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5 takeaways from Day 3 of Donald Trump's impeachment trial

While the outcome of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment hearing seems likely, there are still considerable stakes and questions at hand. In this latest episode of The Point, CNN's Chris Cillizza analyzes the implications of the Senate hearing so far.

Posted: Feb 12, 2021 3:50 AM
Updated: Feb 12, 2021 3:50 AM

On Thursday, the House impeachment managers wrapped up their case for the conviction of Donald Trump for inciting the US Capitol riot on January 6, centering their argument on connecting the former President's words in advance of the riot and the actions taken by his supporters on that day.

I watched the proceedings -- and took notes on what mattered most. My takeaways are below (and be sure to check out my takeaways from Day 1 and Day 2).

1. The rioters' statements are damning: The clear focus of the impeachment managers on Thursday was to provide a clear link between Trump's words and the actions of the violent mob that stormed the Capitol. And time and time again, the best proof of that link was the rioters themselves. In interviews, in videos, in arrest records the same theme just kept emerging: They believed they were acting on the wishes (and orders) of the President of the United States. The lingering image (and sound) for me from Thursday's proceedings was a protester outside the Capitol shouting, "We were invited by the President of the United States" over and over unto a bullhorn. "They came here because the President instructed them to do so," said Rep. Diana Degette (Colorado). It was hard to argue that point after listening to rioter after rioter say just that.

2. Trump as a future threat: One of the most consistent arguments you hear from Republican senators opposed to the impeachment trial amounts to this: What's the point in removing Trump from office? He's already been removed from office by the voters! The point, as House impeachment managers Jamie Raskin (Maryland) and Ted Lieu (California) argued Thursday, is that if Trump is not convicted and banned from seeking future federal office (a vote that would take only a simple majority of senators), there's absolutely no reason to think that what happened in January couldn't be repeated. "I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years," said Lieu. "I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again."

3. Michigan as a test run: On April 30, 2020, a crowd of Trump supporters crowded into the Michigan state Capitol to protests Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state-of-emergency order to deal with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. (That came less than two weeks after Trump had tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN.") "This was a huge win," the organizer of the Michigan protest told CNN at the time. Then, in early October, 13 men were arrested for an act of domestic terrorism -- a plot to kidnap Whitmer. Michigan was "a preview of the coming insurrection," said Raskin. The connection between the events in Michigan and those at the Capitol on January 6 (and Trump's initial response to both) were used by the impeachment managers to suggest that Trump had not only primed the pump for what happened on January 6 but that he and his supporters had already conducted what amounted to a dry run of what we saw play out at the Capitol on January 6. As Raskin put it: "January 6 was a culmination of Trump tactics, not an aberration from them."

4. Disrespecting the police: One of the rallying cries for the Trump base in the lead-up to the 2020 election was "Blue Lives Matter" -- the notion that the focus on the "Black Lives Matter" protests around the country last summer dismissed the service of the police forces around the country. "We love our police!" Trump repeatedly shouted at campaign rallies. The message was simple: Trump and his supporters were in the corner of the police and law enforcement more broadly; Democrats, on the other hand, wanted to disband the police entirely. All of that is context and prelude to a series of videos show by the House impeachment managers on Thursday in which Trump supporters -- proudly chanting his name and insisting they were occupying the Capitol because Trump told them to -- not only violently attacked many of the Capitol Police officers trying to protect the building and its occupants, but also verbally berated those same law enforcement officials. The video that stood out to me from Thursday was a guy in a red hat repeatedly calling a police office a "traitor" -- just inches from the officer's face. You should watch it yourself. And then re-examine whether Trump and his most ardent backers really love the police as much as they insist they do.

5. (GOP) senators are losing interest: Watching the House impeachment managers make their case, you might think they are doing so to a full Senate -- each senator at their desk, taking notes and paying rapt attention. Er, no. "I counted eleven empty seats/absent Senators on the Republican side of the chamber, as Rep. Cicilline was giving his presentation about the effects of the attack on law enforcement," wrote the Capitol Hill pool reporter Thursday afternoon. "As best I could tell, only one seat was empty on the Democratic side." Then there was this: "[Florida] Sen. Rick Scott was writing on a blank map of Asia — he had studied what appeared to be a map of Southeast Asia during [Wednesday's] proceedings as well. (Sidebar: Have you ever seen former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken draw the US map from memory? If not, you need to. Like, now.) The lack of attention being paid on the Republican side is an outward reflection of their own lack of internal debate about whether Trump deserves to be convicted. With the exception of a half-dozen or so Republicans, the rest made their minds up to acquit Trump long before the trial even started.

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