Trump lawyers demand dismissal on impeachment
Attorneys for former President Trump on Monday argued in a new brief that the Senate should quickly dismiss the impeachment article filed against him when his trial begins this week.
The 78-page document amounts to a more detailed version of the arguments presented in a filing last week from David Schoen and Bruce Castor, who are representing the former president in the Senate.
The two argue that Trump’s post-presidency trial is unconstitutional, and that even if senators disagreed, Trump’s speech ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was protected by the First Amendment and did not meet the threshold of an impeachable offense.
Trump’s lawyers accused Democrats in the brief of attempting to “silence a political opponent and a minority party” through a “brazen political act,” arguing the second impeachment proceedings against the former president failed to give him due process.
“The Article of Impeachment presented by the House is unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal,” the attorneys wrote. “Taken together, they demonstrate conclusively that indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic, democracy and the rights that we hold dear.”
The lawyers also argue that House Democrats rushed to impeach the former president. They also argue that Trump’s speech at the Ellipse before the riot at the Capitol did not incite violence. Finally, they claim that the riots were planned prior to Jan. 6 “and therefore had nothing to do” with Trump’s speech.
“Of the over 10,000 words spoken, Mr. Trump used the word ‘fight’ a little more than a handful of times and each time in the figurative sense that has long been accepted in public discourse when urging people to stand and use their voices to be heard on matters important to them; it was not and could not be construed to encourage acts of violence,” their brief states.
“The real truth is that the people who criminally breached the Capitol did so of their own accord and for their own reasons, and they are being criminally prosecuted,” it states, citing right-wing website The Gateway Pundit to support the claim.
The filing contains multiple typos, as did some of the lawsuits filed on Trump’s behalf alleging election fraud that were rejected for lack of standing.
House Democrats rejected the arguments of Trump’s team in their own brief filed later Monday.
“The House states that each and every allegation in the Article of Impeachment is true, and that any affirmative defenses and legal defenses set forth in the Answer are wholly without merit,” the nine impeachment managers wrote.
“Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last. There is no ‘January Exception’ to the Constitution that allows Presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability.”
The contours of Trump’s trial are expected to be established Monday, including details over time allotments for each side to make arguments and whether there will be witnesses. Senators in both parties have indicated they expect the trial to wrap up relatively quickly given Trump’s acquittal appears to be a foregone conclusion.
House impeachment managers asked for Trump to appear to testify at the trial, but the former president’s attorneys quickly rejected the idea and said he would not do so.
All but five GOP senators indicated last month they felt Trump’s trial was unconstitutional, something even many Republican legal experts have disputed. But the vote made clear there likely would not be the 17 GOP votes needed to convict Trump.
The House last month impeached the former president for inciting violence against the government over his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which also claimed the lives of a police officer and four others.
Trump spent weeks claiming without proof that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, even as courts dismissed his team’s allegations of voter fraud. The president on Jan. 6 urged his supporters to march to the Capitol to stop the certification of votes affirming Joe Biden as the next president. A mob overwhelmed law enforcement and stormed the Capitol a short time later.
Trump’s attorneys argued in their initial legal brief filed last week that Trump is constitutionally ineligible to face an impeachment trial because he’s no longer in office. They added that even if senators found the proceedings constitutional, his comments were protected under the First Amendment. In the brief, the attorneys indicated Trump still believes the election was stolen.
Democratic impeachment managers are expected to make the case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the Capitol attack with his rhetoric leading up to and on Jan. 6. They will argue that while Trump is out of office, he should be barred from holding office in the future as a measure of accountability for his actions.
Trump hired Schoen and Castor late last month after he and his original defense team, led by South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, parted ways amid reported differences in legal strategy.
Updated at 2:19 p.m.