House Democrats say there was no “January Exception” to the Constitution as they pushed back on claims that the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional, instead urging the Senate to convict him for allegedly inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The Democratic-led House voted last month to impeach Trump a historic second time on a single article of impeachment, with 10 Republicans also voting in favor. Trump has called the impeachment a “hoax,” and his new legal team has argued that an impeachment against a president who is out of office is unconstitutional. Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats in the chamber, and the trial is slated to begin Tuesday.
“The Framers’ intent, the text of the Constitution, and prior Congressional practice all confirm that President Trump must stand trial for his constitutional crimes committed in office,” the House Democrats argued Monday. “Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last. There is no ‘January Exception’ to the Constitution that allows Presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability.”
The Monday response by House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and joined by Reps. Joaquin Castro, David Cicilline, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Ted Lieu, Joe Neguse, Stacey Plaskett, and Eric Swalwell, followed a lengthy Monday morning brief by Trump’s legal team arguing the Democrats were playing politics.
Last week, Trump’s legal team contended that “the Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction over the 45th President because he holds no public office from which he can be removed, and the Constitution limits the authority of the Senate in cases of impeachment to removal from office as the prerequisite active remedy allowed the Senate under our Constitution,” adding that the alleged lack of jurisdiction rendered the article of impeachment “moot.” The Trump legal team also contended that the article of impeachment “violates the 45th President’s right to free speech and thought” guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“President Trump’s incitement of insurrection was itself a frontal assault on the First Amendment. As a matter of law and logic — not to mention simple common sense — his attempted reliance on free speech principles is utterly baseless,” the Democrat impeachment managers responded Monday, adding that “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. We live in a Nation governed by the rule of law, not mob violence incited by Presidents who cannot accept their own electoral defeat.”
The Congressional Research Service weighed in on the constitutional question earlier in January, saying that “though the text is open to debate, it appears that most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.”
Democrats argued last week that “in his conduct while President of the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States” that Trump “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by initiating violence against the Government of the United States.”
The Democrats contended that “it is impossible to imagine the events of January 6 occurring without President Trump creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal advantage from the ensuing havoc.”
“One might have been excused for thinking that the Democrats’ fevered hatred for Citizen Trump and their ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ would have broken by now, seeing as he is no longer the President, and yet for the second time in just over a year the United States Senate is preparing to sit as a Court of Impeachment, but this time over a private citizen who is a former President,” Trump’s lawyers said on Monday. “In this Country, the Constitution — not a political party and not politicians — reigns supreme. But 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 article of impeachment Trump faces claimed that he “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States” and “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.” The article pointed to a speech he delivered to a crowd the day of the Capitol riot, specifically quoting him telling his supporters that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.
The House Democrats said Monday that “to call these responses [by the Trump legal team] implausible would be an act of charity” and argued that Trump’s “repeated claims about a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election were false, no matter how many contortions his lawyers undertake to avoid saying so.” They claimed that “the evidence of President Trump’s conduct is overwhelming” and that “he has no valid excuse or defense for his actions, and his efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing.”
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