WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives told the Senate that the nation “cannot simply ‘move on’” without an impeachment trial and conviction for Donald Trump’s incitement of an insurrection Jan. 6 just because he’s no longer in office — because future presidents would see no harm in trying something similar in their final weeks in office.
“If the Senate does not try President Trump (and convict him), it risks declaring to all future Presidents that there will be no consequences, no accountability, indeed no Congressional response at all if they violate their Oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution’ in their final weeks — and instead provoke lethal violence in a lawless effort to retain power,” the House impeachment managers argue in a brief filed Tuesday.
Such a situation would “horrify the Framers, who wrote the Presidential Oath of Office into the Constitution and attached no January Exception to it,” the House wrote.
That argument about the Senate’s obligation seeks to shut down arguments from Trump’s impeachment legal team and Senate Republicans, 45 of whom voted last week to support a motion to sweep aside the impeachment trial as unconstitutional because Trump is now a private citizen in Florida.
“So I’m confident of the outcome here that we’re going to have more than 45 votes for a motion to dismiss on the idea that this is unconstitutional impeachment pursuing somebody out of office,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday on Fox News.
“I think the acquittal number will be pretty close. It will be in the high 40s.”
On Monday, Trump’s lead lawyer, David Shoen, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the impeachment process “is completely unconstitutional,” and foreshadowed that the defense team would focus on those process arguments and seek to tamp down plans from House impeachment managers to play videos of the Trump-inspired mob’s attack.
One Capitol Police officer died in the attack, others were injured and one insurrectionist was shot dead as she climbed through a broken window to the House Speaker’s Lobby.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Schoen said Trump has condemned violence at all times and that his speech to the crowd that morning calls for peacefulness.
“This has nothing to do with President Trump,” Schoen said. “And the country doesn’t need to just watch videos of riots and unrest.
“We need to heal now. We need to move forward.”
But the House impeachment managers, in their brief, wrote they will argue that “President Trump’s responsibility for the events of Jan. 6 is unmistakable.”
Trump improperly pressured state officials, the Justice Department and members of Congress to overturn the electoral outcome, and “sharply escalated his public statements, using more incendiary and violent language to urge supporters to ‘stop the steal’ on Jan. 6,” the House brief states.
The House highlights how Trump insisted that the election had been ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen,’ and that his followers had to ‘fight like hell’ and ‘fight to the death’ against this ‘act of war,’ since they ‘can’t let it happen’ and ‘won’t take it anymore!’”
“These statements turned his ‘wild’ rally on Jan. 6 into a powder keg waiting to blow,” the House brief states. “Indeed, it was obvious and entirely foreseeable that the furious crowd assembled before President Trump at the ‘Save America Rally’ on Jan. 6 was primed (and prepared) for violence if he lit a spark.”
Schoen also said that Trump plans to question the impeachment on free speech grounds, saying that it is “a very, very dangerous road to take with respect to the First Amendment, putting at risk any passionate political speaker, which is really against everything we believe in this country, the foundation of the First Amendment.”
Graham echoed that argument Monday.
“I don’t believe the speech given by the president fits the incitement statute, that it’s not a crime,” Graham said. “And there’s mounting evidence that the people came to Washington, preplanned the attack before the president ever spoke.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The House impeachment managers attempted to flip that argument against Trump in the brief, writing that a conviction would vindicate First Amendment freedom because “rights of speech and political participation mean little if the President can provoke lawless action if he loses at the polls.”
“President Trump’s incitement of deadly violence to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power, and to overturn the results of the election, was therefore a direct assault on core First Amendment principles,” the House managers wrote.
And the House managers argued that the impeachment is not a partisan matter to reaffirm core constitutional principles.
“His actions directly threatened the very foundation on which all other political debates and disagreements unfold,” the House wrote. “They also threatened the constitutional system that protects the fundamental freedoms we cherish.”