has some fight.” Only much later did he urge protesters to “Peacefully protest ONLY” (BPR). Amy Kremer, a member of the Tea Party movement, said, “It is up to you and I to save this Republic. We are not going to back down, are we? Keep up the fight!” (Reuters). Donald Trump Jr. said, “And it should be a message to all the Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight!” From 11:59 a.m. to 1:12 p.m., Donald Trump gave his speech at the rally, and the following are some examples of alleged incitement:
- “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
- “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen.”
- “We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s capital for one very very basic and simple reason: to save our democracy.”
- “We’re going to walk down. … We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.”
- “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the Electors who have been lawfully slated.”
[Video File Here] – Viewer discretion is advised. This video shows the crowd’s reaction to Donald Trump’s speech. People are chanting, “Storm the Capitol!” and “Invade the Capitol building!” and “Fight!” and “Invade the Capitol right now!” This is a clip from a video by Justin Hendrix.
Donald Trump’s alleged incitement was preceded by many futile attempts by Trump’s team to overturn the election results. Some of the most discussed are Trump’s conversations with state officials. On Jan. 2, 2021, Donald Trump held a one-hour long conference call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an attempt to change the state’s election totals. Trump said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” Raffendsperger stood his ground in the call saying, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.” This phone call is one of many conversations Donald Trump had with state officials in swing states across the country.
Trump’s alleged incitement on Jan. 6, coupled with Trump’s numerous explicit requests with state officials to overturn election results, paved a path for impeachment. On Jan. 11, 2021, an article of impeachment was introduced by representative David Cicilline (D-RI 1st District) with 217 co-sponsors. In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th District) told Pence to assume the role of Acting President by invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment; otherwise, the House of Representatives would start impeachment proceedings. Pence declined the request, arguing it would not be constitutional because the amendment was designed for protection against presidential disability; he said, “I do not believe that such a course is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution.”
[Full Letter Here] – This document is the entire letter by now former Vice President Mike Pence to speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to her request to invoke the 25th Amendment.
On Jan. 13 the House voted on the articles of impeachment with 232 yeas, 197 nays, and 4 not voting. Of the 232 yeas, 10 were republican. These results approved the articles of impeachment. Nancy Pelosi named representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8th District), a former constitutional law professor at American University; representative Ted Lieu (D-CA 33rd District), a former military prosecutor; representative David Cicilline (D-RI 1st District), a former public defender; representative Diana DeGette (D-CO 1st District), a former civil rights lawyer; representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX 20th District), a private practice lawyer; representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th District), a former prosecutor in California; representative Joe Neguse (D-CO 2nd District), a private practice lawyer; representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA 4th District), a private practice lawyer; and non-voting representative Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands’ at-large district), a private practice lawyer as House managers who act as prosecutors in the Senate conviction trail.
On Feb. 9, 2021, the impeachment trial began with Trump’s lawyers as the defense (Michael van der Veen, William J. Brennan, David Schoen, and Bruce Castor), the House managers as prosecutors, members of the Senate as the jury, and President pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as the presiding officer. Prior to the trial beginning, Trump was invited by representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8th District), a House manager, to be a witness in the trial, but Trump’s lawyers declined. During the pre-trial phase, senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called a vote to dismiss the impeachment charge on the basis that impeaching a former President is unconstitutional. The vote was beaten 55–45, with five republicans voting against. The prosecution built their case on Trump, knowing of the attack in advance and understanding the impact of his “Save America” rally speech and his words on Twitter on the rioters. They showed similarities in Trump’s statements and remarks alongside video evidence of the attack on the Capitol, attempting to prove incitement. The defense highlighted technicalities to argue that the trial was not legal. At the time the trial took place, Donald Trump was no longer President, which the defense used to say the Senate has no jurisdiction to judge impeachment. In addition, they denied Trump incited violence because his disproven claims that the election “was stolen” are protected under the 1st Amendment.
On Feb. 13, 2021, Donald Trump was acquitted with 57 guilty votes and 43 not guilty votes. A conviction would have required 67 guilty votes. Former President Donald Trump is the first President to be impeached twice and this second impeachment set a record for having the most pro-impeachment votes coming from the party of the President being impeached.