Washington (AFP) -
Donald Trump incited insurrection and 'revelled' in violence by supporters storming Congress to try and overturn his election defeat, the chief Democratic impeachment prosecutor said Wednesday at the former president's Senate trial.
After weeks of inflaming Americans by telling them the election was stolen, Trump became 'inciter-in-chief of a dangerous insurrection' at the US Capitol on January 6, lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin told senators.
'When the violence inexorably and inevitably came, as predicted, and overran this body and the House of Representatives with chaos, we will show you that he completely abdicated his duty,' Raskin said.
'He revelled in it and he did nothing to help us as commander-in-chief.'
Impeachment managers, the equivalent of prosecutors in a regular trial, are expected to take no more than two days to lay out their contention that Trump instigated the rebellion after refusing to accept his November election loss to Joe Biden.
Unlike Trump's first impeachment trial a year ago, which took three weeks, this one is expected to be over quickly.
After a large majority of Republicans voted Tuesday that they consider putting a former president on trial to be unconstitutional, it appears highly unlikely that Democrats can obtain the two-thirds majority in the Senate required for conviction.
On Tuesday the impeachment team gave a preview of their emotionally charged presentation tying the populist real estate tycoon, who is currently holed up in his luxury Florida club, to the January 6 mob.
A 13-minute compilation of video clips showed Trump stirring up the crowd which then rampaged through the halls of Congress, seeking to stop certification of Biden's victory.
'If that's not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,' Raskin said in an opening speech that riveted watching senators.
- Trump lawyers drop ball -
Trump is remaining largely and uncharacteristically silent in his Mar-a-Lago retreat.
Forced off Twitter and other social media platforms in the wake of his unprecedented attempt to foment a conspiracy theory about his election defeat, Trump has fewer outlets where he can vent.
But it is also believed that advisors are pressing him to keep back, fearing his reappearance would only anger Republican senators.
According to US media reports, Trump was privately furious on Tuesday at his own lawyers' performance.
One of the attorneys, Bruce Castor, delivered a rambling, often baffling speech of about 40 minutes that even Trump allies said made no sense.
The other lawyer, David Schoen, did not defend Trump's behavior during the post-election period but angrily denounced Democrats and the impeachment process in the kind of high-energy style the former president famously appreciates.
The impeachment trial threatens to 'tear this country apart,' Schoen said.
The Trump team will get the same amount of time as the impeachment managers -- up to 16 hours divided over two days -- to present their defense later.
Despite leaving office in disgrace -- the first president in history to be twice impeached -- Trump is still hugely popular among Republican voters, who see him as a champion against Washington elites and a bulwark against rapidly deepening liberal social values.
Because of this, Trump retains considerable power over the party, explaining why so few Republican senators -- despite often being openly angry at his behavior -- are willing to convict him.
On Tuesday, just six out of 50 Republican senators voted with the 50 Democrats to confirm that the trial was constitutional and could go ahead.
One of them, Bill Cassidy, said he had previously opposed the trial but changed his mind after hearing the opening presentations.
He called Trump's lawyers 'disorganized, random. They talked about many things, but they didn't talk about the issue at hand.'
While the end result seems certain, some doubt remains because the wily Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told members to vote with their conscience -- not along party lines.