Horn capitol Jacob Chansley
As the trial entered what is likely its final day, new details are emerging about the events of January 6. Image Credit: AP

Washington: The US Senate was expected to hear final arguments on Saturday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial before delivering a verdict on whether the former president incited his supporters to attack the US Capitol.

The Senate reconvened at 10am (1500 GMT) to debate and vote on whether to allow witness testimony at the second impeachment trial of the 74-year-old former Republican president.

Neither the Democratic prosecutors from the House of Representatives nor Trump’s defence lawyers have indicated that they intend to call witnesses.

If a decision is taken not to call any it would pave the way for final arguments and a vote on whether to convict or acquit the former president, potentially as early as Saturday afternoon.

Each side will have two hours each to present their closing arguments.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on January 13 for inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters, who were seeking to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.

But a conviction in the 100-member Senate - which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans - appears unlikely.

It would require a two-thirds majority and indications are that Democrats will not get the 17 Republican votes needed to support a conviction and eventually bar Trump from ever holding office again.

Trump’s defence lawyers argued on Friday that the former president bears no responsibility for the attack by his supporters on Congress and wrapped up their presentation in just three hours.

This followed two days of evidence from Democratic impeachment managers centered around harrowing video footage of the mob assault on the Capitol.

New details emerge

As the trial entered what is likely its final day, new details are emerging about the events of January 6.

Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump, said that Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had called Trump while the attack was ongoing and implored him to call off the rioters.

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.

“McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters,” the congresswoman from Washington state said.

“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” she said.

In arguments Friday, defence lawyer Michael van der Veen called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.”

“The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it,” he said.

The former president’s lawyers also argued that Trump’s rally speech near the White House that preceded the January 6 attack, when he told supporters to “fight,” was merely rhetorical.

Seeking to turn the table on the Democrats’ powerful use of video evidence, defence lawyers played their own compilations showing Democratic lawmakers at different times using the word “fight.”

They also argued that the Democrats’ true aim is, in the words of defence lawyer Bruce Castor, “about far more than President Trump.”

“It is about cancelling 75 million Trump voters, and criminalising political viewpoints. That is what this trial is really about,” he said.

Democratic impeachment managers charge that after losing to Biden, Trump deliberately stoked national tension with a campaign of lies claiming there had been mass voter fraud.

On January 6 he staged a fiery rally near the White House, calling on the crowd to march on Congress, which was in the process of certifying Biden’s victory.

The mob then stormed the Capitol, disrupting the certification. Five people, including a police officer and a woman shot during the unrest, died as a result of the mayhem.

Impeachment managers say Trump, who has never expressed remorse for his encouragement of the violent crowd, is so dangerous that he should be barred from holding office again.

Although Trump looks set for acquittal, even a few Republican votes against him would leave a historic mark on his presidency, fuelling civil war within his party over whether to pursue his populist, divisive vision or return to more moderate values.