As the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump moved forward on Wednesday, two Black lawmakers made their cases against him. They charge that his rhetoric which claims he won the 2020 election and speeches he gave on Jan. 6 incited the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, which led to the deaths of five people.
Among the legislators making their case at the trial is Rep. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado. Of the nine impeachment managers, they are the only two that are Black.
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Plaskett, who is the first non-voting delegate to ever serve as a House impeachment manager (the Virgin Islands is one of six non-voting U.S. locations with congressional representation), recalled that the Senate was in the process of voting to certify the votes of the electoral college when the event occurred.
“President Trump put a target on their backs, and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down,” said Plaskett, the only Black woman arguing at the trial. She noted that she was also a House staffer on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists attacked New York and Washington D.C., killing thousands. One of the planes used in the attack, United Airlines Flight 93, which may have been intended for the Capitol building instead, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania by passengers and crew on board the aircraft.
"I thank them every day for saving my life and the life of so many others. Those Americans sacrificed their lives for love of country, honor, duty, all the things that America means. The Capitol stands because of people like that," she said. “When I think of that and I think of these insurgents, these images, incited by our own president of the United States, attacking this Capitol to stop the certification of a presidential election...our democracy, our republic.”
A former prosecutor in New York City, Plaskett, presented previously unseen security video of the riotous mob moving toward an unsuspecting Sen. Mitt Romney. The senator encounters Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman who points him in a different direction.
Goodman later led the mob away from the Senate chamber, possibly saving many lives. A bipartisan bill has since been introduced to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal.
Neguse, 36, the youngest impeachment manager, argued that Trump’s incendiary talk, which lasted from the day of the election through the riot, was intended to send people marching in to block the procedural results of a free and fair election.
“Senators, this clearly was not just one speech. It didn’t just happen,” said Neguse.“It was part of a carefully planned, months-long effort with a very specific instruction: Show up on January 6th and get your people to fight the (election’s) certification. He incited it. It was foreseeable.”
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Although Neguse acknowledged that Trump sent out a message for rioters to leave “three and a half hours later,” he also noted the president could have stopped the violence singlehandedly.
“He could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” he said. “It was his duty as commander in chief to stop the violence and he alone had that power, not just because of his unique role.. but because they believed that they were following his orders."
On Thursday, Democratic impeachment managers are expected to conclude their case possibly with more evidence against Trump and several more hours of arguments. The trial then moves to Trump’s lawyers, who have already argued in their opening that his speeches and rhetoric did not incite the riot.