Trump’s Lawyers Repeated Inaccurate Claims in Impeachment Trial

As they mounted their defense of the former president on Friday, Donald J. Trump’s lawyers made a number of inaccurate or misleading claims about the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Mr. Trump’s remarks, the impeachment process and 2020 election. Many claims were echoes of right-wing talking points popularized on social media or ones that were spread by Mr. Trump himself.

Here’s a fact check.

What Was Said

“Instead of expressing a desire that the joint session be prevented from conducting its business, the entire premise of his remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law.” — Michael van der Veen, lawyer for Mr. Trump

False. In his speech on Jan. 6 and before, Mr. Trump repeatedly urged former Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of the Electoral College votes, saying Mr. Pence should “send it back to the States to recertify.” Mr. Trump continued his speech on Jan. 6 saying he was “challenging the certification of the election.”

What Was Said

“Far from promoting insurrection of the United States, the president’s remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is exaggerated. Mr. Trump used the phrase “peacefully and patriotically” once in his speech, compared with 20 uses of the word “fight.”

What Was Said

“As everyone knows, the president had spoken at hundreds of large rallies across the country over the past five years. There had never been any moblike or riotous behaviors.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is misleading. While no other Trump rally has led to a siege of the Capitol, there have been episodes of violence, sometimes encouraged by the president. Less than two months before the riot on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump waved to supporters who had gathered in Washington to protest his election loss and who later violently clashed with counterprotesters. Previously, other supporters had attacked counterprotesters, and in one case a BBC cameraman, at several Trump rallies. Mr. Trump called one victim “disgusting” and offered to pay the legal fees of a supporter who had punched a protester.

What Was Said

“Given the timeline of events, the criminals at the Capitol weren’t there at the Ellipse to even hear the president’s words. They were more than a mile away engaged in their preplanned assault on this very building.” — Bruce L. Castor Jr., another lawyer for Mr. Trump

This is misleading. It is true that the Capitol was first breached before Mr. Trump had concluded his remarks, but this does not rule out the possibility that some rioters were inspired by his speech. In fact, several have said that they were.

For example, Robert L. Bauer, who had attended Mr. Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 and entered the Capitol, told law enforcement that when Mr. Trump told the crowd to march to the Capitol (about 16 minutes into his speech), many heeded those words. Mr. Bauer “reiterated that he marched to the U.S. Capitol because President Trump said to do so,” according to a criminal complaint.

Mr. Castor’s reasoning that Mr. Trump could not have incited the crowd to riot because the siege was preplanned also ignores an argument that House managers had made this week: Mr. Trump had spent months trying to invalidate the results of the election and encouraging his supporters to act.

What Was Said

“At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is disputed. Comments by Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, suggest otherwise. This week, Mr. Tuberville recounted that he and Mr. Trump had spoken just as the Capitol was breached before the phone call was cut short.

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Mr. Tuberville said.

What Was Said

“One of the first people arrested was the leader of antifa.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is misleading. Mr. van der Veen was most likely referring to John E. Sullivan, a Utah man who was charged on Jan. 14 with violent entry and disorderly conduct. Mr. Sullivan, an activist, said he was there to film the siege. He had previously referred to antifa — a loosely affiliated group of antifascist activists that has no leader — on social media, but he has repeatedly denied being a member of the movement.

The F.B.I. has said there is no evidence that supporters of the antifa movement had participated in the Capitol siege.

What Was Said

“As many will recall, last summer the White House was faced with violent rioters night after night. They repeatedly attacked Secret Service officers, and at one point pierced a security wall, culminating in the clearing of Lafayette Square.” — Mr. van der Veen

False. This timeline is wrong. Law enforcement officials began clearing Lafayette Square after 6 p.m. on June 1 to allow Mr. Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a church, not because of a breach. Additional security barriers were installed after those events, according to local news reports and the National Park Service.

What Was Said

“The entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked.” — Mr. van der Veen

False. United States intelligence agencies concluded years ago that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 election. The Republican-led Senate agreed last year that Russia had disrupted that election to help Mr. Trump.

