Impeachment managers say Trump conduct toward Georgia officials was ‘egregious’

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., left, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, arrive as opening arguments begin in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., left, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, arrive as opening arguments begin in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — House impeachment managers, hoping to convince senators that then-President Donald Trump helped incite the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, paid special attention to Georgia during their presentation on Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania said Trump spent weeks falsely claiming that he had won the general election but his conduct toward Georgia’s Republican leaders was “the most egregious.” Another manager, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, said the violent insurrection was a direct result of Trump’s false claims about the election in Georgia and other states.

“In the months the president made the statements, people listened,” Neguse said Wednesday, the second day of Trump’s second impeachment trial. “Armed supporters surrounded election officials’ homes. The secretary of state for Georgia got death threats. Officials warned the president that his rhetoric was dangerous and it was going to result in deadly violence.”

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The nine impeachment managers, all Democrats, worked to make the case Wednesday that Trump is guilty of inciting the insurrection not just because he encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol during a speech that day. The time he spent spreading misinformation and falsehoods about the general election also contributed, the managers said, and they accused him of goading supporters he knew were capable of violence.

Part of that testimony zeroed in on Trump’s public comments and posts on social media targeting Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other officials, all fellow Republicans. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California referenced a Dec. 5 tweet where Trump accused Kemp and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey of doing Democrats’ bidding at the expense of the GOP.

“He goes after the governors of Arizona and Georgia — governors from his own party — claiming that they weren’t with him,” Swalwell said. “You see, senators, he is casting this in combat terms: that either you are with him, making sure that he won the election, or you’re fighting against him.”

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Later, the managers showed video of Trump speaking at a rally in the northwest Georgia town of Dalton on Jan. 4, the eve of Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs. Although he was there to support the Republicans on the ballot, Trump spent much of his time focused on Joe Biden’s general election victory in Georgia. He encouraged supporters to stand up for him.

“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House,” he said. “You cannot let them.”

Later, the impeachment managers’ presentation moved to the events of Jan. 6, including never-before-seen security camera footage from inside the Capitol. Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was among those who appeared shaken, bowing his head at times as video showed rioters shouting, attacking police officers and roaming the halls of the Capitol looking for members of Congress. Eventually, some of the rioters broke into the Senate chamber and riffled through paperwork members left behind.

When the Senate adjourned for the evening Wednesday, Warnock told reporters he found the images disturbing.

“To be watching that and knowing that you’re sitting at the site of the crime as it were — an assault on this Capitol — should give every American pause and should cause all of us to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens again,” he said.

The House managers mentioned some of the people who had been arrested and charged with entering the Capitol that day, including two with Georgia ties: Blue Ridge native Eric Gavelek Munchel, also known as “zip tie guy,” and Americus attorney William McCall Calhoun.

Warnock and his Georgia counterpart, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, are among the handful of members who were not yet in office when the violence occurred. They both won in the Jan. 5 runoffs, but it took a couple of weeks for them to be sworn into office.

The members of the Senate who were present for the Jan. 6 joint session to tally Electoral College votes said they had no idea how close they came to the rioters. They learned Wednesday that after the Capitol was breached and they were evacuated that they came within 60 paces of the insurrectionists.

Both Georgia senators were among the 56 members who voted Tuesday to allow the trial to proceed, rejecting the Trump defense’s argument that he cannot face charges since he is no longer in office. Six Republicans joined with all 50 Democrats in that decision.

The House managers are expected to continue making their case through Thursday. Then Trump’s attorneys will have 16 hours over two days to mount a defense. It is not clear whether either side will request to call witnesses, and senators will also have an opportunity to ask questions.

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Warnock and Ossoff have said they are open to witnesses but that it’s a call for House managers and Trump’s defense attorneys to make.

“If neither legal team views that as necessary for prosecution or defense,” he said, “then I’ll review the evidence they do present as I make my decision.”

Two-thirds of senators must agree for Trump to be convicted, which is unlikely because that would require 17 Republicans to side with the 50 Democrats. After the trial, the Senate could take a separate vote to bar Trump from ever running for office again under the 14th Amendment, which would only require a majority to pass.

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