Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 3

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 6:00 PM ET, Thu February 11, 2021
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5:06 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Key takeaways from Day 3 of Trump's impeachment trial

Analysis by CNN's Chris Cillizza

Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, during day three of the Senate impeachment trial, February 11, 2021.
Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, during day three of the Senate impeachment trial, February 11, 2021. Sketches by Bill Hennessy

The House impeachment managers wrapped up their case for the conviction of Donald Trump for inciting the US Capitol riot on Jan. 6, centering their argument on connecting the former President's words in advance of the riot and the actions taken by his supporters on that day.

In case you missed it, here are some of the key takeaways from the trial today:

  • The rioters' statements are damning: The clear focus of the impeachment managers was to provide a clear link between Trump's words and the actions of the violent mob that stormed the Capitol. And time and time again, the best proof of that link was the rioters themselves. In interviews, in videos, in arrest records the same theme just kept emerging: They believed they were acting on the wishes (and orders) of the President of the United States. The lingering image (and sound) for me from Thursday's proceedings was a protester outside the Capitol shouting, "We were invited by the President of the United States" over and over unto a bullhorn. "They came here because the President instructed them to do so," said House impeachment manager Rep. Diana Degette.
  • Trump as a future threat: One of the most consistent arguments you hear from Republican senators opposed to the impeachment trial amounts to this: What's the point in removing Trump from office? He's already been removed from office by the voters! The point, as House impeachment managers Jamie Raskin and Ted Lieu argued today, is that if Trump is not convicted and banned from seeking future federal office (a vote that would take only a simple majority of senators), there's absolutely no reason to think that what happened in January couldn't be repeated. "I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years," said Lieu. "I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again."
  • Michigan as a test run: On April 30, 2020, a crowd of Trump supporters crowded into the Michigan state Capitol to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state-of-emergency order due with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. (That came less than two weeks after Trump had tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN.") "This was a huge win," the organizer of the Michigan protest told CNN at the time. Then, in early October, 13 men were arrested for an act of domestic terrorism — a plot to kidnap Whitmer. Michigan was "a preview of the coming insurrection," said Raskin. The connection between the events in Michigan and those at the Capitol on Jan. 6 (and Trump's initial response to both) were used by the impeachment managers to suggest that Trump had not only primed the pump for what happened on Jan. 6, but that he and his supporters had already conducted what amounted to a dry run of what we saw play out at the Capitol on January 6. As Raskin put it: "January 6 was a culmination of Trump tactics, not an aberration from them."

4:52 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Trump was playing golf today, while his second impeachment trial was underway

From CNN's Pete Morris and Carlos Martinelli 

Former President Trump was seen playing golf Thursday during the third day of his second impeachment trial.

Trump was spotted by CNN photojournalists just before 3:30 p.m. ET at Trump National Golf Corse in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

He left the golf course at 4:20 p.m ET in a black SUV. 

5:24 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

House impeachment managers finish making their case to convict Trump. Here's what comes next.

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins and Clare Foran

Senate TV
Senate TV

The House impeachment managers have finalized presenting their case against former President Trump in the Senate trial. The Senate has adjourned until noon ET tomorrow.

"We humbly, humbly, ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of. Because if you don't, if we pretend this didn't happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who's to say it won't happen again?" House impeachment manager Joe Neguse said in his closing remarks.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin thanked the members of the Senate for the "close attention and seriousness of purpose" they demonstrated during their presentations.

"We've made our very best effort to set forth every single relevant fact that we know in the most objective and honest light. We trust, we hope, that the defense will understand the constitutional gravity and solemnity of this trial by focusing like a laser beam on the facts and not return to the constitutional argument that's already been decided by the Senate," Raskin said in his closing remarks.

"Senators, America, we need to exercise our common sense about what happened. Let's not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyers' theories here. Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country," Raskin urged his colleagues. 

During their final day of presentations, the managers charged that the insurrectionists carried out their attack on the US Capitol on behalf of Trump, and they used the insurrectionists' own words before and during the attack to show that they believed they were acting at Trump's direction.

What comes next: Trump's defense team will now have the opportunity to argue their case against conviction for up to 16 hours over two days.

Senators will then have time to ask questions of the two legal teams after the initial days of arguments conclude. After the Q&A, the two legal teams will debate the need to subpoena witnesses and documents. The Senate will vote and a majority will be required in order to carry forward with these subpoenas.

