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Trump's responsibility for Capitol riot 'unmistakable,' House Democrats say in impeachment brief

Melina Mara / Pool via Reuters

The Democrats call Trump's actions "an impeachable offense of historic proportions" and say he should be prevented from holding future office.

Posted: Feb 2, 2021 12:30 PM

NBC News- WASHINGTON — House impeachment managers filed their memorandum Tuesday for the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, laying out in the clearest terms yet why they believe Trump committed impeachable offenses and must be barred from running for office again.
In the brief released Tuesday morning, the managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., argue that Trump was personally responsible for the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. They say that when Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election failed, he incited the attack.

“President Trump’s responsibility for the events of January 6 is unmistakable,” they write in the 80-page document, stating that his "abuse of office threatened and injured our democratic order.”
“His conduct endangered the life of every single member of Congress, jeopardized the peaceful transition of power and line of succession, and compromised our national security," the brief says. "This is precisely the sort of constitutional offense that warrants disqualification from federal office.”

The Senate “must establish beyond doubt” that Trump’s behavior was intolerable, it says.
The managers refute the claims made by the former president’s lawyers and allies that the Senate has no jurisdiction over Trump because he is now a former official.
“That argument is wrong. It is also dangerous,” they write, saying it’s unthinkable that the framers of the Constitution would have “left us virtually defenseless against a president’s treachery in his final days, allowing him to misuse power, violate his Oath, and incite insurrection against Congress and our electoral institutions simply because he is a lame duck.”
Nothing in the Constitution says only current officials can be tried, they argue. The Constitution gives the Senate the power "to try all impeachments," they note, emphasizing the word "all."
They add that it’s “obvious” that the Senate has the right to hold the trial, which is set to begin next week, because Trump was impeached by the House while he was still in office. The framers of the Constitution "clearly intended for the impeachment process to reach former officials," they write, adding that the Senate found it had the power to try former officials as far back as 1798, in the case of former Sen. William Blount.
They also say Trump cannot hide behind a free speech argument, arguing that right means little if Trump can "provoke lawless action if he loses at the polls."
Trump’s statements at his rally on Jan. 6 ahead of the attack on the Capitol turned the event into a “powder keg waiting to blow” and that it was “entirely foreseeable” that his supporters were “primed (and prepared) for violence if he lit a spark,” they write.
Trump "summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue," they say.

Trump team responds

Meanwhile, Trump's legal team filed their trial brief Tuesday afternoon, asking that the Senate dismiss the impeachment article against the former president "because the Senate lacks jurisdiction to remove from office a man who does not hold office."
"In the alternative, the 45th president respectfully requests the Senate to acquit him on the merits of the allegations raised in the article of impeachment," the attorneys, Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wrote in the 14-page brief.

They deny that "the 45th president engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States" or that he violated his oath of office.
"To the contrary, at all times, Donald J. Trump fully and faithfully executed his duties as president of the United States, and at all times acted to the best of his ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, while never engaging in any high crimes or misdemeanors," they wrote.
Their brief says that Trump didn't incite the crowd at his rally on Jan. 6 to engage in destructive behavior and that his statement "if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore" didn't have anything to do with the action at the Capitol.
They also reject the idea that Trump intended to interfere with the counting of electoral votes, which Congress had begun to do that afternoon before the mob overtook the Capitol building. Trump made it clear, however, in the run-up to that joint session of Congress that he wanted Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence to interfere by contesting Joe Biden's victory.
On Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him, his lawyers say he "exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect." They add that there is "insufficient evidence" to conclude that Trump's statements were not accurate, "and he therefore denies they were false."
The Trump team's brief comes after several attorneys on his legal team parted ways with the former president over the weekend after sources said he asked them to focus on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud as part of his defense strategy.

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