Politics

Trump is 'personally responsible' for inciting deadly Capitol riot, House impeachment managers argue

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Key Points
  • The nine Democratic House impeachment managers accuse former President Trump of attempting "to extend his grip on power by fomenting violence against Congress."
  • They also plan to rebut Republican arguments that it is unconstitutional to try a president for high crimes and misdemeanors after he has left office.
  • "His conduct resulted in more than five deaths and many more injuries," the brief said. "The Capitol was defiled. The line of succession was imperiled. America's global reputation was damaged."

Former President Donald Trump is "personally responsible" for inciting the deadly invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a swarm of his supporters, House Democrats argued Tuesday in a brief ahead of Trump's impeachment trial.

The nine impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, also rebutted Republicans' contention that it is unconstitutional to try a president for high crimes and misdemeanors after he has left office.

Later Tuesday, Trump's lawyers filed a brief denying that he incited the mob.

The Democratic team laid out its case against Trump in an 80-page brief Tuesday morning, one week before the former president's unprecedented second impeachment trial is set to begin.

They argue that Trump should not only be convicted by the Senate, but disqualified from ever holding federal office again.

"President Trump's conduct offends everything that the Constitution stands for," the brief said.

"The Senate must make clear to him and all who follow that a President who provokes armed violence against the government of the United States in an effort to overturn the results of an election will face trial and judgment."

President Donald Trump looks on at the end of his speech during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.
Jim Bourg | Reuters

The House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, one week before he left office, for inciting the Jan. 6 riot, which left five dead and forced a joint session of Congress into hiding. At a rally outside the White House shortly before the riot began, Trump urged a crowd of his supporters to march to the Capitol and pressure GOP lawmakers, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence, to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's electoral victory.

"If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore," Trump told the crowd. The House impeachment managers included that statement, and numerous others from the rally, as evidence of Trump using rhetoric that was "calculated to incite violence."

In their filing, Trump lawyers Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen denied that that phrase "had anything to do with the action at the Capitol as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general."

The Democratic brief accuses Trump of attempting "to extend his grip on power by fomenting violence against Congress."

"His conduct resulted in more than five deaths and many more injuries," the brief said. "The Capitol was defiled. The line of succession was imperiled. America's global reputation was damaged. For the first time in history, the transfer of presidential power was interrupted."

Much of the document is dedicated to preemptively addressing anticipated arguments from Republican senators and Trump's legal team. Castor and Schoen said in their brief that since Trump was no longer president, an impeachment trial should be dismissed because the Constitution "requires that a person actually hold office to be impeached."

Legal scholars have noted that there is precedent for an impeachment after a person leaves office. They point to the 1876 case involving Secretary of War William Belknap, who resigned just before the House voted to impeach him on corruption charges. The House voted to impeach him but he was acquitted by the Senate.

Last week, 45 Republican senators voted in support of a motion declaring it unconstitutional to hold a trial to convict a president who has left office — a view that one of Trump's new lawyers, David Schoen, echoed in a Monday night interview on Fox News.

"Many have suggested that we should turn the page on the tragic events of January 6, 2021. But to heal the wounds he inflicted on the Nation, we must hold President Trump accountable for his conduct and, in so doing, reaffirm our core principles," the brief said.

Democrats, who hold 50 seats in the Senate, will have to persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote to convict Trump.