The lead Democratic impeachment manager on Sunday accused President Donald Trump of doing nothing on January 6 to stop his supporters from storming the U.S. Capitol to try to upend his defeat for reelection.
“He was watching it on TV, an insurrection tailgate party,” Congressman Jamie Raskin told CNN.
No date has been set for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate on a single charge that he incited insurrection by urging thousands of his supporters to fight to overturn his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to be inaugurated at noon Wednesday.
Protesters rampaged past authorities into the Capitol building, ransacked some lawmakers’ offices and scuffled with police, mayhem that left five people dead, including one police officer whose death is being investigated as a homicide.
Trump, after several hours of chaos in the Capitol building, urged his supporters to “go home,” but added, "We love you, you’re very special.”
Trump has defended his actions and statements leading up to the attack on the Capitol, saying his speech at the rally before the attack was “totally appropriate.”
Trump castigated what he called “the impeachment hoax” as the "continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt" in U.S. history.
After he was impeached last week by the House, Trump deplored the violence in a video statement, saying “violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement. Making America Great Again has always been about defending the rule of law.”
The trial of Trump, the only U.S. president to be impeached twice, could start soon after Biden’s inauguration, or in the days to follow. If convicted by a two-thirds vote in the politically divided Senate, Trump could be barred, on a simple majority vote, from ever holding public office again.
Trump has yet to pick his legal team to defend him in the Senate trial. Rudy Guiliani, the president’s personal lawyer, is being considered although J. Hogan Gidley, national press secretary for Trump’s campaign, said in a tweet that “President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy.”
Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, called Trump’s actions “the most dangerous crime committed against the United States,” saying that the rioters “came within a hair’s breadth of hanging the vice president,” Mike Pence. When the rioters stormed into the Capitol, Pence was in the initial stages of presiding over the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote that Biden won over Trump.
Pence, to Trump’s anger, had rejected the president’s repeated entreaties to block the certification of Biden’s victory.
In addition, Raskin, who represents the eastern state of Maryland, said, “There was an assassination squad looking for Nancy Pelosi,” the speaker of the House of Representatives who led last week’s 232-197 vote to impeach Trump, in which 10 Republicans joined all House Democrats in voting against Trump.
One Trump supporter, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said protesters had “defiled the seat of government,” but blamed Pelosi for the security lapse.
“How in the hell could that happen?” Graham said on Fox News. “Where was Nancy Pelosi? It’s her job to provide Capitol security.” Several top security officials have resigned in the wake of the violence under threat from lawmakers that they would be fired if they did not quit.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, rebuffed Graham’s contention that she should be held accountable for the rampage of the protesters, dozens of whom have been arrested.
“This disgraceful attempt to shift blame for the mob attack on the Capitol is absurd & pathetic,” Hammill said on Twitter, adding that Graham “need only look in the mirror if he wants to start pointing a finger. He has repeatedly cast doubts on results of a fair election & dangerously fanned flames of rightwing quackery” that Trump had been cheated out of re-election.
Raskin said the trial will focus on Trump’s complicity in the march on the Capitol that followed a rally near the White House where he continued his weekslong, unfounded claims that he had been cheated out of a second term in the White House and urged supporters to walk to the Capitol.
“This was the most terrible crime against our country by a president,” Raskin said.
The second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told CNN that even though Trump’s four-year term will have expired by the time his impeachment trial starts, “he will be held responsible for what happened on January 6.”