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Democratic House Managers Present At Former President Trump's 2nd Impeachment Trial


JAMIE RASKIN: Donald Trump committed a massive crime against our Constitution and our people and the worst violation of the presidential oath of office in the history of the United States of America.


That is lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin of Maryland today. He and his fellow House members presented opening arguments in Day 2 of former President Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. They called the former president an inciter in chief who reveled in the chaos of his supporters at the Capitol on January 6. Joining us now to talk about the day are NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales and NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Good to have you both here.



SHAPIRO: Claudia, you were actually in the Senate chamber today where the 100 senators as jury members sit silently listening to the House impeachment managers make their case. Describe the mood for us.

GRISALES: It was clear much of the time that I was in the chamber that the members were very engaged. For example, they were watching lead manager Jamie Raskin and his presentation very intently. It reminded me of the chamber yesterday when Raskin was giving his emotional remarks about the day he and his family experienced here during the insurrection. I was seated on the Republican side of the chamber, and Republicans were intently watching him and the other managers. And that includes those who say they won't be voting to convict Trump like Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a Republican member of the Senate.

Also, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was also watching very closely, even watched some of these videos of the president's past statements on a television screen on the chamber floor. Many members were taking notes, and this includes those who have voted for the constitutionality of the trial. Among them, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, had a pile of note cards on his desk.

SHAPIRO: Now, Domenico, the Democrats were making the arguments today. I know you've been watching since the beginning of these proceedings yesterday. What stood out to you compared to yesterday's testimony?

MONTANARO: Well, only later in the day here have we gotten some of the personal passion and emotion that we had yesterday about the violence on January 6. Mostly today, Democrats had been methodically mounting a pretty dispassionate case to show Trump is the reason for why all of this happened. They claim that it's not just isolated to January 6 and ticked through numerous things for months and months, that this was months and months in the making, that Trump laid the groundwork before the election and drove it home after that election and was aware of what was being planned. It kind of really makes me wonder how and what the Trump lawyers are going to say in rebuttal, aside from saying that Democrats are being selective and used the word - and that they didn't say that he used the word peaceful in his speech on January 6.

SHAPIRO: Claudia, tell us more about how the Democrats are actually building their case here.

GRISALES: Yes. They're focused on showing the timeline of how Trump built a crowd of people who distrusted the election and believed they were following his orders. Joe Nagase, one of the managers of - he's a House member of Colorado. He also talked about this. Let's take a listen.


JOE NEGUSE: Senators, this clearly was not just one speech. It didn't just happen. It was part of a carefully planned, months-long effort with a very specific instruction - show up on January 6 and get your people to fight the certification.

GRISALES: So from manager to manager, they're building this case, each piece building on the next, a beginning, middle and end. And today marked the beginning of that story. They made a point of connecting directly to their shared terror that day. And this was especially apparent, as Domenico noted, in the late afternoon, when managers have shared dramatic sounds and footage, video footage from the day of the insurrection that the public has not seen before. This was sounds from police scanners of officers pleading for assistance, pleading for their lives, it seemed, as they were being assaulted by the mob. There's video footage from Capitol security cameras showing the mob breaking into the Capitol. And another stunning moment where we see Senator Mitt Romney of Utah walking outside of the chamber, running into an officer, being told they need to clear out quickly. And he is running behind this officer to escape the mob.

SHAPIRO: Wow. Well, yesterday, Trump's lawyers dismissed the House managers' arguments, calling Democrats - accusing Democrats of trying to cancel the former president by stifling his freedom of speech. Domenico, what did the impeachment managers say about that claim?

MONTANARO: Right. Trump's lawyers yesterday said his speech was protected by the First Amendment. But Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager who we heard from earlier, you know, he's a constitutional law professor. And he argued that the, quote, "factual premise and the legal underpinnings" of that claim are all wrong. He said, incitement to violence is not protected speech. And here's how he put it with a familiar phrase.


RASKIN: It's more like a case where the town fire chief, who's paid to put out fires, sends a mob not to yell fire in a crowded theater but to actually set the theater on fire, and who then when the fire alarms go off and the calls start flooding into the fire department asking for help, does nothing but sit back, encourage the mob to continue its rampage and watch the fire spread on TV with glee and delight.

MONTANARO: You know, first of all, we should say a little bit of a fact-check. That cliche claim that you can't yell fire in a crowded theater is actually wrong. That phrase was used more than a hundred years ago now by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes at the Supreme Court, but it was never binding law. And the underlying case, which has been roundly criticized, was actually overturned more than 50 years ago. Nevertheless, the First Amendment argument and some of the legal arguments Republicans make around insurrection, for example, have very little, if any, relevance to these proceedings. That's because this is a political process, not a legal one. It's about prosecuting someone based on a narrow - it's not about prosecuting someone based on a narrow legal statute. It's about whether President Trump upheld - former President Trump upheld his oath of office, and that's for the Senate to decide.

SHAPIRO: And in just a sentence or two, what do we know about how Trump is responding to this?

MONTANARO: Well, we've heard that he's pretty unhappy with the performance of his defense team on that opening day, particularly that of lawyer Bruce Castor, who praised Democrats' performance. That's never something Trump would be happy with.

SHAPIRO: That as NPR's Domenico Montanaro and Claudia Grisales. Thank you both.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.