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CNN Live Event/Special

House Impeachment Managers Present Case to Convict Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET.

Aired February 10, 2021 - 13:00   ET


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX), IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Instead he told his supporters the only way he could lose the election is if it was stolen.

In tweet after tweet he made sweeping allegations about election fraud that couldn't possibly be true. But that was the point.


He didn't care if the claims were true, he wanted to make sure that his supporters were angry, like the election was being ripped away from them.

On May 24, six months before the election he tweeted, "it will be the greatest rigged election in history." How could he possibly know it would be the greatest rigged election in history, six months before the election happened?

And on June 22, more of the same, "rigged 2020 election -- it will be the scandal of our times." Again, about an election that had not even happened. On July 30, "2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history."

Again, just big words with nothing to prove them. But he wanted to make his supporters believe that an election victory would be stolen from him, and from them. And this was to rile up his base, to make them angry.

Now, these were just a few of the many times President Trump tweeted about this, and he did it in speeches, and in rallies, and in television too.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history.

Because the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged, remember that.

The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election. We're going to win this election. It's a rigged election, it's the only way we're going to lose.

But this will be one of the greatest fraudulent and most fraudulent elections ever.


CASTRO: This is clearly a man who refuses to accept the possibility or the reality in our democracy of losing an election. And there are dozens more tweets and speeches of Donald Trump spreading his lie, but you get the point. His supporters got the point as well. They firmly believe that if he lost it was because the election was rigged.


UNKNOWN: Will you accept the result if Joe Biden wins?


UNKNOWN: Under any circumstance?


UNKNOWN: Why is that?

UNKNOWN: Because it's lies, and deceit, and corruption.

UNKNOWN: Do you think that if we get to election night, or in the following days, and Biden winds up somehow becoming the winner, do you think it's rigged?

UNKNOWN: Oh, yes. Very much so.

UNKNOWN: On election, or in the days after, if it shows up that Joe Biden won, in your opinion would that be the only way that Trump could lose, that it would be a rigged election? Is that the only way Joe Biden can win?

UNKNOWN: Absolutely. I agree with that. Because there's no way in heck our president's going to lose. But yes, it would be a rigged election, there's -- some type of cheating went on -- what have you. And I firmly believe that.


CASTRO: Now, all of us in this room have run for election, and it's no fun to lose. I'm a Texas Democrat; we've lost a few elections over the years. But can you imagine telling your supporters that the only way you could possibly lose is if an American election was rigged and stolen from you?

And ask yourself, whether you've ever seen anyone at any level of government make the same claim about their own election. But that's exactly what President Trump did -- he truly made his base believe that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged. And Senators, all of us know -- and all of us understand how dangerous that is for our country. Because the most combustible thing you can do in a democracy is convince people that an election doesn't count, that their voice and their vote doesn't count and that it's all been stolen -- especially if what you're saying are lies.

Let us turn now to the election. As you know, the results were not fully reported on election night, which is not unusual in our nation's history. But by November 7, major news networks including Fox News reported that once the remaining votes were counted Joe Biden would be the likely victor.

So President Trump began urging his supporters to stop the count.


I would imagine that if we went around this room, there are folks sitting here that started down on Election Night, and ended up coming back up and winning their races. Perhaps that's why some of you are seated in this room today.

But imagine if you were behind, and the results start coming in. And as you started pulling ahead, your opponent said, "That's not fair, stop the count while I'm still ahead." That's what Donald Trump did.

But that's not how America works. Here, every vote counts. You don't just stop counting when one person is ahead. We count every vote.

And let's be clear, President Trump knew that you can't just stop counting votes, but he wanted to inflame his base. There was a purpose behind this, to truly make them believe that counting votes would result in a stolen, rigged election.

He said, at 12:49 a.m. on Election Night, quote, "They are trying to STEAL the election. We will never let them do it."

A little over an hour later, at roughly 2:30 in the morning, before all the votes were even close to being counted, he goes even further, and actually declares victory. Take a look.


