Donald Trump impeachment trial: Defence accuse Democrats of 'hypocrisy' over ex-presidents words 'fight like hell'

  • Video report by ITV News US Corespondent Emma Murphy

Donald Trump's legal team argued his words "to fight like hell" to supporters who attacked the US Capitol are common political rhetoric and accused the Democrats of "hypocrisy".

They also alleged that videos used by prosecutors, as evidence the former president incited the Capitol riots, were "manipulated".

The defence team presented their opening arguments in the impeachment trial of Mr Trump. They finished their arguments in just over three hours, and the case is expected to be concluded this weekend.

Prosecutors are accusing Mr Trump of inciting the January 6 riots at the US Capitol, after he falsely said for months that the presidential election was stolen. Mr Trump's lawyers are denying that charge.

They used a video montage to show Senate Democrats using the word “fight” in political speeches, arguing Mr Trump's words to his supporters to "fight like hell" are common political rhetoric.

The lengthy video featured Vice President Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and countless other Democrats using the word “fight,” without context. The video also featured most of the Democratic impeachment managers who are prosecuting the case.

  • A video montage presented by Trump's lawyers showing Democrats using the word "fight"

Once the video finished, lawyer David Schoen pointed at both the senators and the impeachment managers and told them to “stop the hypdocrisy.”

The lawyers then showed videos of Democrats praising protests after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota last year.

The defence suggested Hillary Clinton's team and supporters also attacked the election result in 2016. They played videos of Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, and others objecting to the result and a joint session where objections were raised which was chaired by Joe Biden.

  • Trump's lawyers accused the Democrats of "hypocrisy" over the ex-president's words "fight like hell"

Speaking at the Senate, Michael van der Veen, defending, also showed several videos that he claimed had been selectively cut by House managers in their evidence.

He claimed one video of Mr Trump's speech was cut just before his "optimistic, patriotic words" as the former president is heard saying, "the best is yet to come".

The defence team also says claims that the former president incited violence is a "preposterous and monstrous lie" and that the January 6 protest was meant to be peaceful and largerly was.

The defence case came after House managers, who are prosecuting, said harm from Mr Trump’s false and violent incitements will dog American democracy in the future unless he is convicted and barred from future office.

In two days of prosecution arguments in the historic trial, prosecutors presented new videos of the deadly Capitol attack, with invaders declaring they were obeying “the president’s orders” to fight to overturn the election result.

Prosecutors said the riots were a predictable culmination of the many public and explicit instructions Mr Trump gave supporters long before his White House rally that they say unleashed the attack.

Mr Trump's defence team had 16 hours to make its case, but finished in just over three hours.

Senators are asking questions to both legal teams, before lawyers present their closing arguments. The case is likely to conclude as soon as Saturday.