Dems file brief against Trump ahead of Senate trial; ex-president denies charges

Less than one week before Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, House Democrats filed a legal brief Tuesday morning in their most detailed case yet of why the former GOP president should be convicted and permanently barred from office.

The brief attempts to link Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election to the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and argues he must be found guilty when his impeachment trial opens next week.

“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 Democratic managers of the impeachment case wrote. “This is precisely the sort of constitutional offense that warrants disqualification from federal office.”

The brief not only blames Trump for his role in the riot but also aims to rebut defense claims that Trump’s words were protected by the First Amendment or that an impeachment trial is unconstitutional, or even unnecessary, now that Trump has left office. It says Trump’s behavior was so egregious that it requires permanent disqualification from office.

The Constitution specifies that disqualification from office can be a punishment for an impeachment conviction.

“This is not a case where elections alone are a sufficient safeguard against future abuse; it is the electoral process itself that President Trump attacked and that must be protected from him and anyone else who would seek to mimic his behavior,” the legal brief states.

Lawyers for Trump are expected to file their own brief Tuesday. In a Fox News appearance Monday night, one of the attorneys, David Schoen, said he would argue that the trial was unconstitutional, that efforts to bar Trump from office were undemocratic and that his words were protected by the First Amendment.

Democrats made clear that they disagree with all points.

“The only honorable path at that point was for President Trump to accept the results and concede his electoral defeat. Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue,” they wrote.

One week after the nation and the world was rocked by the deadly Capitol protest, the Democrat-led House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for the second time, making him the first American president to be impeached twice.

Trump was impeached by the House in late 2019 and acquitted by the Senate in February 2020 on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The GOP-led Senate acquitted Trump on both charges. Prior to Trump, only two presidents had been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both were acquitted by the Senate.

The impeachment charge — authored by U.S. Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California — alleges Trump incited the violence that led to the death of one Capitol Police officer who died from injuries suffered in the riot, and the shooting death of another protester. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

The unprecedented second impeachment of an American president came without hearings, witnesses or testimony. Trump’s first impeachment in the House happened after weeks of preparations among top Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff of California, who was the lead House impeachment manager.