Donald Trump’s attorneys, in their first formal response to the impeachment charge against the former president, argued his upcoming Senate impeachment trial is unconstitutional and asked for the case to be dismissed.
Trump’s team argues in the 14-page Tuesday filing that remarks Trump made about the election were protected by free speech and denied he played any part in inciting the deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol that left multiple people dead Jan. 6.
“The Senate lacks jurisdiction to remove from office a man who does not hold office,” the filing states, calling the case “moot.” “In the alternative, the 45th President respectfully requests the Senate acquit him on the merits of the allegations raised in the article of impeachment.”
Trump’s attorneys argue that along with the Senate not having the constitutional grounds to hold an impeachment trial for a former president, the House’s impeachment article charging him with inciting an insurrection was improperly drafted. They pointed out the House skipped hearings and took only a week to impeach him after the attack at the Capitol.
“The House of Representatives deprived the 45th President of due process of law in rushing to issue the Article of Impeachment by ignoring it own procedures and precedents going back to the mid-19th century,” the filing states.
Trump’s lawyers do not cite false claims about election fraud as a defense, but the legal brief does make references to Trump’s complaints about the balloting, a hint that the baseless conspiracies could come up at his trial.
“It is admitted that President Trump addressed a crowd at the Capitol ellipse on January 6, 2021 as is his right under the First Amendment to the Constitution and expressed his opinion that the election results were suspect, as is contained in the full recording of the speech,” the brief says.
The filing comes just days after Trump split from five members of his expected legal team and hired David Schoen, a criminal defense attorney who works in Alabama and New York, and Bruce Castor Jr., a former district attorney in Pennsylvania, to lead his defense.
Trump and his first set of lawyers parted ways over trial strategy over the weekend. The former president wanted to emphasize “voter fraud” issues during the trial, said a person familiar with the legal discussions. But the original attorneys wanted to stress that the Senate should not hold a trial of a former officeholder, and that Trump’s comments during a Jan. 6 rally did not incite the mob that led a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
– Christal Hayes and David Jackson
House prosecutors file written argument in Trump impeachment trial
WASHINGTON – The House members prosecuting former President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial released their written brief Tuesday, offering the first glimpse of their formal arguments that called his crimes “a betrayal of historic proportions.”
The House article of impeachment charged that Trump incited the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 with a fiery speech before a violent mob invaded the Capitol and left multiple dead. The riot came after Trump spent months questioning the legitimacy of the election and pleaded with Georgia officials to “find” votes to allow him to win that state, the article charged.
“The only honorable path at that point was for President Trump to accept the results and concede his electoral defeat,” the 80-page brief said. “Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
The brief outlined the violence that occurred.
“In a grievous betrayal of his Oath of Office, President Trump incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol during the Joint Session, thus impeding Congress’s confirmation of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the winner of the presidential election,” the brief said. “As it stormed the Capitol, the mob yelled out ‘President Trump Sent Us,’ ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ and ‘Traitor Traitor Traitor.’”
The brief quoted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who is the third-ranking Republican in the House:
“None of this would have happened without the President,” she said in supporting impeachment. “The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.’
Trump’s defense team is scheduled to file their first formal reply Tuesday to the House’s article of impeachment. The defense team has a deadline Monday to file a formal response to the brief from House prosecutors, who are called managers. Oral arguments are set to start Feb. 9.
Trump and his defenders have argued that the case is unconstitutional because he has already left office. The Senate has voted to reject that argument, but the 45 Republicans supporting the argument suggested there will be more than the 34 votes Trump needs for acquittal.
The nine House managers issued a joint statement with the brief saying that Trump must be convicted in order to bar him from holding future office.
“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” the lawmakers said. “The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.”
– Bart Jansen
Sen. Tim Kaine abandons effort to censure Trump
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., won’t file a motion to censure former President Donald Trump after floating the idea last week because it lacks support from congressional colleagues.