TRUMP: This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.


CASTRO: Frankly, we did win.

Rather than calmly saying, "Let's count the votes, if there's legal issues, we'll go to court and we'll resolve them." Instead, he told his supporters that he actually won the election and the whole thing was a fraud. He said that on November 4th, and he has never recounted that statement since. Despite President Trump's pressure at the time, election officials around the country continued to carry out their duties. And as votes were counted and his loss became more certain, he riled up his base further. Take a look at these suites (ph).

On November 5th, he tweeted -- in all-capital letters, as if shouting commands -- quote, "STOP THE COUNT!" "STOP THE FRAUD!"

Senators, this is dangerous.

I also want you to remember these tweets for another reason: because that's what it looks like when Donald Trump wants people to stop doing something.

And bear in mind, this is not the president saying, to his supporters, that somebody stole your cup of coffee. This is the commander in chief, telling his supporters, "Your election is being stolen and you must stop the counting of American votes."

And it worked. His words became their actions. His commands led to their actions.

Take a look at this. The same day as those tweets -- the same day as those tweets -- around 100 Trump supporters showed up in front of a Maricopa County election center in Phoenix, some of them carrying rifles, literally trying to intimidate officials to stop the count, just as President Trump had commanded.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said that protesters were, quote, "causing delay and disruption, and preventing those employees from doing their job."

Let's call this what it was. We're facing a global pandemic. Workers were risking their health to ensure the integrity of our elections. And President Trump's supporters were encircling them, trying to prevent them from doing their own jobs. This was dangerous, it was scary, and it was a blatant act of political intimidation.

In Philadelphia, that same day, police investigated an alleged plot to attack the city's Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted. Police took at least one man into custody who was carrying a weapon.

And this happened all over -- in Atlanta, in Detroit and in Milwaukee.


His supporters used armed force to try to disrupt lawful counting of votes -- votes because they bought into Trump's big lie that the election was stolen from them.

President Trump's months of inflaming and inciting his supporters had worked. They believed it was their duty to quite literally fight to stop the count. So they showed up at election centers across the country to do just that.


TRUMP: This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.


CROWD: Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count!

PROTESTER: They aren't taking it from us!

CROWD: Count the votes! Count the votes! Count the votes! Count the votes!

TRUMP: We were winning in all the key locations -- by a lot, actually -- and then our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away in secret.

PROTESTER: They won't be hiding! They will pay! They will be destroyed because America is rising (ph)!



CASTRO: And there it is. They bought into his big lie. President Trump told his supporters over and over again, nearly every day in dozens of tweets, speeches and rallies that their most precious right in our democracy -- their voice, their vote -- was being stripped away and they had to fight to stop that. And they believed him. And so they fought.

And you may say, well, he didn't know that they'd take up arms. But when he did know, when it was all over the news, President Trump didn't stop.

As Mr. Swalwell will show, after Donald Trump lost, he became even more desperate and incited his base even further. He urged them again and again, with increasingly forceful language, to fight to stop the steal.

And even as the certification got closer and he grew even more desperate, he gave them specific instructions on how, where and when to fight to stop the steal. He told them to show up on January 6th and march to the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of the election results. And he told them to come here and, "Fight like hell."

You will see clearly that this violent mob that showed up here on January 6th didn't come out of thin air; President Donald John Trump incited this violence. And that's the truth.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Mr. President, distinguished senators, my name is Eric Swalwell and I represent California's 15th Congressional District. Manager Castro just told you about Donald Trump's lies and acts before the election. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill, that wasn't the end of his efforts. That wasn't the beginning of the end. But perhaps, it was the end of the beginning.

Here's what I mean. You saw President Trump prime, for months, his supporters to believe that if the election was lost -- it only could have been so because it was rigged.

