Push to Call Witnesses Throws Trump’s Impeachment Trial Into Doubt

After Saturday, Democrats had intended to quickly turn Washington’s focus to the new president’s ambitious legislative agenda and the coronavirus pandemic passing grim milestones each day. Whenever it comes, the outcome promised to leave President Biden, who took office pledging to “end this uncivil war,” with the monumental task of moving the nation past one of its most turbulent chapters since the Civil War.

Up to this point, the proceeding could scarcely have been more different than Mr. Trump’s first trial a year ago. Then, the House tried to make its case around an esoteric plot to pressure Ukraine to smear Mr. Biden, and it failed largely on party lines. But over five days this week, the nine House managers put forward a harrowing retelling of a horror that had played out in plain sight.

Using graphic video and sophisticated visual aids, they made clearer than ever before how close the armed mob had come to a dangerous confrontation with Mr. Pence and the members of the House and the Senate. They showed the violent assault on the police, and counted the cost both in lives and to American democracy.

All of it, the prosecutors argued, was the doing of Mr. Trump, who spread lies that the election had been “stolen” from him, cultivated outrage among his followers, encouraged violence, tried to pressure state election officials to overturn democratically decided results and finally assembled and unleashed a mob of his supporters — who openly planned a bloody last stand — to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.” With no signs of his remorse, they warned he could ignite a repeat if allowed to seek office again.

“Donald Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame,” Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas told senators on Thursday. “Everything that followed was because of his doing. Though he could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence, he never did.”

After stumbling out of the gate this week with meandering presentations, Mr. Trump’s legal team delivered the president a highly combative and exceedingly brief defense on Friday. Calling the House’s charge a “preposterous and monstrous lie,” they insisted over just three hours that the former president was a “law and order”-loving leader who never meant for his followers to take the words “fight like hell” literally, and could not have foreseen the violence that followed.

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