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"Plainly a distraction": Democrats react to videos from Trump's attorneys in impeachment trial

Former President Trump's legal team used a spliced video montage of prominent Democrats saying "fight" taken out of context as evidence in their opening arguments on Friday of Mr. Trump's impeachment trial. The videos drew rebukes and even prompting laughter from some Senate Democrats.

After accusing the House impeachment managers of using videos of Mr. Trump out of context as evidence, Trump's legal defense played the video of Democrats, including some of the 2020 presidential candidates such as Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, attempting to equate their words to Trump's rhetoric during the January 6th rally.

"You didn't do anything wrong," said David Schoen, one of Trump's lawyers. "It is a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy."

Democrats did not take this line of argument seriously. Warren tweeted a video montage of her rally appearances shortly after Mr. Trump's lawyers played the video, showing her embracing women and encouraging young girls to run for office.

"In case anyone is wondering what my rallies look like," Warren said.

"They're trying to draw a dangerous and distorted equivalence. I think it is plainly a distraction from Donald Trump inviting the mob to Washington," Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters during a break in the trial.

When asked about his reaction to the videos played by Mr. Trump's lawyers, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said the videos had only reinforced his belief that the former president was responsible for the violence on January 6.

"Donald Trump was warned, if you don't stop talking about a stolen election, people will be killed. He was specifically warned that. He kept talking about it, and a violent mob attacked the Capitol and seven people are dead who would be alive today, had he just followed their advice. That's what I thought about those videos," Kaine said.

Although "fight" is a common word used by politicians in speeches, Mr. Trump's use of the phrase "fight like hell" on January 6 came after he refused to concede the election for several months and repeatedly promoted false claims that there was voter fraud. He spoke on the same day that Congress was certifying the election results, and encouraged Republican lawmakers to vote to overturn the Electoral College results. Mr. Trump had also called for his supporters to travel to Washington on January 6 to protest the certification of results.

The former president's attorneys began their case arguing the impeachment trial is "unconstitutional act of political vengeance" and the former president's rhetoric is protected by the First Amendment. Mr. Trump's legal defense also argued Democrats had encouraged protests in several cities over the summer. However, they did not mention these demonstrations were a reaction to police brutality and racial violence, and Democratic lawmakers were often urging people to keep fighting against inequality.

Earlier, the president's lawyers had played videos of Democrats previously objecting to Electoral College results, as well as video of Mr. Trump's speech at the rally on January 6. 

Several Democrats appeared to be frustrated while the videos were playing. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire shook her head repeatedly, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island laughed incredulously at one point. Many were slouching in their seats, or wearing frowns. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut appeared to be looking down, resting his forehead in his hand.

Some Senate Republicans said they believed the former president's legal defense did a better job than they did on Tuesday. "Well I think they are putting on a good defense today," said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. "And, you know, the first two hours I thought were well put together."

However, GOP Senator Ron Johnson indicated he was convinced by the arguments from the president's lawyers.

"The president's lawyers blew the House managers' case out of the water. They just legally eviscerated their case," Johnson said.

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