Trump’s defense team said that it was a “preposterous and monstrous lie” to say he was the cause of the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
They suggested that the violent and deadly riot was brought on by a “small group” of “extremists”—which also included “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 didn’t support his claims with his source’s identity, nor did he say who the purported Antifa leader was.
“Sadly, he was also among the first to be released,” van der Veen lamented.
The conservative website Gateway Pundit reported that John Sullivan, an activist and founder of an anti-police-brutality group based out of Utah, was arrested on January 6. He was charged with one felony count of interfering with law enforcement in connection with a civil disorder. However, he has denied any affiliation with Antifa.
“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 argued. “The suggestion is patently absurd on its face.”
The attorney’s presentation is a stark contrast to the case brought on by house impeachment managers over the past three days. Van der Veer called out Democratic lawmakers for statements they had made in the past, as well as their 2016 attempt at blocking the certification of Donald Trump’s presidential win over Hillary Clinton. In his eyes, the Capitol riot panned out different than how prosecutors see it.
“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.”
“To claim that the president wished, desired or encouraged lawless behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.”