Then there will be up to four hours of closing arguments and an unspecified amount of time for senators to deliberate. Then a vote on the article of impeachment.

CNN's Zachary B. Wolf contributed reporting to this post.

4:14 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Here are Democrats' three key arguments against Trump

Senate TV
Senate TV

House impeachment manager Joe Neguse detailed the case against former President Trump and why he thinks Trump committed an impeachable offense.

In his closing arguments, he laid out three key questions that impeachment managers believe are at the core of their arguments against Trump:

  1. "Was violence foreseeable?"
  2. "Did he encourage violence?"
  3. "And did he act willfully?"

Neguse went on to say the answer to those questions must be yes.

He ended his remarks with a final plea to senators.

"We humbly, humbly, ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of. Because if you don't, if we pretend this didn't happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who's to say it won't happen again?" he said.
4:42 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

"The risk of violence was foreseeable," impeachment manager says

Senate TV
Senate TV

Impeachment manager Joe Neguse made the argument that violence was both predictable and foreseeable at the Jan. 6 rally before the Capitol riot.

"Was it foreseeable that the violence would erupt on January 6th if President Trump lit a spark? Was it predictable that the crowd at the 'Save America rally' was poised on a hair trigger for violence that they would fight literally if provoked to do so? Of course it was. When President Trump stood up to that podium on January 6th, he knew that many in that crowd were inflamed, were armed, were ready for violence. It was an explosive situation. And he knew it," Neguse said. 

Using a combination of tweets, photos and videos, he explained how Trump's inflammatory rhetoric was part of an intentional pattern used by Trump to provoke his supporters.

"You’ve seen it, the images, the videos, the articles, and the pattern which show that the violence on that terrible day was entirely foreseeable. We’ve showed you how this all began with the big lie, the claim that the election was rigged and that President Trump and his supporters were the victims of a massive fraud, a massive conspiracy to rip away their votes. We’ve showed you how President Trump spread that lie and how over the course of months with his support and encouragement, it inflamed part of his base, resulting in death threats, real-world violence, and increasingly extreme calls to stop the steal. We established that after he lost the election, the President was willing to do just about anything to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. That he tried everything he could do to stop it," Neguse said.

He listed numerous examples of how Trump tried to pressure individuals to overturn the election results and how he continued to rally his base around the false idea that the election was stolen.

"There can be no doubt that the risk of violence was foreseeable," Neguse said. "And what did he do in the days leading up to the rally? Did he calm the situation? Ask yourself. I mean, did he call for peace? No. He didn’t do that. He spread his big lie more. The most dangerous lie, as I mentioned, that Americans’ votes were being stolen and the final act of theft would occur here in the Capitol. And then he assembled all of those supporters. He invited them to an organized event on a specific day, at a specific time, matched perfectly to coincide with the joint session of Congress to coincide with the 'steal' that he had told them to stop. By any and all means. Again, he was told by law enforcement and all over the news that these people were armed and ready for real violence. He knew it. I mean, he knew it perfectly well. That he had created this powder keg at his rally. He knew just how combustible that situation was. He knew there were people before him who had prepared, who are armed and armored. He knew they would jump to violence at any signal, at any sign, from him that he needed them to fight. That he needed them to 'stop the steal.' And we all know what happened next. Second question. Did he encourage the violence? Standing in that powder keg, did he light a match? Everyone knows the answer to that question." 

Neguse argued that Trump's rhetoric not only incited the Capitol riot, but said it threatened national security and said a failure to convict the former President would set a precedent that "inciting violence is OK."

Watch the moment:

4:11 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Raskin outlines what impeachment is — and what it is not 

Senate TV
Senate TV

As the House impeachment managers prepare to finalize their arguments before the Senate, lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin laid out what impeachment is — and what it is not — in their case against former President Trump.

"I hope we all can agree today that if a president does incite a violent insurrection against the government, he can be impeached for it. I hope we all can agree that that is a constitutional crime," Raskin said.

The article of impeachment passed by the House in January reads, in part: "Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." 

Raskin went on to argue that despite the claims of Trump's defense team, the question of the case against Trump is not whether he committed a crime under the federal code, DC law or a law of a state.

"Impeachment does not result in criminal penalties, as we keep emphasizing. No one spends a day in jail. There are not even criminal or civil fines," Raskin said.

