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How House Impeachment Managers Concluded Their Presentation Against Trump

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

House Democrats have concluded their arguments in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

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TED LIEU: Impeachment, conviction and disqualification is not just about the past. It's about the future. It's making sure that no future official, no future president does the same exact thing President Trump does.

CORNISH: Congressman Ted Lieu, one of the House impeachment managers, urged senators to vote to convict Trump for his role in the violence on January 6 even though Trump is no longer in office. It was the Democrats' second and final day of arguments. And evidence, they say, shows the harm and damage Trump's words had on that day and well before it. Joining us now is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. And, Kelsey, I know you have been watching this day. Give us a sense of the overall theme from Democrats.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Well, they really did cover a lot of ground. But the kind of mantra and the takeaway of the day that was repeated over and over was that impeachment is about preventing another attack, not punishing former President Trump. Here's how David Cicilline, one of the House impeachment managers, described it.

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DAVID CICILLINE: We have to prevent every president today, tomorrow or any time in the future from believing that this conduct is acceptable.

SNELL: They talked about this idea in just about every segment of their argument today. They repeated that impeachment was the only way to ensure that another attack like this doesn't happen. Ted Lieu of California, who we already heard, argued that impeachment is necessary and specifically impeachment is necessary because Trump has shown no remorse.

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LIEU: You know, I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose because he can do this again.

SNELL: He was essentially arguing that the fear is that Trump would contest another election, that further violence would happen if another incident like this occurred. We saw a lot of video just like we saw yesterday, just it wasn't quite as graphic, not quite as dramatic. But it was still quite violent and quite profane.

CORNISH: Republicans - many Republicans are still resistant to the idea that Trump was personally responsible for inciting the actions of the rioters. How did Democrats try to address that in their arguments?

SNELL: They played a montage of times that they say Trump's words successfully incited his followers before the riot in the capital. Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin called it a pattern of practice.

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JAMIE RASKIN: January 6 was a culmination of the president's actions, not an aberration from them. The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode so far.

SNELL: So part of that was managers stepped back further than just the immediate time frame around the election and the inauguration. They tried to connect the siege in the Capitol - at the U.S. Capitol to what happened in the Michigan Capitol. They called that a dress rehearsal, and they connected it to extremist and racist groups in Charlottesville. We saw a lot more testimony about rioters personally saying that they stormed the Capitol because they believed Trump told them to do it. They - the impeachment managers basically said the incitement is clear because the rioters admitted it on tape.

CORNISH: One argument we heard from Trump's attorneys earlier this week was that the former president's comments were all protected political speech. How did Democrats try and address that?

SNELL: Really, much of their closing was a prebuttal of that exact argument. You know, the manager said Trump is not just some guy on the street expressing unpopular political ideas, which is what political speech - when they discussed First Amendment protections, Democrats said it should be protecting that. Joe Neguse said the Senate would be telling future presidents that inciting a murderous riot is constitutionally protected and a way to respond to losing an election. He said Trump stood in the middle of a powder keg he created, and his speech before the crowd assembled on the 6 was more than just a speech.

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JOE NEGUSE: Before a crowd filled with people that were poised for violence at his signal, he struck a match. And he aimed it straight at this building.

CORNISH: Yesterday Democrats were appealing to senators as witnesses who actually experienced the day of the attack rather than just as jurors. How did they approach today?

SNELL: You know, that still came up quite a lot. They brought it up again and again how any one of the people in that room could have been killed by this mob. They talked about rioters calling for blood to stream from the Capitol. They said it wasn't just about targeting Democrats. They said rioters themselves wanted to kill Vice President Pence. They said they would have killed any lawmaker they could find. And Democrats also talked about the harm to police officers and staff as evidence that this wasn't just about targeting Democrats or just about Republicans. It was about more than that.

CORNISH: And who will we hear from tomorrow?

SNELL: We're going to be hearing from Trump's lawyers. We've already had some preview of that. David Schoen, one of his attorneys, was on Fox News saying that Democrats have ignored the part of the speech on January 6 where Trump called for peaceful protest. Even though Democrats did sort of acknowledge that, he said the videos Democrats played take things out of context. We'll be hearing a lot about that.

CORNISH: That's NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

Thank you for your reporting.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.