Democrats push back on White House impeachment claims, saying Trump believes he is above the law

House Democrats on Monday hammered the White House’s impeachment defense heading into the Senate trial of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE, describing their historic effort as necessary to protect the country from a man who they say believes he is above the law.

In a nine-page memo, authored by the seven Democratic impeachment managers set to prosecute the case, the Democrats refuted “every allegation and defense” presented by the White House in its own trial preview, released over the weekend.

The Democrats also seek to pin responsibility on the GOP-controlled Senate, saying that a fair trial is contingent on their ability to call in witnesses and receive documents that the White House has so far blocked.


“The Framers deliberately drafted a Constitution that allows the Senate to remove Presidents who, like President Trump, abuse their power to cheat in elections, betray our national security, and ignore checks and balances,” the Democrats write.

“That President Trump believes otherwise, and insists he is free to engage in such conduct again, only highlights the continuing threat he poses to the Nation if allowed to remain in office,” they added.

The Democrats latest formal argument came in response to a short, six-page memo released by the White House on Saturday, in which Trump's lawyers previewed how they will seek to debunk the two specific charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — brought against the president in the House-passed impeachment articles.

Trump’s lawyers, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - New video of riot unnerves many senators Trump legal switch hints at larger problems Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE and Pat Cipollone, laid out several arguments to make their case. First, they said, the articles are “invalid on their face” because neither one is a codified federal crime.

“They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever, let alone 'high Crimes and Misdemeanors,'" Trump's team wrote. 


Democrats rejected that contention outright, noting that the nation’s founders gave Congress impeachment powers to remove presidents who violated not just laws, but also their oath of office, in which they vow to prioritize the country’s interests above their own. Presidents Nixon and Clinton both faced abuse of power charges during their impeachment proceedings. 

“President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong,” the Democrats wrote. 

“President Trump did not engage in this corrupt conduct to uphold the Presidency or protect the right to vote,” they added. “He did it to cheat in the next election and bury the evidence when he got caught.” 

Sekulow and Cipollone also accused Democrats of seeking, themselves, to interfere in U.S. elections, framing the impeachment effort as a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to undo Trump’s victory in 2016 and damage his reelection chances this year. 

"The highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the President began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day," the lawyers wrote. 


Democrats on Monday countered that, hardly a politically motivated errand, impeachment was their constitutional responsibility in the face of a president they contend has “jeopardized our national security and our democratic self-governance.” 

“The House duly approved Articles of impeachment because its Members swore Oaths to support and defend the Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic,” the Democrats wrote. “The House has fulfilled its constitutional duty.”

The Democrats’ response arrived just minutes after the White House released yet another document surrounding impeachment: a 171-page trial brief that lays out the Trump team’s defense ahead of the Senate trial.

The extensive document largely reiterates the arguments included in Saturday’s six-page summary, but blows them out in legal terms. In particular, the White House bashed the Democrats’ impeachment case as a “rigged” partisan ruse designed to damage Trump politically. The White House is urging the GOP-controlled Senate to move towards a speedy acquittal of the president. 

“The Articles themselves—and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected,” the brief reads. "The articles are also defective because each charges multiple different acts as possible grounds for conviction. ... The only constitutional option is for the Senate to reject the articles as framed and acquit the President."

The release of the two counter-arguments comes as both sides are preparing for the start of the Senate trial on Tuesday.

One day ahead of the high-stakes process, six of the seven Democratic impeachment managers — joined by top aides and attorneys on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees — sauntered across the Capitol for a walk-through of the Senate chamber, including its bathrooms, in order to familiarize themselves with their battle “arena.”

Led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, the group was trailed by a flock reporters scrambling for new details ahead of the trial. It was a futile effort. The lawmakers did not respond to any questions, nor was press allowed into the Senate chamber to cover their preparations.

Updated at 2:34 p.m.