Democratic lawmakers on Sunday said evidence of pre-planning for the U.S. Capitol attack does not undermine their impeachment case that President Trump incited the deadly riot.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who will be the lead impeachment manager or prosecutor at the Senate trial set to begin as soon as this week, said the case will detail all of the events leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol building.
“Everything is due to his actions,” Mr. Raskin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“They built a gallows outside the Capitol of the United States. There was an assassination party hunting for Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “We are going to be able to tell the story of the attack on America.”
Some conservative allies of the president have pointed to evidence of pre-planning to contradict the narrative that Mr. Trump‘s speech at a Jan. 6 rally near the Capitol incited the attack, which is the basis of the article of impeachment the House approved last week with the support of 10 Republicans.
Mr. Trump‘s defenders argue that pipe bombs and other weapons discovered around Capitol Hill before the attack demonstrate that the assault was planned well before the speech.
Police said they found two people armed with explosives, tactical gear and caches of weapons who arrived on or before Jan. 6, according to court documents. The FBI also knew beforehand of plans for a “war” at the Capitol, according to The Washington Post.
Mr. Trump has not selected a defense team for the trial, according to Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley.
“President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the ‘impeachment hoax.’ We will keep you informed,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Details of the president’s defense have not been made public.
Mr. Trump said a review of his speech shows that he was not urging violence.
In the speech to thousands of protesters gathered near the White House, Mr. Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, agreed Sunday in an appearance on Fox News Channel. He said the fault for the riots lies with the rioters.
“President Trump never said, ‘Go into the Capitol and try to interrupt a joint session of Congress.’ That was the choice they make — they made. And they need to live with that choice,” he said on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
He added that the president shouldn’t pardon any rioters.
Still, Mr. Trump‘s critics argue that the impetus for the attack was his repeated claim that Democrats “stole” the election for President-elect Joseph R. Biden. Mr. Trump persisted in claiming he won the election despite scores of election lawsuits failing to alter the outcome of the Nov. 3 vote.
Despite the impeachment and being blamed by many for the violence at the Capitol, Mr. Trump remains popular with Republican voters, who do not hold him responsible for the attack, according to polls.
The largely unwavering support for Mr. Trump puts at risk House Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach and raises the stakes for Senate Republicans weighing a conviction vote.
Rep. Peter Meijer, Michigan Republican, said Sunday that his yes vote on impeachment “may very well have” ended his political career.
“But I think it’s also important that we have elected leaders who are not thinking solely about what’s in their individual self-interest, not what is going to be politically expedient, but what we actually need for the country,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump became the first president to be impeached twice. If the process advances as planned, he also will be the first president to face a Senate trial after leaving office, which raises questions about the constitutionality of the trial.
Because Mr. Trump will no longer be in the White House, the Senate cannot remove him from office. If the Senate musters the two-thirds majority vote to convict, however, they could take a second vote to bar Mr. Trump from running for high office again. That vote would require a simple majority to pass.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has not divulged when the article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate and trigger the start of the trial. But the trial is not expected to start before Wednesday, when Mr. Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president and Mr. Trump leaves office.
Senators say they do not know whether there is enough Republican support for a conviction. If all 100 members are present, it would require 17 Republicans to join all the Democrats to find him guilty.
Lawmakers remain shaken by events of Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob overran U.S. Capitol Police, rampaged through the building, and broke into the House and Senate chambers.
The attack forced members of Congress to hide in secure locations.
The lockdown delayed for several hours Congress’ confirming of the Electoral College vote that named Mr. Biden as the next president.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, recalled Secret Service agents grabbing Vice President Mike Pence out of his chair as he was presiding over the Senate and police officers racing into the chamber with guns to protect the lawmakers.
“That is an image in my mind that’ll never go away, and I hope some of the Republicans feel the same way,” he said.
Mr. Graham and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas have said a Senate trial after Mr. Trump is no longer president would be unconstitutional.
In a letter to the top Senate Democrat, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, Mr. Graham called for the immediate dismissal of the article of impeachment.
Mr. Cotton has said the upper chamber should instead focus on passing more relief measures for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office — not an inquest against private citizens. The Constitution presupposes an office from which an impeached officeholder can be removed,” Mr. Cotton said in a statement issued last week. “I now oppose impeachment proceedings against a former president.”
“Congress should get on with the people’s business: improving our vaccination efforts, getting kids back to school, and getting workers back on the job.”
Polls show Mr. Trump maintains strong support from the Republican base and his approval rating has remained virtually unchanged since the mob attack.
An NBC News survey published Sunday showed 43% of voters gave Mr. Trump a positive job approval. He had a 45% approval rating before the November election and 44% in 2017 when he first took office.
Eighty-seven percent of Republicans still back the president, down just 2 points from the party support he enjoyed before the November election.
Still, some Republicans elected officials are distancing themselves from Mr. Trump.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told “Fox News Sunday” that the president invited people to the rally, used aggressive language and misled his supporters about the 2020 election being stolen.
“His challenge to that was wrong, and it did not serve our nation well,” Mr. Hutchinson said.