Trump impeachment lawyer David Schoen interviewed on Fox News (Fox News/YouTube)

One of Donald Trump’s defence attorneys at his upcoming Senate impeachment trial has insisted that the Capitol riot “had nothing to do with” his client.

The former president was impeached by the House of Representatives for a historic second time last month after a 232-197 vote in favour of a motion accusing him of “incitement of insurrection” over his role in the events of 6 January.

The outgoing commander-in-chief had addressed a “Save America” rally in Washington that day, urging his supporters to march on Congress to protest the certification of November’s election results, which Mr Trump insisted were fraudulent and the presidency “stolen” from him by an elaborate “mass voter fraud” conspiracy that he entirely failed to prove, losing 59 out of 60 court cases in the process.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong,” Mr Trump told the crowd.

A mob of his enraged supporters, with neo-Nazis, Proud Boys and QAnon cultists among their number, then broke through police barriers to storm the US Capitol Building, roaming its halls bearing the Confederate flag, breaking into offices and engaging in acts of looting and vandalism livestreamed on social media as lawmakers hid behind locked doors in fear for their lives. Five people died amid the chaos.

President Trump left office two weeks later as Joe Biden was inaugurated as his successor and Republicans have since called for the impeachment trial to be dropped to avoid further stoking national tensions while Democrats insist the former leader must be held accountable for an outbreak of lawlessness that left the heart of American government breached for the first time since 1814.

But lawyer David Schoen, one of two representing Mr Trump, appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Monday night to deny his client’s responsibility for the episode – despite many involved wearing Trump merchandise and brandishing flags carrying his name – and to protest plans by Democratic impeachment manager Eric Swalwell to present footage from the siege.

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“He condemned violence at all times. Read the words of his speech. It calls for peacefulness,” Mr Shoen said, of Mr Trump.

“This has nothing to do with President Trump and the country doesn’t need to just watch videos of riots and unrest. We need to heal now. We need to move forward.

“It is tearing the country apart at a time when we don’t need anything like that.”

The Senate voted 55-45 on 26 January to go ahead with the trial, a vote that saw just five Republicans break ranks to side with the opposition, a strong indication that the gesture lacks sufficient support to secure a conviction, with two-thirds of the chamber required to vote guilty if a second acquittal for Mr Trump is to be avoided.

Mr Schoen nevertheless decried “the political weaponisation of the impeachment process” during his interview with Mr Hannity, complaining about the “awful bias and prejudgment shown” by senators who have already indicated they have made up their minds before the evidence has been considered.

“Could you imagine any American citizen considered to be on trial, in which the judge and jury has already announced publicly the defendant must be convicted in this case?” he said.

“It undercuts democracy. How could you possibly have a fair trial? Senator [Chuck] Schumer promised a fair and full trial. You can’t when you know that they are biased going in.”

In decrying the “rush to judgment”, Mr Schoen claimed Democrats had been out to get Mr Trump since “the day he was elected” and suggested the “agenda” of the trial was to see him blocked from running for the presidency again in 2024.

“Can you imagine the slap in the face that is to the 75 million or more voters who voted for Donald Trump?” he said, overstating Mr Trump’s support in the popular vote by approximately 1 million.

Mr Schoen is an attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia, a state that became a focal point for the ex-president’s baseless conspiracy theories about his defeat, and previously represented billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a former friend and Palm Beach neighbour of Mr Trump before his apparent suicide in a New York City jail cell in August 2019.

Joining Mr Schoen in defending the president is Bruce Castor, best known as the Pennsylvania district attorney who famously declined to prosecute disgraced comedian Bill Cosby.

Mr Trump lost five further members of his defence team over the weekend, with lawyers Butch Bowers, Deborah Barbier, Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris all departing late into proceedings.

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Originally published February 2, 2021, 5:19 AM

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