Donald Trump’s impeachment legal team said on Tuesday the Senate lacks the authority to conduct his impeachment trial now that the former president has left office, while the Democratic lawmakers due to serve as prosecutors called him singularly responsible for the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Trump’s legal 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.
His lawyers focused on an argument that last week won the support of 45 of the 50 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate in a failed vote to dismiss the case because Trump is a private citizen, having left office on Jan. 20.
Trump’s team also denied he had fomented violence, saying in their 14-page brief that his remarks to supporters were protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech.
Challenging the case against Trump on the grounds that the Senate lacks constitutional authority to put a former president on trial would enable his fellow Republicans to vote against conviction without directly defending his incendiary remarks.
The House Democrats, in their pretrial brief, anticipated that post-presidency argument and argued against it. House Democrat impeachment managers 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.”
Trump’s defense team argued that not only does the Senate lack the authority to put Trump on trial but that the chamber also has no jurisdiction to prevent him from holding office again.
“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.
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.
To secure a conviction, 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats in the vote, a daunting hurdle.
Reuters contributed to this report.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org