As former President Donald Trump heads into his second impeachment, his allies are defending him by saying that he isn't responsible for the actions of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. After all, Trump told the angry crowd to "peacefully and patriotically" march to the U.S. Capitol to fight for their president.
Just Security's Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix sifted through the slate of videos of insurrectionists as they forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, revealing evidence that they say refutes the Trump defense. The videos are already being used by law enforcement to spot weapons, pinpoint perpetrators and provide evidence in indictments, but they're also helpful heading into impeachment.
"Ultimately, the greatest relevance of these videos will be how parts of the public understands the events of the day, and how history records it," the writers said.
Just Security put together the videos that were included in the ProPublica piece, some from Parler and others sourced elsewhere, and then asked former federal prosecutors to explain how these videos will prove that Trump's rhetoric led to the violence.
"The video contains strong evidence that Trump did incite the insurrection, regardless of whether that was his intent," former federal prosecutor Paul Butler explained. "The rioter's words 'we were invited here' were exactly right, and the refrain 'fight for Trump' was directly responsive to Trump's demand. In criminal law, we would say this video proves the act but perhaps not the mental state – that Trump intended to cause the insurrection or knew it would happen as a result of his words."
In a criminal court, it would be difficult to convict Trump, but Butler explained that the standard for impeachment isn't the same.
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman played out what a prosecutor would say to a jury after showing the video: "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, the evidence will show that the insurrectionists came to Washington that day because they believed the President had called them there to do their patriotic duty; once there, the President worked them into a demented rage, telling them they had to fight like hell, and that he would be there with them at the Capitol."
He continued: "They went with blood in their eyes screaming 'Fight for Trump!,' threatening the lives of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence, and proceeded to storm and lay waste to the Capitol, the sanctum of our democracy, all while President Trump viewed the bedlam with delight from his safe perch back at the White House. They were criminals and deserved to be punished; but any fair-minded person will see from this evidence and more that we will bring forward that it was the President who lit the match and threw it on the fire because he wanted – and at a minimum reasonably foresaw – that they would become an out-of-control mob."
See the video below and read the take from other legal experts and prosecutors at JustSecurity.org.