The US Senate has voted to give the Congressional Gold Medal to Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer who led a violent mob away from the Senate doors on January 6 as they hunted for lawmakers during the presidential electoral count.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote at the end of the day’s impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump, noting Goodman’s “foresight in the midst of chaos”.
The Senate voted to award Goodman the medal – the highest honour Congress can bestow – by unanimous consent, meaning there were no objections.
Goodman was in the Senate chamber as Schumer spoke, and the entire Senate stood and turned toward him, giving him a standing ovation. He put his hand on his heart.
Goodman has been in the chamber for much of the impeachment trial, in which House Democrats are charging that former President Donald Trump incited the January 6 insurrection.
The trial saw new video of Goodman leading Republican Senator Mitt Romney to safety as he unknowingly headed toward a location where the mob had gathered.
Earlier, lawyers for Mr Trump wrapped up their presentation in the former president’s impeachment trial in just three hours, claiming the proceedings were a ‘witch hunt’.
Lawyers argued Mr Trump did not incite the January 6 rally crowd to riot at the US Capitol and that his words were merely figures of speech.
Their truncated defence barely used the full time allotted, 16 hours over two days. Many senators minds appear already made up.
The former president’s lawyers also accused the Democrats of “constitutional cancel culture” as they launch a defence of the former president on day four of the impeachment trial.
Mr Trump’s team argued the impeachment was “plainly unconstitutional” while claiming evidence presented against him was “manufactured” and footage had been selectively edited.
The defence had been allocated 16 hours to argue that Mr Trump was not responsible for inciting the riot which resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
In their early arguments, Mr Trump’s team focussed heavily on the former president’s use of the word “fight” during his January 6 speech to supporters who went on to invade the Capitol.
They presented a 10-minute video montage of numerous Democrats also saying “fight” in TV interviews to argue that using that word was common in politics and did not mean Mr Trump was encouraging physical violence.
Defence attorney Michael van der Veen said the Democrats were trying to disqualify their political opposition in an “an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance”.
“History will record this shameful effort as a deliberate attempt by the Democrat party to smear, censor and cancel not just President Trump, but the 75 million Americans who voted for him,” Mr van der Veen said.
“Like every other politically motivated witch hunt, the left has engaged in over the past four years, this impeachment is completely divorced from the facts, the evidence, and the interests of the American people.
Defence lawyers presented video footage of Mr Trump’s January 6 speech before the Capitol riots which they said had been manipulated and selectively edited by the Democrats to focus on the word “fight”.
They said the president’s speech should be heard in context.
“The president’s remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically,” Mr van der Veen said.
Mr van der Veen said there was evidence that the riots on 6 January were “pre-planned”.
“Tragically, as we know now, on 6 January a small group who came to engage in violent and menacing behaviour hijacked the event for their own purposes,” he said.
“The fact that these attacks were premeditated demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegations against the [former] president. You can’t incite what was already going to happen.”
The Democrats appear highly unlikely to secure a conviction and bar Mr Trump from holding public office again because they need a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
That means at least 17 Republican senators would have to defy Mr Trump, who remains popular with most Republican voters and has shown interest in running for president again in 2024.
On the first three days of the trial, Democratic prosecutors made the case that Mr Trump incited a deadly insurrection by encouraging his supporters to march on the US Capitol.
House managers focused on Mr Trump’s fiery words to supporters in the weeks leading up to the January 6 attack, when he falsely claimed that his election defeat by Democrat Joe Biden was the result of fraud and that the crowd needed to “fight” and “stop the steal”.
Lead impeachment manager representative Jamie Raskin warned that not convicting Donald Trump could mean more trouble in the future.
“If he gets back into office and it happens again, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves,” Mr Raskin told the Senate on Thursday, wrapping up the prosecution arguments.
Fellow Democratic Representative Ted Lieu told the senators he worried about what would happen if Mr Trump ran in 2024 and lost.
“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose, because he can do this again,” Mr Lieu said.
The Democratic prosecutors provided example after example of Mr Trump’s actions before the rampage to illustrate what he intended when he told supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell”.
Mr Trump is the first US president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office.
His first impeachment trial, which stemmed from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate then-presidential opponent Joe Biden, ended in an acquittal a year ago in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate.