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Democrats respond to Trump, seeking to pick apart his arguments

Democrats on Tuesday amplified their charges that Donald Trump incited the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accusing the former president of exploiting an angry mob to do his political dirty work — and then blaming them for heeding his own request.

In a 33-page legal filing, the nine Democrats prosecuting Trump's latest impeachment trial ticked through the various defense arguments advanced by Trump's attorneys in their own brief released a day earlier, then sought to pick them apart one by one.

"His brief — in which he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions — highlights the danger he continues to pose to the Nation he betrayed," wrote the impeachment managers, a group 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.).

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The brief arrived shortly before the Senate was scheduled to kick off the trial phase of Trump's impeachment, which begins Tuesday afternoon. The process is historic on two fronts: It marks the first time a president will face an impeachment trial twice in his tenure; and the first time that trial will occur after the president has left the White House.

On Monday, Trump's defense attorneys had laid out their case for why the impeachment charges should be dismissed. First, they argue, Trump cannot be subject to impeachment because the Founders never intended that process to apply to former presidents. Second, they say Trump's fiery rhetoric leading up to the Capitol siege is well protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.

Democrats have rejected both defenses out of hand. In their latest filing, they reiterate their legal argument why Trump should be held accountable, both for his unsubstantiated claims that the election was "stolen," and for egging on the supporters who subsequently stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump's status as a former president does not protect him from impeachment proceedings, they argue, because the constitutional penalties brought by impeachment are not only removal from office, but also disqualification from future office.

"The language of the Constitution gives the Senate 'the sole Power to try all Impeachments' — not just impeachments involving sitting officials," they wrote.

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Additionally, they dismiss the claim that Trump is protected by the First Amendment, noting that impeachment is not a criminal case, but a process designed to hold elected officials to higher standards of conduct and accountability.

"Accepting President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE’s argument would mean that Congress could not impeach a President who burned an American flag on national television, or who spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally in a white hood, or who wore a swastika while leading a march through a Jewish neighborhood — all of which is expression protected by the First Amendment but would obviously be grounds for impeachment," the impeachment managers wrote.

Raskin and his team also sought to dispel the idea — central to Trump's defense — that the former president cannot be held responsible for the violent behavior of others, even if he encouraged their activism using violent imagery. There is, the Democrats wrote, "no good defense of his incitement of an insurrection against the Nation he swore an oath to protect."

"Instead, he tries to shift the blame onto his supporters, and he invokes a set of flawed legal theories that would allow Presidents to incite violence and overturn the democratic process without fear of consequences."