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Supporters' words may come to haunt Trump in Senate trial


Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach. Photo: Reuters

Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach. Photo: Reuters

Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach. Photo: Reuters

The words of the Donald Trump supporters accused of participating in the deadly US Capitol riot may end up being used against him in his Senate impeachment trial as he faces the charge of inciting a violent insurrection.

At least five supporters facing federal charges have suggested they were taking orders from the then president when they marched to challenge the certification of Joe Biden's election win.

Now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. It is the first time a former president will face such charges after leaving office.

"I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do," Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who posted a photo on Twitter of herself next to a broken Capitol window, told a Dallas-Fort Worth TV station.

Jacob Chansley - the Arizona man photographed shirtless and wearing a furry hat with horns - called the FBI the day after the insurrection and said he had travelled "at the request of the president that all 'patriots' come to DC on January 6, 2021", authorities wrote in court papers.

They said that while in the Senate chamber, Chansley wrote a note to then vice president Mike Pence that said: "It's only a matter of time, justice is coming."

Trump is the first president to be impeached twice and the first to face a trial after leaving office.

The charge this time is "inciting violence against the government of the United States". His impeachment lawyer, Butch Bowers, did not respond to calls for comment.

Opening arguments in the trial will begin on February 8.

Trump spoke to the crowd before they marched along Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill, saying: "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country any more."

Unlike a criminal trial, where there are strict rules about what is evidence, the Senate can consider anything it wishes. If they can show Trump's words made a real impact, all the better, and experts expect it in the trial.

A retired firefighter from Pennsylvania told a friend he listened to Trump's speech and then "followed the president's instructions". That man, Robert Sanford, is accused of throwing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers.

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Another man, Robert Bauer, of Kentucky, told FBI agents he "marched to the US Capitol because President Trump said to do so".

More than 130 people are facing federal charges, and prosecutors have promised more cases are coming.

Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict Trump, and while many Republicans - including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - have condemned his words, it remains unclear how many would vote to convict him.

©Associated Press

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