Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who will prosecute former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial said in a brief filed on Tuesday he pointed a mob “like a loaded cannon” at the Capitol shortly before a deadly Jan. 6 rampage.
Trump also faced a Tuesday deadline to respond to the article of impeachment passed by the Democratic-led House on Jan. 13 charging him with inciting insurrection in his speech to supporters before the rampage at the Capitol that left five people dead including a police officer.
The nine House Democrats, known as House impeachment managers, in their brief also rejected Republican claims that it would be unconstitutional to put Trump on trial in the Senate since he became a private citizen after leaving office on Jan. 20.
“There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” the managers said in the brief.
“He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted,’ ” they said.
Read | The Democrats’ legal brief on why Trump should be convicted”
Trump is just the third president to have been impeached, the first to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. Members of the 100-seat Senate will serve as jurors in his impeachment trial, due to begin next week.
Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds vote, meaning that 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats in voting to convict. That presents a daunting hurdle for Democrats. Last week, 45 of the 50 Republican senators voted in favour of a failed bid to dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional because Trump has left office.
A conviction could lead to a second vote banning Trump from holding public office again. The Democrats write that the Senate should “disqualify him from future federal officeholding.”
‘Amplified’ lies, Democrats charge
The Tuesday deadline for a response the charge from Trump comes just days after he parted ways with his initial legal team amid a reported dispute over how to respond. Trump is still making false claims that his election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread voting fraud and irregularities.
“He spent months asserting, without evidence, that he won in a ‘landslide’ and that the election was ‘stolen,’ ” the impeachment managers wrote. “He amplified these lies at every turn, seeking to convince supporters that they were victims of a massive electoral conspiracy that threatened the Nation’s continued existence.”
The rampage by Trump followers interrupted the formal congressional certification of Biden’s Nov. 3 election victory over Trump and sent lawmakers into hiding for their safety.
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 Jan. 6 led to the attack on the Capitol that left five dead.
“I think it would be a disservice to the president’s own defence to get bogged down in things that really aren’t before the Senate,” Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court judge, told reporters on Monday.
WATCH | Former FBI director Comey speaks to CBC News about 2nd Trump impeachment:
One of Trump’s recently hired lawyers, David Schoen, called the impeachment process “completely unconstitutional” in an interview with Fox News on Monday but did not outline the former president’s legal strategy.
“I think it’s also the most ill-advised legislative action that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Schoen said. “It is tearing the country apart at a time when we don’t need anything like that.”
Trump’s first impeachment trial, on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress arising from his phone call urging Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, ended last year in acquittal by the then Republican-controlled Senate.
A group of Republican former U.S. officials rebutted the argument that the trial was unconstitutional in an open letter released on Tuesday.
It is “essential to focus the nation on the gravity of what Mr. Trump did,” the group said in a statement seen by Reuters.
The nation’s top constitutional scholars wrote a letter to Congress explaining that the Senate has the power to try President Trump on an article of impeachment even though he is no longer in office. Read their letter here: <a href=”https://t.co/9zI4SGsL9k”>https://t.co/9zI4SGsL9k</a>
The three dozen former officials signing the letter included former Governors Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and William Weld of Massachusetts and Carter Phillips, a veteran Washington litigator and assistant solicitor general under former president Ronald Reagan.
“It will be a permanent stain on the history of the Republican Party and the legacy of its members in the U.S. Senate if they fail to find a way to hold a president of their party to account for this unprecedented mayhem at our nation’s Capitol,” the group wrote.