What Was Said

“The House waited to deliver the articles to the Senate for almost two weeks, only after Democrats had secured control over the Senate. In fact, contrary to their claim that the only reason they held it was because Senator McConnell wouldn’t accept the article, Representative Clyburn made clear they had considered holding the articles for over 100 days to provide President Biden with a clear pathway to implement his agenda.” — David I. Schoen, another lawyer for Mr. Trump

This is misleading. Democrats had considered delivering the article of impeachment earlier, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, then the majority leader, precluded the possibility. In a letter on Jan. 8, he informed Republican lawmakers that the Senate was in recess and “may conduct no business until Jan. 19.”

Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, suggested withholding the articles longer after Mr. McConnell made his timeline known. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Clyburn suggested Mr. McConnell was “doing what he thinks he needs to do to be disruptive of President Biden,” but Democrats might respond to that tactical delay with one of their own to “give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running.”

What Was Said

“Our Constitution and any basic sense of fairness require that every legal process with significant consequences for a person’s life, including impeachment, requires due process under the law, which includes fact-finding and the establishment of a legitimate, evidentiary record. Even last year, it required investigation by the House. Here, President Trump and his counsel were given no opportunity to review evidence or question its propriety.” — Mr. Schoen

This is misleading. The point about lack of “due process” is one that Mr. Trump’s lawyers and supporters had argued during his first impeachment and one that law scholars have dismissed.

There are no “enforceable rights” to due process in a House inquiry, and while those rights exist in the Senate trial, they are limited, said Frank O. Bowman III, a law professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on impeachment.

“One justice suggested something like that if it were found that the Senate was deciding cases on a coin flip, that might violate due process,” Mr. Bowman said. “Anything short of that, basically court’s not going to get involved.”

Moreover, a senior aide on the House impeachment team said that the Trump legal team was given the trial material, including all video and audio footage, before the start of the proceedings.

What Was Said

“Based on an analysis of publicly available voter data that the ballot rejection rate in Georgia in 2016 was approximately 6.42 percent, and even though a tremendous amount of new, first-time mail-in ballots were included in the 2020 count, the Georgia rejection rate in 2020 was a mere 0.4 of 1 percent, a drop-off from 6.42 percent to 0.4 percent.” — Mr. Castor

This is misleading. Georgia elections officials have repeatedly debunked this claim, which conflates the overall rejection rate for mail-in ballots in 2016 to the rejection rate specifically for signature mismatch in 2020. (Ballots can also be rejected for arriving late or not having a signature, among other reasons.)

In 2016, Georgia rejected about 6.4 percent of all returned mail-in ballots and 0.24 percent of those ballots because of signature-matching issues. It is unclear what the 0.4 percent refers to, but in both 2018 and 2020, Georgia rejected 0.15 percent of mail-in ballots because of signature-matching issues.

What Was Said

“President Trump wanted the signature verification to be done in public. How can a request for signature verifications to be done in public be a basis for a charge for inciting a riot?” — Mr. Castor

This is misleading. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief and Mr. Castor’s repetition of it, Georgia does verify signatures. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state noted that the state trained officials on signature matching and created a portal that checked and confirmed voters’ driver’s licenses. In a news conference last month debunking Mr. Trump’s claims, Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, explained that the secretary of state’s office also brought in signature experts to check over 15,000 ballots. They discovered issues with two, and after further examination, concluded that they were legitimate.

“Shockingly, the disinformation continues,” Mr. Sterling tweeted during the trial.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from Washington.

We welcome suggestions and tips from readers on what to fact-check on email and Twitter.

What Was Said

“As everyone knows, the president had spoken at hundreds of large rallies across the country over the past five years. There had never been any moblike or riotous behaviors.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is misleading. While no other Trump rally has led to a siege of the Capitol, there have been episodes of violence, sometimes encouraged by the president. Less than two months before the riot on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump waved to supporters who had gathered in Washington to protest his election loss and who later violently clashed with counterprotesters. Previously, other supporters had attacked counterprotesters, and in one case a BBC cameraman, at several Trump rallies. Mr. Trump called one victim “disgusting” and offered to pay the legal fees of a supporter who had punched a protester.

What Was Said

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Mr. Tuberville said.

What Was Said

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