Lawyers of former president Donald Trump and the Democrats lock horns over his impeachment trial in the US Senate. The lawyers say Senate lacks the authority to conduct his impeachment trial now that he has left the office, while the Democratic lawmakers hold him responsible for the January 6 insurrection.
Trump’s team and the nine House of Representatives Democrats set to prosecute him filed briefs with the Senate one week before the trial is scheduled to begin on February 9.
Trump’s lawyers focused on an argument that last week won the support of 45 of the 50 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate that Trump is a private citizen, having left office on January 20. However, Republicans failed in vote to dismiss the case.
Trump’s team also denied that he incited the violence, saying in their 14-page brief that his remarks to supporters shortly before they stormed the Capitol that Democrats contend incited violence were “protected under the US Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech.”
The House Democrats rejected the argument that the Senate lacks constitutional authority to put a former president on trial. They urged senators to convict Trump — which would require a two-thirds majority — and then bar him from again holding public office.
“There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” they wrote. “Presidents do not get a free pass to commit high crimes and misdemeanors near the end of their term.”
The lower house impeached Trump on January 13 on a single charge of inciting insurrection with his speech to supporters before the attack. He is the first US president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office.
“It would be perverse to suggest that our shared commitment to free speech requires the Senate to ignore the obvious: that President Trump is singularly responsible for the violence and destruction that unfolded in our seat of government on January 6,” the Democrats wrote.
Trump’s lawyers argued that not only does the Senate lack the authority to put him on trial but that it also has no jurisdiction to prevent him from holding office again.
The Constitution states that conviction can lead to “removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honour, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
“The 45th President of the United States performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people,” Trump’s defense team said.
“President Trump’s conduct offends everything that the Constitution stands for,” the House lawmakers, known as impeachment managers, wrote in their 80-page brief.
“He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted,’” they said.
To impeach Trump, 17 Republicans must join 50 Democrats senators in the vote, a daunting hurdle.
Trump’s first impeachment trial, on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress arising from his request that Ukraine investigates Biden and his son Hunter, ended last year in an acquittal by the then-Republican-led Senate.
Trump’s brief was filed by his new lawyers just days after he parted ways with his initial legal team amid a reported dispute over how to respond to the charge.