USA TODAY International Edition

Trump, Dems lay out plans of attack

Ex- president’s lawyers to argue Senate lacks jurisdicti­on in case

- Bart Jansen

WASHINGTON – House Democrats and former President Donald Trump’s legal team each offered written arguments Tuesday describing how they will approach the historic Senate impeachmen­t trial against an ex- chief executive no longer in public office.

House prosecutor­s said Trump aimed a mob of supporters “like a loaded cannon” before the deadly riot Jan. 6. Trump’s legal team, in its first formal response to the impeachmen­t charge, argued the trial would be unconstitu­tional because he is a private citizen.

Tuesday’s filings clarified that House prosecutor­s and Trump’s lawyers will spar over the constituti­onality of the trial and whether Trump’s words provoked the mob that stormed the Capitol. Important facets of how to conduct the trial, such as whether to call witnesses, are still up in the air days before the start of oral arguments Feb. 9. Both sides said the trial could be finished in a week without witnesses, or it could run into April with sworn testimony.

The House article of impeachmen­t charges that Trump incited the insurrecti­on with a fiery speech before a violent mob invaded the Capitol and left five people dead, including a police officer. The riot came after Trump spent months questionin­g the legitimacy of the election and pleaded with Georgia officials to “find” votes to allow him to win that state.

“The only honorable path at that point was for President Trump to accept the results and concede his electoral defeat,” said the 80- page brief from the nine House impeachmen­t managers. “Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvan­ia Avenue.”

Trump’s defense team, led by Bruce Castor and David Schoen, filed a reply to the article of impeachmen­t that said the Senate has no jurisdicti­on over him as a private citizen and thus no way to bar him from public office – if he is convicted. They denied Trump incited the violence. “It is denied that the 45th President engaged in insurrecti­on or rebellion against the United States,” the filing said.

Will Senate hear from witnesses?

Republican­s argued that the House rushed in voting to impeach Trump a week after the riot. If Democrats call witnesses, the trial could last months while President Joe Biden is trying to get his agenda approved.

The House brief didn’t explicitly request witnesses at the trial. Neither did the brief the House Intelligen­ce Committee filed before Trump’s first impeachmen­t trial a year ago. For that trial about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, House Democrats urged the Senate to hear witnesses, which the Senate, then led by Republican­s, rejected.

The Senate must vote on a resolution that maps out how the trial will be conducted, including a decision on witnesses. The assistant Democratic leader, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said he hadn’t seen what language would be included.

“I want to make sure that the case is presented,” Durbin said. “I leave it up to the House managers about how it is to be accomplish­ed.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D- Ga., who was sworn in after the riot, said he “absolutely” wanted to hear witnesses.

“I think we need to hear the evidence, and then render a verdict,” Warnock said.

Republican­s such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that hearing from witnesses would add weeks or months to the length of the trial.

“Well, if you want this to stretch into March or April, start calling witnesses because you’d have discovery and everything else,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, RMo. “So it’s a big decision. Neither side is eager to stretch this out for weeks but that’s what will happen if you start calling witnesses.”

Democrats pin riot on Trump

The brief from House Democrats outlined the violence that occurred as the mob interrupte­d Congress counting the Electoral College votes that handed the election victory to Biden.

“As it stormed the Capitol, the mob yelled out ‘ President Trump Sent Us,’ ‘ Hang Mike Pence,’ and ‘ Traitor Traitor Traitor,’ ” the brief said.

The brief quoted Rep. Liz Cheney, RWyo., the third- ranking Republican in the House: “None of this would have happened without the President,” she said in supporting impeachmen­t. “The President could have immediatel­y and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constituti­on.”

The impeachmen­t managers issued a joint statement with the brief saying Trump must be convicted to bar him from holding future office.

“There is no ‘ January exception’ to the Constituti­on that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrecti­on in his final weeks in office,” the lawmakers said. “The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representa­tives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D- Md., a constituti­onal scholar, leads the managers. Others on the prosecutio­n team are Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvan­ia, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Ted Lieu of California, Joe Neguse of Colorado, Eric Swalwell of California and Stacey Plaskett, a delegate from the Virgin Islands.

The House brief wields Trump’s own words against him. The brief noted that even when Trump released a video statement calling for peace hours after the riot began, and while rioters were still rampaging through the Capitol, he told the insurrecti­onists “we love you” and “you’re very special.”

The brief provides a rebuttal to the defense’s argument against the constituti­onality of the trial. It cites cases of other officials being tried after leaving office and language in Article II Section 2 of the Constituti­on that “strongly supports” impeachmen­t of former officials for “grievous abuses.”

Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specialize­s in national security issues, said the brief shows why the Constituti­on has a clause to disqualify people from holding future office.

“The House Managers’ brief lays out in explicit detail the fundamenta­l components of their argument: The former president laid the groundwork with two months of erroneous and incendiary claims of fraud; when he failed to prove fraud, he incited the Jan. 6th mob; and since the attack on the Capitol, he has shown zero remorse for his role in what transpired,” Moss said. “This is exactly why the disqualification clause exists in the impeachmen­t verbiage.”

Trump: Trial unconstitu­tional

Trump and his defenders argued the case is unconstitu­tional because he has left office.

The Senate Democratic majority was joined by five Republican­s in voting to reject that argument last week. The 45 Republican­s who supported the effort to deem the trial unconstitu­tional signaled Trump may have well more than the 34 votes needed for acquittal at his impeachmen­t trial.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., suggested he hasn’t made up his mind on how he’ll vote at trial. He said trying a former president is an “interestin­g constituti­onal question, and I think we ought to listen to the lawyers argue the question.” McConnell, who was among the 45 who supported calling the trial unconstitu­tional, said he would “listen to the arguments.”

Trump’s team argued that for the Senate to bar him from office, he must first be removed from office. Because he is already out of office, the Senate can’t accomplish the first step, so a trial is unnecessar­y.

His defenders denied that his conduct violated his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constituti­on” and denied that he committed “high crimes and misdemeano­rs” as required for conviction.

Trump’s lawyers said his questions about the legitimacy of the election were protected by the Constituti­on. The filing said Trump expressed the belief the election results were suspect because of “safeguards” for the COVID- 19 pandemic and changes in local laws.

“Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false,” the filing said.

Trump denied threatenin­g Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after asking him to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s results in his favor, his lawyers said.

“Trump was expressing his opinion that if the evidence was carefully examined one would ‘ find that you have many that aren’t even signed and you have many that are forgeries,’ ” the filling said.

Trump’s team denied that a phrase in his speech Jan. 6 – “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” – had anything to do with violence at the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers said they wouldn’t argue that the election was fraudulent, but the filing defended his right to question the results.

“If the First Amendment protected only speech the government deemed popular in current American culture, it would be no protection at all,” the filing said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D- N. Y., said if Trump’s lawyers raised arguments about election fraud, it would demonstrat­e they couldn’t answer the House charges. If that happens, Schumer said, he hoped “that Republican­s would see that and realize that they have no argument against the charges brought by the House managers.”

“Neither side is eager to stretch this out for weeks but that’s what will happen if you start calling witnesses.”

Sen. Roy Blunt

R- Mo.

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