Embattled former President Donald Trump’s lawyers denounced the “political theater” that is the upcoming impeachment trial. On the other hand, Democrats insist that Trump only wants to escape accountability for his actions that led to last month’s Capitol riot.
Both sides submitted their pretrial filings Monday, as the Senate prepares itself for the impeachment trial. The next few days will involve a brief debate and vote on the constitutionality of trying the former president. Then, members will listen to several days of presentations for or against the president. This may involve a number of witnesses. Trump is the first president to face a Senate trial and is also the first US head of state to receive an impeachment complaint twice.
In their brief Monday that previewed their legal standpoint, the Trump legal team said the Senate cannot convict Trump. They argued that since he is no longer in office, they cannot convict him and remove him from the same position he already left. Democrats countered that the constitutionality of the complaint remains intact. In a brief issued last week, they said that Congress isn’t “defenseless against a president’s treachery in his final days” just because he is about to leave the office.
Trump’s lawyers, consisting of Bruce Castor Jr., David Schoen, and Michael van der Veen, denied that Trump incited the crowd of rioters who marched to the Capitol. The protesters “did so of their own accord and for their reasons,” they argued. While Trump did make mention of the word “fight” multiple times in his speech, the lawyers say that he did so in the figurative sense. In addition, Trump merely exercised his First Amendment rights.
Trump’s legal team also alleged that this political theater features the “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” which is the reason why Democrats are pushing to impeach and convict the former president. “Through this latest Article of Impeachment now before the Senate, Democrat politicians seek to carve out a mechanism by which they can silence a political opponent and a minority party. The Senate must summarily reject this brazen political act,” the wrote.
Can Trump Stand Trial?
The pretrial brief focused on the fact that a former president can’t be a party to an impeachment. In an earlier interview, Castor said that they “ are in the same spot as we would be if Donald Trump had died and they were still trying to impeach him.” Regarding the claim of election fraud, Castor said that it’s too much of a polarizing issue to provide any tactical advantage to the impeachment case. They don’t plan to raise the matter during the trial.
However, critics and legal experts said that the removal from office isn’t the only consequence of impeachment. The Senate can also vote to disqualify a person from holding future office. The House impeachment managers also got an unexpected bonus when conservative legal luminary Chuck Cooper wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal saying that Trump can still stand trial.
House Impeachment Managers
The House impeachment managers will most likely insist on this opinion. Acting as prosecutors during the trial, they submitted their own five-page brief. In it, the Democrats say that Trump “has no valid excuse or defense” for his actions. “His efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing,” wrote Representative Jamie Raskin (MD) and the other managers.
In addition, the House prosecutors allege that Trump’s incitement of insurrection was “a frontal assault” on the First Amendment. They explained that the case is not about protected speech but about inciting insurrection. “The House did not impeach President Trump because he expressed an unpopular political opinion. It impeached him because he willfully incited violent insurrection against the government,” they wrote.
Structure in Place
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) said he reached an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (KY). The two sides agreed to the parameters of the trial. “All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president,” Schumer announced Monday on the Senate floor.
Trump’s office responded to the announcement. It welcomed the bipartisan structure, which will allow his defense to vindicate him. The trial will prove the absurdity and unconstitutionality of impeaching a private citizen.
Watch Bloomberg Quicktake’s report where House Democrats and Trump’s defense team reveal their pretrial impeachment arguments:
How do you think this “political theater” will end up? What verdict do you think will Trump receive? Let us know what you think by sharing your comments below.