Fact check: Trump lawyers make multiple false claims in impeachment defense


Attorney Michael van der Veen emphasized comments by Democrats that he said encouraged or defended violence. Trump’s comments, he said, were different from those of Democrats.

“Compare the president’s repeated condemnations of violence with the rhetoric of his opponents,” van der Veen said. He then played a video comparing clips of Trump condemning violence and calling himself an “ally of all peaceful protesters” with some selectively edited clips of Democrats.

First the facts: this speech and video were misleading by omission. While Mr. Trump condemned violence and called for peaceful protests, he also repeatedly applauded or defended violence and violent behavior.

Since the start of his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has, among other things, praised a Republican congressman for attacking a journalist; told police officers not to worry about bruising the heads of suspects they arrest; said he would like to punch a protester in the face; told his supporters to “hit” every protester they see with a tomato; and talked about a kidnapping plot against the Democratic government in Michigan. Gretchen Whitmer can’t be the real “problem”; she told a false story about an American general from the early 20th century with approval. century who killed Muslim terrorists with bullets soaked in pig’s blood; said it was a “pretty sight” when authorities threw a journalist to the ground during the Minneapolis riots; laughed at a journalist who was killed by a rubber bullet; and applauded Trump supporters who surrounded Joe Biden’s campaign bus on the highway, an incident that triggered an FBI investigation.

Trump’s lawyer falsely claims that Trump’s first two tweets during the Capitol Hill attack calmed him down.

Van der Veen stated that “the first two messages the president sent out on Twitter after the Capitol raid began” called on people to “remain peaceful” and also called for “no violence.”

Facts first: it’s not true.

Trump’s “Stay in peace” tweet at 2:38 p.m. and the “No violence” tweet at 3:13 p.m. are his second and third tweets since he raped the Capitol, not the first. Trump’s first tweet came at 2:24 p.m.: “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what needed to be done to protect our country and our Constitution, which is to allow states to certify the corrected facts, not the fraudulent or false facts they were previously asked to certify. The United States demands the truth!”

By the time Trump tweeted about Pence, the rioters had already entered the U.S. Capitol building.

No, the media did not lie about the existence of pirates during the 2016 elections.

Van der Veen argued that it was officials in Washington other than Trump who used reckless and inflammatory rhetoric. He said that “the entire Democratic Party and the national media have spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election was hijacked.”

Facts First: The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign were indeed hacked during the 2016 election campaign; this is a fact, not an assertion made “without evidence.” The U.S. intelligence community, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee have all concluded that the Russian government was responsible for the theft and leaking of internal documents and emails.

If Van der Veen were to suggest that “the entire Democratic Party and the national media” falsely claimed for four years that hackers had changed the actual number of votes or the total number of votes in the 2016 election, that would not be true either. We cannot speak for every word that every Democrat or journalist has said since 2016, but it is clearly inaccurate to say that the entire party or all the media made such a claim for four years. The national debate over hacking during the 2016 election focused on actual and confirmed hacking of Democratic computer systems.

Castor falsely claims that the rioters did not attend Trump’s speech in Washington.

Trump’s lawyer, Bruce Castor, argued that the insurgents who stormed Capitol Hill were not present during the former president’s inflammatory speech that day, proving that the riot was a pre-planned attack unprovoked by Trump.

“Given the timing of the events, Capitol Hill criminals were not even in the Ellipse to hear the president speak,” Castor said. “They were more than a mile away, carrying out their planned attack on the same building.”

“It was a planned attack,” Castor said, “make no mistake.” He also said that this allegation “has been confirmed by the FBI, the Justice Department and even the House leadership.”

First the facts: it is a lie that none of the accused rioters on Capitol Hill attended Trump’s speech in advance. And Castor exaggerates the known facts about whether the attack was planned in advance.

Ellipse to the Capitol.

