Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial appeared back on track to conclude on Saturday after the defense wrapped up its arguments in a single day and senators had time to ask their questions on Friday.
The direction of the proceedings shifted unexpectedly Saturday morning after the Senate voted 55-45 to hear from witnesses. But a few hours later, a deal was reached to avoid witnesses and move to closing arguments.
Trump is facing a single impeachment charge, incitement of an insurrection, for his role in urging a mob to attack the Capitol complex on Jan. 6.
The Senate began the trial Tuesday, a little more than a month after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Senators voted 56-44 that the trial was in fact constitutional, even though Trump has already left office.
The House of Representatives voted on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection with just a week left in his term, charging that he caused the riot that endangered hundreds of lawmakers and left five people dead, including a police officer. Two more police officers committed suicide in the days following the riot.
Trump has denied responsibility for stoking the mob on Jan. 6. His lawyers claim that he did not encourage unlawful acts and that his comments to supporters that day are protected by the First Amendment. They also argue that he should not be on trial at all, as he is no longer president — though many constitutional experts disagree.
As Congress began counting the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, Trump called for his supporters to walk to the Capitol in protest of the election results. Trump falsely claimed the election had been “stolen,” despite his clear loss to now-President Biden.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated,” he said. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Hours later, multiple people were dead, the Capitol building was in a state of chaos, and still, Biden’s election victory was certified by Congress.
House impeachment managers dissected those remarks and others made by Trump in the months prior to argue that his false election claims laid the groundwork for the violence far before that particular rally.