He continued:

"Centuries of history, not to mention the constitutional text, structure, and original intent and understanding, all confirm the teaching of James Wilson, another framer, who wrote that impeachments and offenses come not within the sphere of ordinary jurisprudence. Simply put, impeachment was created for a purpose separate and distinct from criminal punishment. It was created to prevent and deter elected officials who swear an oath to represent America, but then commit dangerous offenses against our republic. That's a constitutional crime," Raskin said.

"And, senators, what greater offense could one commit than to incite a violent insurrection at our seat of government during the peaceful transfer of power?," Raskin said.

Trump's defense team will have an opportunity to present their case starting tomorrow.

Hear Rep. Jamie Raskin:

3:32 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Defense attorneys say there's no "direct" link between actions of rioters and Trump

From CNN's Manu Raju

 Members of former President Donald Trumps defense team, David Schoen, center left, Michael van der Veen, center, and Bruce Castor, center right, arrive at the Capitol before the start of day three of the impeachment trial in the Senate on Thursday, February 11.
 Members of former President Donald Trumps defense team, David Schoen, center left, Michael van der Veen, center, and Bruce Castor, center right, arrive at the Capitol before the start of day three of the impeachment trial in the Senate on Thursday, February 11. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Ahead of their presentation tomorrow, former President Trump's defense attorneys are arguing that — despite the evidence presented at trial — there's no "direct" link between the actions of the insurrectionists and Trump himself.

The Trump team appears poised to argue before the Senate that no evidence exists where Trump explicitly commands a rioter to go to the Capitol and commit acts of violence.

That's what the two main attorneys, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, clearly signaled to CNN in interviews in the Capitol this afternoon.

Asked about evidence showing insurrectionists carrying out Trump's orders, Castor said: "Did someone say that they heard directly from President Trump to do that?"

Pressed about the evidence in trial where insurrections said they were carrying out Trump's order, Castor said: "I don't believe that's what happened, no."

Schoen made a similar case.

"They haven't in any way tied it to Donald Trump," Schoen said when asked about Democrats' presenting video evidence of rioters citing Trump's demands as a reason for their actions. "And I think it's offensive quite frankly, in reference to the healing process, to continue to show the tragedy that happened here that Donald Trump has condemned, and I think it's with the American people now, frankly."

3:48 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

"The world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are," Rep. Castro says  

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Senate TV
Senate TV

During today's proceedings, House impeachment managers are arguing that the results of former President Trump's second trial will send a signal likely felt around the globe.

"What message will we send the rest of the world?" asked House impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro during his presentation on the Senate floor.

Pointing to various media reports, Castro noted that adversaries of the US — including China and Iran — have latched on to the events of Jan. 6, citing them as an example of vulnerability.

"For America's adversaries, there was no greater proof of the fallibility of Western democracy than the site of the US Capitol shrouded in smoke and besieged by a mob whipped up by their unwillingly outgoing president," Castro read from a news headline.

US allies, meanwhile, have shown support for America amid the turmoil, placing even greater importance on the result of Trump's second impeachment trial.

"Following the insurrection on January 6th, even our allies are speaking up," said Castro, pointing to our neighbors to the north.

"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, 'what we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters incited by the current president and other politicians,'" read Castro, continuing Trudeau's statement:

"'As shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly saddening as that event remains, we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbor.'"

Castro concluded his message on global perspective by commenting further on the lifeblood and framework of American democracy.

"The world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are," Castro said. "Because other countries have known chaos, our Constitution has helped keep order in America. This is why we have a constitution. We must stand up for the rule of law because the rule of law doesn't just stand up by itself."

"This trial is an opportunity to respond and to send a message back to the world. I say this as somebody who loves my country, our country, just as all of you do," Castro continued, speaking to the senators in the room.

Watch the moment:

3:17 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Trump defense team eyes shortening Senate presentation to as little as 3 hours, source says

From CNN's Pamela Brown

A source close to former President Trump's legal team says the defense is eyeing shortening their presentation and possibly making it as short as three hours in an effort to make it "short, tight and direct." 

The team plans to include video presentations showing Democratic leaders using similar language to Trump, including one clip of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outside the US Supreme Court, saying "I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions," referring to Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. 

Although Schumer's words were not followed with violence against the justices, and his supporters did not storm the Capitol, the legal team plans to argue hypocrisy and say Trump never intended for the protesters at the "Stop the Steal" march to take over the Capitol building.