WASHINGTON — In the country’s fourth presidential impeachment trial, Texans were involved in nearly every angle this week as House Democrats pressed their prosecutorial case that former President Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
There were Texans among the de facto witnesses, prosecutors and jurors over the last two days of this trial in the U.S. Senate chamber, which also served as the scene of the crime a little over a month ago. One Texan, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, appears to have helped out with the defense, according to CNN.
There was also U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, at the dais arguing why Trump ought to be convicted and forever banned from holding office again. And there were two deeply skeptical Texas jurors in the form of U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Cruz.
"We were discussing their legal strategy and sharing our thoughts," Cruz said, when asked by CNN whether it was appropriate for him to consult with Trump's lawyers while also serving as a juror.
And, surprisingly, Texans back home surfaced in video footage to unintentionally help House Democrats make their case.
The last two days of arguments involved a series of presentations from Democratic House members who served as prosecutors, or more formally known as “impeachment managers.” Trump’s own defense attorneys will present his case to the Senate on Friday.
On Wednesday, impeachment manager and U.S. House Delegate Stacey Plaskett, the non-voting representative of the Virgin Islands, referenced an October incident involving a caravan of vehicles flying the Trump flag that sought to run a Biden-Harris campaign bus off of Interstate-35 between San Antonio and Austin. She presented video of the incident and then followed up with a series of Trump's public comments that joked about and endorsed the behavior.
“He made light of it,” she said. “This was not a joke.”
“This link is not hypothetical. ... Donald Trump’s encouragement of this attack made sure his supporters were ready for the next one,” she added.
She then pointed out that an alleged organizer of the caravan was also at the riot.
Dallas-Fort Worth area real estate agent Jenna Ryan, who participated in the riot, also made an appearance on Thursday by way of a montage of interviews and video messages she taped in recent weeks.
“Personally, I do not feel a sense of shame or guilt from my heart from what I was doing,” she said in one clip.
“I thought I was following my president,” she added. “I thought I was following what we were called to do.”
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, used her presentation time to argue that Ryan’s comments showed how Trump’s followers believed he was giving them instructions to invade the Capitol.
“He asked us to fly there, he asked us to be there, so I was doing what he asked us to do. ... Ultimately, yes, we were going in solidarity with President Trump,” Ryan continued in the spliced together video. “President Trump requested that we be in D.C. on the 6th. So this was our way of going and ‘stopping the steal.’”
Authorities later arrested Ryan. She has since said she regretted her actions.
Making a similar case, Castro on Wednesday presented a video of a rioter reading a Trump tweet aloud through a bullhorn that he argued served as a directive to continue the riot. That point, Castro argued, was key to tying Trump — and his orders — to the actions of the rioters.
Later Wednesday, Castro hammered away at Trump's response to the violence, noting that two hours into the insurrection he hadn't deployed the National Guard to the Capitol.
“On Jan. 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” Castro said.
On Thursday, Castro leaned on his experience on the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees to argue that documents and equipment stolen that day posed a national security threat, and how the images of a Capitol under attack complicated American diplomacy.
“To fail to convict a president of the United States who incited a deadly insurrection, who acted in concert with a violent mob, who interfered with the certification of the Electoral College votes, who abdicated his duty as commander of chief, would be to forfeit the power of our example as a North Star on freedom, democracy, human rights and, most of all, on the rule of law,” he said.
“The world is watching and wondering whether we are who we say we are.”
Two-thirds of the Senate will be needed to convict Trump. House Democrats are unlikely to see 67 senators side with them, but at the very least, Texas' senior senator offered them some praise. A former justice on the Texas Supreme Court and state attorney general, Cornyn said the House Democrats presented a strong case.
“I have to compliment the impeachment managers just in terms of their presentation preparation. I thought it was excellent,” he told CNN “I don’t agree with everything. But I think they set the standard pretty high”
Even so, there is little evidence that Cornyn is on track to convict Trump. Cornyn has repeatedly raised questions about the constitutionality of engaging in an impeachment trial after a president has left office.
“I think the real question is what’s on (Trump’s) mind?” he added to CNN. “The biggest concern I have is about the idea of impeaching a former officeholder without explicit authorization in the Constitution and what that means to exactly retribution on political opponents.”
The state’s other senator, Cruz, has repeatedly defended Trump. In a recent Fox News op-ed, he vouched for the constitutionality of a post-presidential impeachment trial. But he said he did not support this one.
“On the merits, President Trump’s conduct does not come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement—the only charge brought against him,” he wrote.