Democrats say Trump impeachment defense 'wholly without merit'

House Democrats on Monday categorically rejected the legal argument advanced by former President TrumpDonald TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE's defense team, dismissing claims that he bears no responsibility for last month's deadly attack on the Capitol. 

In a legal brief filed by the nine Democratic impeachment managers, the lawmakers contend that Trump incited the mob of his supporters that carried out the Jan. 6 attack and said Congress has every right to convict the former president to prevent him from holding high office again.

"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 managers wrote. 


The filing is just the latest in the back-and-forth exchange of legal documents between the two sides ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, which kicks off on Tuesday. 

House Democrats, joined by 10 Republicans, impeached Trump on Jan. 13, exactly one week after the Capitol siege. In the weeks leading up the the attack, Trump had trumpeted false claims that rampant voter fraud had "stolen" the election from him. Hours before the siege, he amplified those empty allegations and urged thousands of his followers to march on the Capitol, where Congress was certifying the victory of his opponent, President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas UN secretary general 'deeply disturbed' by Israeli strike on high rise that housed media outlets Nation's largest nurses union condemns new CDC guidance on masks MORE.

The attack that followed forced the evacuation of lawmakers in both chambers and resulted in multiple deaths, including those of a Capitol Police officer and a rioter who was shot by another officer while attempting to storm into the Speaker's lobby just off the House floor. 

Trump's defense team, led by David Schoen and Bruce Castor, issued a lengthy legal brief earlier Monday, arguing that their client cannot be convicted because the Constitution does not allow for the impeachment of former presidents.

Trump's attorneys also contend that the former president was well within his First Amendment rights both to question the outcome of an election process he deemed corrupt and to urge his supporters to protest those results. If some in the crowd later turned violent, the attorneys added, it's only because they misinterpreted Trump's message.


“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,” the defense brief reads. 

They asked that the charges be dismissed "immediately."

Democrats have a sharply different view of Trump's culpability, and their single impeachment article charges the former president with "inciting insurrection."

In their Monday brief, the impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinWatchdog finds Architect of the Capitol was sidelined from security planning ahead of Jan. 6 Six House Democrats ask Garland to review case of lawyer placed under house arrest over Chevron suit Democrats seek to keep spotlight on Capitol siege MORE (D-Md.), maintain that Trump may face an impeachment trial since the conduct in question occurred while he was still in the White House. 

"Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last," they wrote. "There is no 'January Exception' to the Constitution that allows Presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability." 


The Democrats also rejected the First Amendment defense, saying Trump's language — particularly at the Jan. 6 rally before the siege — was inherently violent and could be interpreted only as a call to arms against his political adversaries in the Capitol. 

"When President Trump demanded that the armed, angry crowd at his Save America Rally 'fight like hell' or 'you’re not going to have a country anymore,' he wasn’t urging them to form political action committees about 'election security in general,'" the Democrats wrote. 

"The House did not impeach President Trump because he expressed an unpopular political opinion," they added. "It impeached him because he willfully incited violent insurrection against the government."