Donald Trump’s lawyers at his impeachment trial have accused Democrats of a double standard for prosecuting him on a charge of inciting the deadly US Capitol riot last month after using combative language themselves.
Trump is on trial in the Senate after a fiery speech to his supporters before the Jan. 6 attack in which he repeated his false claims that his Nov. 3 election defeat was due to fraud and urged them to “fight like hell” before hundreds stormed the building, leaving five dead including a police officer.
“This unprecedented effort is not about Democrats opposing political violence,” said Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen.
“It is about Democrats trying to disqualify their political opposition. It is constitutional cancel culture.”
Trump’s team played a roughly 10-minute video showing prominent Democrats including Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other party officials 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.”
The defense case followed two days of presentations by the nine House of Representatives 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, when Congress met to formally certify President Joe Biden’s election victory, for a rally he said would be “wild.”
Van der Veen said there was a double standard at the heart of the prosecution’s case, arguing that some Democrats had “encouraged and endorsed” the violence that erupted at some anti-racism protests across the United States last summer without facing any legal consequences.
“They have clearly demonstrated that their opposition to mobs and their view of using the National Guard depends upon their political views,” said van der Veen, a last-minute addition to the defense team who sued Trump in August in a lawsuit that accused him of making repeated claims about fraud in mail-in voting without evidence.
Trump’s lawyers also argued that his remarks were protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which ensures the right to free speech.