Presentations continue Thursday in what has turned out to be a dramatic case laid out by Democratic prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Jeffrey Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, and a professor in the Clements Department of History. He told Texas Standard that the impeachment trial is “impossible to turn off” because of the gripping nature of the video presentations made by the managers.
Engel says the evidence of violence displayed in the videos indicate that “we’re remarkably lucky” that more violence didn’t occur.
Senators, who are jurors in the trial, are viewing video of the very chamber where they are seated, of an experience in which they participated in on Jan. 6. Engel says that makes a difference in the way lawmakers are responding, whether it impacts their final votes or not.
“It’s remarkable the disconnect,” Engel said. “But we knew this going in – the disconnect between the reality of what’s being shown on the screen and what’s presented, and what Senators are going to vote for, undoubtedly.”
Engel points out that during former President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, it was firsthand evidence, in the form of audio tapes of Nixon’s conversations, that was most impactful on members of Congress and on public opinion.
Engel expects Trump’s defense team to continue to argue that impeaching a former president is not constitutional, even though Engel says an overwhelming majority of experts have said that the impeachment is supported by the Constitution. He also believes the defense will use “whataboutism” to compare the former president’s incendiary rhetoric with that of politicians on the left, and to point out instances of violence perpetrated by people who identify as liberal.
“None of the people that the Republicans can show inciting violence, even, are presidents of the United States,” Engel said. “There’s a different standard that’s at stake here.”