But that took time. Just like to build a fire, it doesn't just start with the flames -- Donald Trump for months and months assembled the tinder, the kindling, threw on logs for fuel to have his supporters believe that the only way their victory would be lost was that it was stolen so that way President Trump was ready if he lost the election to light the match.


And on November 7 after all the votes were counted, President Trump did lose by seven million votes. But for Donald Trump all was not lost. He had a back up plan. Instead of accepting the results or pursuing legitimate claims he told his base more lies. He doused the flames with kerosene. And this wasn't just some random guy at the neighborhood bar blowing off steam. This was our Commander in Chief.

Day-after-day he told his supporters false, outlandish lies that the victory, that the election outcome was taken and it was rigged, and he has absolutely no support for his claims, but that wasn't the point. He wanted to make his base angrier and angrier. And to make them angry he was willing to say anything.

On November 15th he states, "I concede nothing. We have a long way to go. Rigged Election." It doesn't say why the election is rigged. November 17 in a Twitter statement. "Dead people voted." That's it. No evidence.

Just dead people voted. November 28, Twitter statement. "We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned." This just wasn't true. He never found illegal votes. He didn't even try to pretend that he had evidence for that. And stay tuned, well that was all about inciting his base, not about bringing legitimate claims. It was about dramatizing the election to anger his supporters.

December 5 you see here he goes after the governors of Arizona and Georgia, governors from his own party claiming that they weren't with him. You see, Senators, he is casting this in combat terms that either you are with him making sure that he won the election or you're fighting against him.

These are just a few of the hundreds of the Twitter statements that President Trump sent. And it wasn't just Twitter statements. As you'll see, he was dialing into meetings, holding rallies, appearing on television continuing to spread the big lie that his election victory was stolen.


TRUMP: People that were dead were signing up for ballots. Not only were they going in and putting in a ballot, but dead people were requesting ballots, and they were dead for years and they were requesting ballots.

Dead people voting all over the place. The alleged Biden margin of victory in several states in entirely accounted for by (ph) extraordinarily large midnight vote dumps. You saw them with going u to the sky.


SWALWELL: Massive midnight vote dumps. Dead people voting all over the place. He said there were votes going up to the sky. This was never about pursuing legitimate claims. He was saying anything he could to trigger and anger his base so that they would fight like hell to overturn a legitimate election, and it worked.

Just as Manager Castro showed you, President Trump's supporters were taking up arms to stop the count. His message to fight like hell was having real consequences. In Michigan you'll recall that President Trump was attacking that state and its officials. He continued these attacks even after Michigan certified its votes.


TRUMP: Take a look at Michigan. Take a look at what they did with respect to counties, and then you get to Detroit and it's like more votes than people. Dead people voting all over the place.


You know, I went to almost county in Michigan, almost every district. We should have won that state very easily. We have a similar type of governor I think, but I'll let you know that in about a week.


SWALWELL: He's literally telling them that there were more votes in Detroit than people. About 260,000 people voted in Detroit. There are roughly 500,000 registered voters in Detroit. There are approximately 670,000 people in the city. So again, not true, but he needed to make these outlandish claims to truly make his supporters believe that their victory was stolen from them, and it was working.

A few days after these clips on December 5 his supporters surrounded the Michigan Secretary of State's home.


PROTESTER: Secretary of the State's house, and stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal! You're a threat to democracy. You're the threat to free and honest elections.


SWALWELL: 9 o'clock at night. The secretary's family's inside. Protesters have surrounded her home, and they're chanting that she's a felon. And as we saw when armed protesters showed up to follow President Trump's direction to stop the steal this was not the first time that President Trump's supporters used threats and intimidation.

President Trump cannot say I didn't know what I was inciting. From what Manager Castro showed and what I just showed there was plenty of evidence that his words have consequences. And if he wanted to stop it he could stop it. You saw Mr. Castro read statement after statement from our Commander in Chief saying stop the count. Stop the steal.

President Trump was never shy about using his platforms to try and stop something. He could have very easily told his supporters stop threatening officials. Stop going to their homes. Stop it with the threats, but each time he didn't. Instead in the face of escalating violence he incited them further.

