Trump lawyer to make First Amendment case at impeachment trial
A lawyer representing former President Trump at his impeachment trial next week plans to argue that convicting Trump of inciting a riot would imperil all political speech.
Speaking Monday night on Fox News’s “Hannity,” attorney David Schoen laid out a three-pronged strategy for Trump’s defense.
Schoen and attorney Bruce Castor plan to argue that it is unconstitutional to impeach a former president, that some of the rioters planned to storm the Capitol before Trump addressed his supporters and that convicting Trump would set a precedent that could severely curtail political speech going forward.
“Besides the fact that this process is completely unconstitutional … 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 said.
Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate will begin on Feb. 9. Ten House Republicans joined with Democrats in that chamber to impeach Trump for inciting a mob.
In his Jan. 6 speech, Trump repeated his unproven claims about the election being stolen from him through widespread fraud and urged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest the official Electoral College vote count that was going on inside.
Rioters then stormed the Capitol building, killing a police officer and sending lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence, into hiding.
Trump tweeted angrily at Pence while the siege was taking place. Later in the afternoon, as the extent of the mayhem became apparent, Trump called for calm while also lavishing praise on his supporters for fighting for him.
Schoen said Monday that Trump has “condemned violence at all times.”
“Read the words of his speech. It calls for peacefulness,” he said.
Democrats believe they have a compelling case to make that draws a direct line from Trump’s words at the rally to the actions of his supporters, who believed Democrats were unlawfully stealing the White House from the now-former president.
Democrats also plan to show the violent videos from the siege at the trial.
Schoen on Monday called the trial unfair, arguing that Democrats are merely seeking to bar Trump from ever running for office again.
“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 said.
“I would say you also shouldn’t be able to call many of the senators as witnesses because of the awful bias and prejudgement they’ve shown,” he added. “Can you imagine any American citizen considered to be in a trial in which the judge and jury has already announce publicly that the defendant must be convicted in a case? … It’s clear to them Donald Trump undercut democracy. How can we possibly have a fair trial?”
Trump is expected to be acquitted, as 17 Senate Republicans would be needed to join all 50 Democrats in voting to convict him. Last week, 45 Senate Republicans voted to support a dismissal of the trial on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to impeach a former president.