It is true that the chronology shows that someone who was present during Ellipse’s speech could not have been among the first to enter the Capitol building. But that is a much more limited explanation than Trump’s lawyers are making.

Court documents and video footage show that some of Trump’s supporters marched from the Ellipse to Capitol Hill, undermining Castor’s claims. These include a woman who allegedly walked from Trump’s speech to his hotel and then to Capitol Hill.

And all this without taking into account that the rioters outside the Capitol may have heard Trump’s speech on their phones or may have been inspired by Trump’s earlier rhetoric.

Have you planned everything?

The Justice Department and FBI have accused some rioters of plotting terrorist attacks before they came to Washington, and senior prosecutors have said more charges are expected. But only a handful of the more than 200 criminal cases indicate that rioters showed up that day with the intention of violating Capitol Hill.

Castor Cherry therefore selected a few unrepresentative cases from over 215 to support his misleading claim that federal investigators had “confirmed” that the attack was “pre-planned.”

In interviews with reporters and FBI investigators, some of the rioters said they had come to Washington for the demonstration and then were overwhelmed by the crowd as it rushed to Capitol Hill.

No, the number of refusals to vote has not “dramatically decreased” in Georgia.

The article on impeachment cites Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the results of Georgia’s presidential election.”

Castor argued that Trump’s use of the word “find” had to do solely with his concern over the dramatic and inexplicable drop in refusals to vote in Georgia.”

First the facts: aside from the use of the word “find,” Georgia has not experienced a “dramatic decline” in absenteeism among voters, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

In fact, compared to the previous election, the total number of rejected letter ballots increased directly proportional to the number of additional votes. But ultimately, the percentage of rejected ballots remained the same. The Office of the Secretary of State of Georgia noted that “the rejection rate of absentee ballots with missing or inconsistent signatures in the 2020 general election was 0.15%, which is the same rejection rate for signature problems as in the 2018 general election.”

Georgia’s election commissioner, Gabriel Sterling, responded to Castor’s statement on Twitter on Friday, saying it was “shocking, the disinformation continues.”

Trump’s lawyers are making misleading use of Biden’s comments about the peaceful protest.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the Democrats took Trump’s words out of context. Castor claimed that House officials used “selective editing and visual manipulation.”

But Trump’s defense team itself has clearly made a selective montage of his video presentations. For example, a few minutes before this lawsuit against Castor, he showed a video of Joe Biden, then a candidate, speaking about last year’s racial justice protests: “The vast majority of – the protests were peaceful. The video was then immediately filmed showing the riots, suggesting that Biden’s statement was not true.

First the facts: that video clip was deceptive. Biden was correct when he said that the vast majority of protests for racial justice in 2020 were peaceful; he did not characterize the riots as peaceful. Biden has repeatedly condemned the riots.

The video played by Castor is reminiscent of Trump’s tactics during his failed re-election campaign. Trump himself tried to falsely convince Americans that Biden called violence a peaceful protest.

Trump’s lawyers falsely claim that the court violated procedural rules.

Mr. van der Veen argued that impeachment proceedings were unconstitutional, in part because they violated the due process clause.

The due process clause applies to this impeachment proceeding, and it has been grossly and extraordinarily violated,” he said.

Facts first: it is a lie. An indictment process is a political process, not a criminal process, so the constitutional rights of defendants in criminal trials, such as the right to a fair trial, do not apply.

The right to a fair trial under the Fifth Amendment applies specifically to any criminal trial. And as Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, noted in the lead-up to Trump’s first indictment, “an indictment is not a criminal prosecution.

In addition, William Banks, professor of law at Syracuse University, told CNN, “There is nothing in the Constitution, in any law, or in the rules of the House of Representatives that imposes a specific impeachment procedure.”

The Constitution only mentions the grounds for indictment, the possible consequences of an indictment, and that the House of Representatives has “the exclusive power of indictment,” while the Senate has “the exclusive power to deal with all cases of indictment.”

This story has been updated.

Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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