Former President Trump's lawyers made the case Friday that it was a "preposterous and monstrous lie" to suggest that he had incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6, and that the violence could be blamed on a "small group" of "extremists," including "a leader of antifa."
"Tragically, as we know now, on Jan. 6 a small group who came to engage in violent and menacing behavior hijacked the event for their own purposes," Trump defense lawyer Michael T. van der Veen said in his opening remarks on the Senate floor. "According to publicly available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol. One of the first people arrested was a leader of antifa."
Van der Veen did not name the source for his claim, nor did he name the individual he said represented antifa.
"Sadly, he was also among the first to be released," van der Veen lamented.
The conservative website Gateway Pundit reported that activist John Sullivan, who founded an anti-police-brutality group in Utah, was arrested on Jan. 6. On Jan. 15, Sullivan was charged with one felony count of interfering with law enforcement in connection with a civil disorder. He is one of more than 200 people who have been criminally charged in connection with the riot, but has denied any affiliation with antifa.
In a presentation diametrically opposed to the case made by Democratic house impeachment managers during the previous three days, van der Veen issued a forceful rebuke of the charges against the former president.
"No thinking person could seriously believe that the president's Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection," van der Veen said of the case against Trump. "The suggestion is patently absurd on its face."
Van der Veen attacked Democratic lawmakers for their own past statements and attempts to block the certification of Trump's 2016 presidential victory over Hillary Clinton, and portrayed the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the siege of the Capitol by Trump's supporters in a manner unrecognizable from the version described by the prosecution.
"The entire premise of [Trump's] remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law, including both the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act," van der Veen said. "In the conclusion of his remarks, he then laid out a series of legislative steps that should be taken to improve democratic accountability going forward, such as passing universal voter ID legislation, banning ballot harvesting, requiring proof or citizenship to vote and turning out strong in the next primaries. These are not the words of someone inciting a violent insurrection."
As an exclamation point, van der Veen added: "To claim that the president wished, desired or encouraged lawless behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie."
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