Trudeau’s criticism of Trump cited at U.S. impeachment trial

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s critical comments about Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have been entered into the record at the former U.S. president’s impeachment trial.

Democrats, urging the U.S. Senate to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection and bar him from ever again seeking office, argued Thursday that the Capitol attack damaged the reputation of American democracy around the world.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, a lawmaker from Texas who is one of the impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump, argued that the circumstances surrounding the Jan. 6 riot could have devastating effects on democracy around the world.

He said the U.S. risks losing the ability to promote free government outside its borders.

Castro cited comments from China, Russia and Iran mocking the U.S. and suggesting it might henceforth mind its own business. He quoted one senior Russian lawmaker who said: “The celebration of democracy is over.… America is no longer charting the course, and therefore, has lost all rights to set it.”

Then Castro acknowledged that officials in those adversary countries might be inclined in normal times to criticize American governance; so he turned the subject to America’s friends.

“Even our allies are speaking up,” he said, mentioning Canada and Germany.

Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro is one of the members of the House of Representatives currently acting as a prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial. (U.S. Senate via Reuters)

Castro continued by quoting Trudeau:

“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said last month during an address outside his residence at Rideau Cottage.

“As shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly saddening, as that event remains, we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence has no place in our societies, and extremists will not succeed in overruling the will of the people.”   

What’s next

Castro pleaded with senators to convict the president to send a message to other countries, that the U.S. remains a driving force for democratic government. 

“The world is watching, and wondering, whether we are who we say we are.”  

It’s looking like a long shot. Conviction requires votes from 67 per cent of senators present in the chamber during the vote. With conviction, Trump could be punished and potentially stripped of the right to run again in 2024.

Trump, shown in a 2020 file photo at left, was criticized by Trudeau after the Jan. 6 riot. The prime minister called the event ‘shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly, saddening.’ (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

But in an earlier vote, only 56 per cent of senators agreed the trial was constitutional. Just six Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in agreeing the trial was legitimate now that Trump is out of office.

While that procedural vote does not necessarily prove what senators will do when it’s time to vote on conviction, Republicans are mostly criticizing the trial and suggesting they will oppose conviction.   

WATCH | Republicans’ comments on Capitol riot used as evidence at impeachment trial:

House manager Joe Neguse used Republicans’ video statements about Trump’s involvement in encouraging the riot to further the Democrats’ argument that he incited violence. 2:08

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