The next phase in the certification of results was the certification on December 14 of the electoral college votes. The night before, President Trump personally issued 14 Twitter statements with more false claims about the election being stolen and directing his supporters to make sure that, quote, "they cannot be certified."

He states here, "The RINOS -- the RINOS that run the state voting apparatus have caused us the problem of allowing the Democrats to so blatantly cheat in their attempt to steal the election which we won overwhelmingly. We will never give up."

In the face of threats to elected officials this is his message and he calls them RINOS -- Republicans in Name Only -- and tells them to never give up.

President Trump, to him it was his supporters against anyone who would not overturn the election results so that President Trump could win. But on December 14 despite all of President Trump's efforts to stop, the electors casted their votes according to the will of the American people and Joe Biden was certified as having won 306 electoral college votes.

The day after this occurred, Leader McConnell recognized this stating, "Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The electoral college has spoken."

As Manager Castro said, no one here, no one among us wants to lose an election. Sometimes there's a reason to dispute an election. Sometimes the count is close. Sometimes we ask for a recount or we go to court. That's entirely appropriate, but what President Trump did was different.

What President Trump did was the polar opposite of what any of us would do if we lost an election. Because once the outcome is clear and a judge rules we concede, we recognize the will of the American people because we let the people decide.

[13:25:06] And that's what all of the courts, the Justice Department and the 50 states that had counted the votes, they said it was time for a peaceful transition of power because that's what our Constitution and rule of law demands.

Except President Trump, he directed all of the rage that he had incited to January 6. That was his last chance to stop the peaceful transition of power. And that brings us to the attack. Manager Castro told you the power of the lie, especially when the lie comes from the most powerful person in the world, the Commander in Chief. It also helps if you spend millions of dollars to amplify that lie.

You'll see here in mid December President Trump announced the release of ads, including ones entitled "The Evidence is Overwhelming," "FRAUD," "STOP THE STEAL." He spent $50 million from his legal defense fund on these ads, to stop the steal and amplify his message.

They were released nationally, played in video ads, online advertising and targeted text messages. They used the same words and phrases that President Trump had been spreading for months, that the election was full of fraud. To stop the steal.

But now they had a specific purpose. How do we know that purpose? These ads were designed to run all the way up to January 5. And then they stopped. This was purposeful and deliberate planning to target his base to rally around that day.

And it wasn't just his ads. He continued to use his own platform, he told his supporters who truly believed their victory had been stolen and who were ready to fight when, where and how to stop what he believed was a steal.

Donald Trump would issue a deliberate call to action and just like in his ads that was action -- that action centered around January 6.

On December 19, at 1:42 in the morning our Commander in Chief tweeted, big protest in D.C. on January 6. Be there, will be wild. Will be wild.

We know why he picked this day, it wasn't random, it was his last chance to stop a peaceful transition of power. And he gave his supporters plenty of time to plan. This was the save the date sent out 18 days before the event on January 6.

And it wasn't a casual one-off reference or a single invitation. For the next 18 days Donald Trump would make sure to remind them over and over and over to show up on January 6.

And he would tell me exactly what he wanted them to do. On December 26, he tweets, If a Democrat presidential candidate had an election rigged and stolen, with proof of such acts at a level never even before the Democrat senators would considerate an act of war and fight to the death. Mitch and the Republicans do nothing, just want to let it pass. No fight.

He's saying that the Republicans are doing nothing and have no fight because you are doing your job, taking on the constitutional process of certifying the Electoral College results.

And he also suggests, President Trump, that if this was the reverse and the Democrats had lost it would be an act of war. And act of war. That's how Donald Trump prepared his supporters for January 6.

He even stated again 14 minutes later to make sure his supporter understood. Quote, "The Justice Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 presidential election voter fraud, the biggest SCAM," all caps, "in our nation's history despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed." And then he adds, "History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6."