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With a focus on intent, Democrats wrap up their case in Trump’s impeachment trial

Thursday was the second and final day for the House of Representatives to make their case against former President Trump for inciting an assault on the U.S. Capitol. Senators serving as the jury at his impeachment trial heard that the mob on Jan. 6 had no doubt about why they were there. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss the day's events.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This has been the second and final day for the House of Representatives to make their case against former President Trump, that he incited an assault on the United States Capitol.

    Senators serving as the jury at his impeachment trial heard that the mob on January 6 had no doubt about why they were there.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, House Democrats, acting as prosecutors, zeroed in on the argument that, on January 6, rioters believed Donald Trump wanted them to invade the U.S. Capitol. Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette:

  • Rep. Diana DeGette:

    Many of them actually posed for pictures, bragging about it on social media, and they tagged Mr. Trump in tweets.

    Folks, this was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, and so they actually believed they would face no punishment.

  • Jennifer Ryan:

    I thought I was following my president. I thought I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So, I was doing what he asked us to do.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin said the armed siege at the Michigan state capitol last April was proof that the former president knew the power of his words.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin:

    This Trump-inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you, Confederate Battle Flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo army gear, just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on January 6. The siege of the Michigan Statehouse was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S. Capitol that Trump incited on January 6.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And Raskin had this warning for senators, who will decide President Trump's guilt or innocence and whether to bar him from running again.

  • Jamie Raskin:

    President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So, if he gets back into office and it happens again, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Representative Ted Lieu of California also pointed to the former president's lack of any public remorse over the violence.

  • Rep. Ted Lieu:

    On insurrection day, January 6, President Trump did not once condemn the attack, not even once.

    Even when he finally asked the violent extremists to go home, which was three hours after the attack began, he sends this video, and he ends it with: "You're very special. We love you."

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Moreover, Diana DeGette said the former president's response has led to other serious consequences.

  • Rep. Diana Degette:

    Look at the price we have paid, the price that we're still paying. It's not just dollars and cents. This Capitol has become a fortress, as state capitols have all across the country.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Prosecutors also argued that harm has been done to Congress and the democratic process.

  • Rep. David Cicilline:

    This mob was trying to overthrow our government, and they came perilously close to reaching the first three people in line to the presidency. It wasn't just the vice president and the speaker. Rioters were prepared to attack any member of Congress they found.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And they spoke of the trauma that remains for those who witnessed that day firsthand.

  • David Cicilline:

    For many of the Black and brown staff, the trauma was made worse by the many painful symbols of hate that were on full display that day.

    One member of the janitorial staff reflected how terrible he felt when he had to clean up feces that had been smeared on the wall, blood of a rioter who had died, broken glass and other objects strewn all over the floor. He said: "I felt bad. I felt degraded."

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island also requested senators to remember all the police who were seriously injured trying to protect the Capitol.

  • David Cicilline:

    Injuries to the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department include concussions, irritated lungs, serious injuries caused by repeated blows from bats, poles, and clubs.

    Capitol Police officers also sustained injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The House managers yesterday had already laid out a detailed timeline of the Capitol insurrection. It included chilling new video evidence from inside the siege.

    It captured everything from the moment the angry mob stormed the building to scenes of Vice President Pence and lawmakers being evacuated to safety just feet from the angry mob.

    But it's still unclear if that powerful evidence has swayed any Republicans to vote to convict the former president.

    At the White House this morning, President Biden weighed in on the trial during an Oval Office event.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I think the Senate has a very important job to complete. And I think — my guess is, some minds may have been changed, but I don't know.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Starting tomorrow, President Trump's defense team will have up to 16 hours to make their case. But they said today they expect to wrap up their arguments by tomorrow night.

    In that case, the vote, guilty or not guilty, could come on Saturday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins us now from the Capitol, along with our Lisa Desjardins.

    So, hello to you.

    Lisa, I want to come to you first.

    You were there. You were both intently paying attention to this. What stood out to you? And what did you see in the senators' reactions?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's clear that senators were more tired today.

    But, Judy, they were still listening, both parties listening very carefully.

    And I want to talk about what Democrats feel they did today. Democrats feel very strongly about their case. They feel they made their case. Exiting the chamber, Representative Madeleine Dean said that: "We have made our case."

    This is what they did today on two levels. The emotional level is something that we have all been talking about, the video, the impact of that video. But there were a lot of important legal arguments that Democrats are making today, high among them about the president's intent.

    They took the timeline today and yesterday of the president's actions to try and show his actions before January 6, his words before January 6. And then, on January 6, his lack of getting involved, his lack of stopping the mob shows the president's intent to allow and actually help foment that riot. That's a legal argument that they have been making today.

    Also, I want to say that their case is so strong that Senate Democrats are telling me they don't think any witnesses are needed. We will see if House Democrats make that decision or not. But that seems to be some momentum from Senate Democrats.

    One other piece of this Democratic case that was noteworthy to me today, Judy, was words by Ted Lieu, the House manager. He said he's not worried about President Trump running again. He's worried about President Trump running again and losing. That's not about intent. That's about the impact of this trial and the danger that Democrats are trying to tell Republicans exists if they do not convict and prevent present Trump from running again.

    One Republican, Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, told me he thought that was very powerful, that he and other Republicans wrote that down, that statement. He still seems unconvinced. But that was one thing he was chewing on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Really, really interesting.

    And to Yamiche.

    We know we're going to hear tomorrow from President Trump's defense team. You have been speaking with them. What would you say their mind-set is after seeing the House presentation and then seeing the Senate reaction?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, despite the powerful presentation put on by House impeachment managers, President Trump's lawyers, former President Trump's lawyers feel very confident that the president will, in fact, be acquitted. They feel as though this is really something that they knew from the very beginning.

    I just spoke to two of the president's lawyers, Bruce Castor, who told me, again, very confident when I asked him how confident he felt. David Schoen, another attorney who felt so confident that he was doing TV hits during the trial, said that President Trump is upbeat.

    He also said that, in fact, this should really have been over before it was started. He also said he's only going to take about three hours, the Trump impeachment team, the Trump defense team, tomorrow to make their case, feeling as though that they don't have to use the 16 hours that they are allotted.

    Now, why do they feel so confident? It's because the senators that I talk to today and that Lisa has been chasing along with me, they are not really changing their minds if they're Republicans. I spoke to Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. They all told me the same thing, which is that they feel like, yes, House impeachment manners are showing powerful video, but that that is not tying that these attacks, the siege on the Capitol, directly to President Trump.

    They're saying instead that this is a political activity, this is political theater, and not actually proving their point.

    Interestingly, though, Tommy Tuberville, the senator who President Trump called during the riot to try to slow down the vote certification, he told me that he is undecided. He said that he's going to look. He has never been a jury before, he said.

    That being said, there's a real feeling, though, that Tommy Tuberville will still vote to acquit the president. And one other big thing. Even if the president is acquitted, what I'm hearing from Democrats also is that they feel like their audience is beyond the Senate chamber.

    Sitting in there today, I can tell you that they were really making the case that white supremacy and systemic racism, that that is the danger that they are fighting as they are putting on this impeachment trial.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, three days down and one or more — one and more to go.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

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