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House Dems file written argument in Trump trial

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Politics live updates: Trump's defense team to give first reply to impeachment charge of inciting riot


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House Democrats have sent the impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate, kicking off the trial process.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The House members prosecuting former President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial released their written brief Tuesday, offering the first glimpse of their formal arguments that called his crimes “a betrayal of historic proportions.”

The House article of impeachment charged that Trump incited the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 with a fiery speech before a violent mob invaded the Capitol and left multiple dead. The riot came after Trump spent months questioning the legitimacy of the election and pleaded with Georgia officials to “find” votes to allow him to win that state, the article charged.

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

The brief outlined the violence that occurred. 

“In a grievous betrayal of his Oath of Office, President Trump incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol during the Joint Session, thus impeding Congress’s confirmation of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the winner of the presidential election,” the brief said. “As it stormed the Capitol, the mob yelled out ‘President Trump Sent Us,’ ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ and ‘Traitor Traitor Traitor.’”

The brief quoted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who is 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 office and his oath to the Constitution.’

Trump’s defense team is scheduled to file their first formal reply Tuesday to the House’s article of impeachment. The defense team has a deadline Monday to file a formal response to the brief from House prosecutors, who are called managers. Oral arguments are set to start Feb. 9.

Trump and his defenders have argued that the case is unconstitutional because he has already left office. The Senate has voted to reject that argument, but the 45 Republicans supporting the argument suggested there will be more than the 34 votes Trump needs for acquittal.

The nine House managers issued a joint statement with the brief saying that Trump must be convicted in order to bar him from holding future office.

“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” 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 office again.”

– Bart Jansen

Trump’s defense team to give first reply to impeachment charge

House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald Trump will offer their first glimpse Tuesday of how they will argue the Senate impeachment trial – and Trump’s defense team will provide its first response to the charge.

The House filing will outline the case against Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. After a Trump rally in Washington that day, a violent mob stormed the Capitol and interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes, leaving multiple people dead.

The nine House Democrats who will be prosecuting Trump at trial – called managers –are expected to use Trump’s words to make their case that he incited the mob that stormed the Capitol.

The Senate also set Tuesday as the deadline for Trump’s first formal reply to the article of impeachment. House Democrats joined by 10 Republicans approved the article Jan. 13. The article charges Trump with questioning the legitimacy of election results for months, urging Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger to “find” votes to change the result in that state and inciting the mob on Jan. 6.

Trump and his defenders have said his speech in Washington featured standard political rhetoric and that he shouldn’t be blamed for the mob’s actions. The Trump team is also expected to argue the trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. The deadline for his defense team’s written response to the House is Monday and oral arguments are expected to start Feb. 9.

The Senate upheld the constitutionality of the trial in a 55-45 vote Jan. 26, with five Republicans joining all Democrats. But that vote also revealed it will be difficult for Democrats to convict Trump, which would require at least 67 votes.

A year ago, House impeachment managers filed an 111-page brief outlining the facts of the first impeachment case against Trump. He was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in his dealings with Ukraine, but a majority of the Senate acquitted him.

This time, House prosecutors say the case is more narrow and easier to understand. Lawmakers witnessed the riot, which forced their evacuation, so both sides expect the arguments to focus on the law.

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