“We don’t have enough support on the Republican side because they don’t want to bar Trump from running from office and I don’t have enough support on the Democratic side because for most of my colleagues, it’s impeachment or nothing,” Kaine said Tuesday.
Kaine said Wednesday he was discussing a censure resolution with his colleagues as an alternative to impeachment to condemn Trump’s role in the deadly attack on the Capitol Jan. 6. Kaine’s resolution was seen as acknowledgement that the Senate is unlikely to convict Trump after a majority of Senate Republicans supported a motion calling the trial unconstitutional.
Kaine also told reporters Tuesday that he’s “very worried about going through this trial and having the punchline at the end of it, Trump acquitted again.”
While a censure doesn’t hold the same weight as a conviction, it would publicly record the Senate’s disapproval of Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol.
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Trump impeachment lawyer raises First Amendment concern
Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyer David Schoen said impeachment trial proceedings against the former president may present a “very, very dangerous road” for political speech.
In in an interview with Fox News’ “Hannity” Monday evening, Schoen argued that the impeachment trial was unconstitutional because Trump was no longer president and the possibility he’d be convicted for inciting a riot was a threat to his First Amendment rights.
“This is a very, very dangerous road to take with respect to the First Amendment, putting at risk any passionate political speaker, which is against everything we believe in this country,” Schoen contended.
Democrats plan to use Trump’s own words against him at trial in an effort to convince Republicans he incited the mob at the Capitol Jan. 6, including his speech before the group went to the Capitol and his months of baselessly claiming the election was fraudulent.
During the interview, Schoen argued that Trump’s second impeachment was a “political weaponization of the impeachment process” where Congress had “rushed to judgment” about Trump’s actions.
“We know also that the agenda of Pelosi and others is simply to bar President Trump from ever running for president again, and that’s about as undemocratic you can get, a slap in the face to the 75 million people who voted for Donald Trump,” Schoen also said.
– Matthew Brown
Rep. Adam Kinzinger says the GOP has “lost” its way
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the GOP has “lost” its way.
“It’s time we just tell the truth and the truth is we have totally lost our way but we have a great rich history to tap into and you know what, honestly, if it costs us an election to save our soul I’m fine with that,” Kinzinger said Tuesday morning.
Kinzinger, who has openly criticized Trump and fellow Republican colleagues like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, also said that he started his “Country First” PAC for those “desperate” to go somewhere else in the GOP that isn’t “Trump First, but Country First.”
Trump’s defense team to give first reply to impeachment charge
House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald Trump will offer their first glimpse Tuesday of how they will argue the Senate impeachment trial – and Trump’s defense team will provide its first response to the charge.
The House filing will outline the case against Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. After a Trump rally in Washington that day, a violent mob stormed the Capitol and interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes, leaving multiple people dead.
The nine House Democrats who will be prosecuting Trump at trial – called managers –are expected to use Trump’s words to make their case that he incited the mob that stormed the Capitol.
The Senate also set Tuesday as the deadline for Trump’s first formal reply to the article of impeachment. House Democrats joined by 10 Republicans approved the article Jan. 13. The article charges Trump with questioning the legitimacy of election results for months, urging Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger to “find” votes to change the result in that state and inciting the mob on Jan. 6.
Trump and his defenders have said his speech in Washington featured standard political rhetoric and that he shouldn’t be blamed for the mob’s actions. The Trump team is also expected to argue the trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. The deadline for his defense team’s written response to the House is Monday and oral arguments are expected to start Feb. 9.
The Senate upheld the constitutionality of the trial in a 55-45 vote Jan. 26, with five Republicans joining all Democrats. But that vote also revealed it will be difficult for Democrats to convict Trump, which would require at least 67 votes.
A year ago, House impeachment managers filed an 111-page brief outlining the facts of the first impeachment case against Trump. He was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in his dealings with Ukraine, but a majority of the Senate acquitted him.
This time, House prosecutors say the case is more narrow and easier to understand. Lawmakers witnessed the riot, which forced their evacuation, so both sides expect the arguments to focus on the law.