Trump lawyers challenge legitimacy of post-presidency impeachment trial

Clay Curtis
February 3, 2021

"President Trump's conduct must be declared unacceptable in the clearest and most unequivocal terms", they wrote.

Trump's defense lawyers rejected the charges and questioned the constitutionality of the trial, saying there is no precedent for trying a president after he has left office. The trial is expected to last about one week.

President Trump's legal team has called on the Senate for an acquittal, while arguing the impeachment trial is unconstitutional.

"Finally, President Trump appeared behind a podium bearing the presidential seal".

With the trial's February 9 start date looming, Reuters reported Monday that the House Democrats in charge of impeachment proceedings in the Senate are expected to announce whether or not they will call witnesses by as early as Tuesday.

Trump is the first U.S. president in history to be impeached twice, making this his second impeachment trial.

Whether Trump will be convicted remains uncertain - although the prospects are slim.

Here's a look at what the two sides say about Trump's impeachment.

"The brief argues that the election results that voted Trump out and Biden in, it argues that those results are, and I quote, 'Suspect, '" Maddow continued.

Republican Senator John Cornyn said that making an argument regarding alleged election fraud would be "really not material" to the charge that Trump's remarks urging supporters to "fight" on january 6 led to the attack on the Capitol that left five dead.

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Throughout the summer, "he insisted at rallies and through social media that if he appeared to lose the election, the only possible explanation was a conspiracy to defraud him and those who supported him", they wrote.

And more: "If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a Joint Session of Congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense, it is hard to imagine what would be", it continues. Trump had urged his followers to attend, promising on Twitter it would be "wild".

"It is denied that the phrase, "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore" had anything to do with the action at the Capitol, as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general, as evidenced by the recording of the speech", his legal 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.

Though no president has been tried after departing the White House, Democrats say there is precedent, pointing to an 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who resigned his office in a last-ditch attempt to avoid an impeachment trial.

It not only explicitly faults Mr Trump for his role in the riot but also aims to preemptively rebut defense claims that his words were protected by the First Amendment, or that an impeachment trial is unconstitutional now that he has left office. Trump's address to a massive crowd in Washington on January 6 before the riot was protected by the First Amendment. That claim that President Trump won the election somehow and that President Biden isn't really the president, he's a pretender and he's stolen it, and Trump is the rightful president.

FILE - People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

As for the idea that Trump can't be impeached: "There is no "January Exception" to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution". "Since the 45th president is no longer president, the clause "shall be removed from office on impeachment for" ... is impossible for the Senate to accomplish". Trump then became "fixated" on 6 January, the managers wrote.

Trump's lawyers responded with their own filing that denied that he had incited the riot by disputing the election results or by exhorting his followers to "fight like hell".

Democrats also rejected the reasoning that Trump can not be tried once out of office. It did cite a phone call Mr Trump placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to "find" just enough votes to undo Mr Biden's victory in that state. "Allowing Presidents to subvert elections without outcome would encourage the most risky of abuses".

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