Donald Trump’s lawyers said on Friday Democrats had provided no evidence the former president incited last month’s deadly U.S. Capitol riot and had used his second impeachment trial to settle political scores.
Trump is on trial in the U.S. Senate on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters who stormed the seat of Congress in Washington to stop lawmakers from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory, resulting in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
Trump’s lawyers argued that his remarks, including a fiery speech that day urging supporters to “fight like hell” to stop the certification, were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures the right to free speech.
“To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie,” said Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers.
The Senate wrapped up its session at 6:29 p.m. A final up-or-down vote to convict could come as soon as Saturday.
In arguments this week, Democratic members of the House of Representatives showed videos and shared tweets they said made clear Trump had set the stage for the violence by falsely claiming the election results were fraudulent and egging on his supporters with his rhetoric long before Jan. 6.
They said he summoned the mob to Washington, gave the crowd its marching orders and did nothing to stop the violence as it played out on television. His one request to act peacefully did not absolve him, they said.
“You rob the bank, and on the way out the door you yell, ‘Respect private property!’ That’s not a defense to robbing the bank,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin.
The Democrats are unlikely to gain a conviction, as few Republican senators have come out against Trump, who remains popular among Republican voters.
Trump’s team played a roughly 10-minute video showing prominent Democrats using the word “fight” in political speeches.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Trump lawyer David Schoen said, addressing Democrats. “It’s a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy.”
Trump’s defense team also portrayed the impeachment trial as little more than the result of a political witch hunt by Democrats who had been trying to get Trump for four years.
Senators sought to confirm whether Trump knew Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification, was endangered by the Capitol attack when he sent a Twitter message criticizing him.
Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville said he had told Trump over the phone that Pence had already been evacuated from the Senate for his safety.
Trump’s lawyers gave conflicting answers.
“I’m sure Trump was concerned,” van der Veen said.
The defense case followed two days of video presentations by the nine House Democrats serving as prosecutors.
They showed videos of the Republican former president cheering violence at his rallies, repeating his election fraud claims and urging his supporters to gather in Washington on Jan. 6 for a rally he said would be “wild.”