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Trump impeachment: Defence team set to present speedy case

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Donald Trump’s defence lawyers are set to present evidence in the US Senate, denying charges he incited insurrection in the Capitol riots of 6 January.

The team has indicated it may take up only four of its 16 hours, and so move the impeachment trial to a speedy end.

Democrats spent two days putting their case, including video footage of the violence and arguing acquittal could see a repeat of the attack on Congress.

Acquittal is the likely verdict though, as most Republicans remain unmoved.

A two-thirds majority is required to convict Donald Trump in the evenly split 100-seat Senate.

At least 17 members of Mr Trump’s party would need to vote against him and although six have shown some movement that way, none of the others have, with many staunchly rejecting the accusation.

Donald Trump will not appear and testify in his defence on Friday.

Donald Trump’s defence lawyers are set to present evidence in the US Senate, denying charges he incited insurrection in the Capitol riots of 6 January.

The team has indicated it may take up only four of its 16 hours, and so move the impeachment trial to a speedy end.

Democrats spent two days putting their case, including video footage of the violence and arguing acquittal could see a repeat of the attack on Congress.

Acquittal is the likely verdict though, as most Republicans remain unmoved.

A two-thirds majority is required to convict Donald Trump in the evenly split 100-seat Senate.

At least 17 members of Mr Trump’s party would need to vote against him and although six have shown some movement that way, none of the others have, with many staunchly rejecting the accusation.

Donald Trump will not appear and testify in his defence on Friday.

It hasn’t given any specific details but there are obvious lines of defence that have already been suggested.

The first will be simply freedom of speech. The Democrats tried to head that off on Thursday by arguing that this did not protect Mr Trump if his comments to supporters on 6 January and before incited them to attack Congress.

His lawyers will probably argue that there was no overt call for violence in Mr Trump’s remarks and that he could not be held responsible for the rioters’ actions.

The defence will also paint the impeachment as a partisan Democratic action motivated by political gain.

In their comments so far they have accused the Democrats of “tremendous hypocrisy”, with lawyer David Schoen saying their case lacked any real evidence. He said the video presentation-based evidence was like making “movies” and an “entertainment package”.

The Democrats have themselves asked the defence to answer why Mr Trump did not act quickly to stop the attack, send police reinforcements or later condemn the riots.

But it appears unlikely the defence will spend much time on this.

Its main plank may well be whether a former president should be impeached at all.

The Senate did vote on Tuesday to reject the argument that an ex-president should not be impeached, but many Republican senators still back it.

Senator Roy Blunt told the New York Times: “I get to cast my vote, and my view is that you can’t impeach a former president. And if the former president did things that were illegal, there is a process to go through for that.”

Senator Marco Rubio echoed this, saying impeaching a former president was not appropriate.

One thing the defence team will want to do is to avoid the sometimes baffling statement it gave to Congress earlier in the trial.

Lawyer Bruce Castor’s meandering 48-minute address was roundly criticised by Mr Trump’s opponents and supporters alike, and reportedly by the ex-president himself.

After the defence case, senators will then have up to four hours to present written questions to the legal teams.

That will be followed by a debate and vote over whether to allow witnesses – if either side wants them. If they do not, or if the vote fails, both sides will make brief closing arguments followed by the final vote on Mr Trump’s fate.

This could wrap up as early as Saturday night or by Monday at the latest – less than a week from start to finish.

Senators on both sides have indicated this is likely.

BBC

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