House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald Trump released a memorandum Tuesday laying out key points against Trump, the first president to face an impeachment trial in the Senate after leaving office.
The House impeached Trump for the second time seven days before the end of his four-year term, accusing him of “incitement to insurrection” before the deadly Capitol Hill riot Jan. 6.
“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” the House impeachment managers said in a joint statement, referring to criticism about holding a trial after Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, has left office. The trial is set to begin Feb. 8.
“The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again,” the House managers said. “We must protect the republic from any future dangerous attacks he could level against our constitutional order.”
The brief contains these four major points:
1. ‘Singular Responsibility’
Trump has “singular responsibility” for the violence that occurred Jan. 6, the House impeachment managers argue. They note that Trump had exhausted his options to contest the election results in court and should have conceded.
“Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue,” the House managers state, adding:
As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted.’ And rather than take immediate steps to quell the violence and protect lives, President Trump left his vice president and Congress to fend for themselves while he lobbied allies to continue challenging election results.
The first physical confrontation at the Capitol and first breach of the building occurred about 20 minutes before Trump concluded his speech about a mile away on the Ellipse, a park south of the White House, The New York Times reported.
During the rally, Trump said: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
The House prosecutors concede that 20 minutes into Trump’s remarks that they blame for inciting the riot, he said the words “peacefully and patriotically.”
They say he followed with 50 minutes of inflammatory rhetoric that included these words: “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The impeachment managers also say that the breach of the Capitol clearly would not have occurred had Trump not protested his loss to Joe Biden in the election results, “creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal advantage from the ensuing havoc.”
The House Democratic managers quote Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the House’s No. 3 GOP lawmaker as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, as saying:
The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The resident could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
The managers quote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as saying “the mob was fed lies” and “provoked by the president.”
2. ‘Disqualify Him’
The Senate can’t remove an official who no longer is in office. However, the House prosecutors insist, “the Senate should convict President Trump and disqualify him from holding or enjoying [what the Constitution calls] ‘any Office or honor, Trust, or Profit under the United States.’”
This is not a case where elections alone are a sufficient safeguard against future abuse; it is the electoral process itself that President Trump attacked and that must be protected from him and anyone else who would seek to mimic his behavior.
3. ‘Former Official Remains Subject to Trial’
In January, the Senate voted 55-45 to proceed with the trial of Trump, rejecting a resolution from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asserting that it would be unconstitutional for the Senate to try a private citizen who no longer is in office.
Although a majority voted to proceed, the fact that 45 senators saw constitutional problems in moving ahead demonstrates that the Senate isn’t likely to reach the 67 votes needed to convict and disqualify Trump from holding future federal office.
The House managers argue that the Senate clearly has jurisdiction over the case, even though Trump no longer is president.
“Now, merely weeks later, President Trump will argue that it serves no purpose to subject him to a trial and that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to do so. He is mistaken,” the House managers write.
They add that “the text and structure of the Constitution, as well as its original meaning and prior interpretations by Congress, overwhelmingly demonstrate that a former official remains subject to trial and conviction for abuses committed in office.”
And, the House managers say:
Presidents do not get a free pass to commit high crimes and misdemeanors near the end of their term. The Framers of our Constitution feared more than anything a president who would abuse power to remain in office against the will of the electorate. Allowing presidents to subvert elections without consequence would encourage the most dangerous of abuses.
4. ‘Grievous Betrayal’
The memorandum from the House prosecutors states that on Jan. 6, Vice President Mike Pence was set to oversee a joint session of Congress “to perform one of its most solemn constitutional responsibilities: the counting of electoral votes for president of the United States.”
Interestingly enough, four years earlier, on Jan. 6, 2017, the leader of the House managers, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., was among several House Democrats who objected to counting electoral votes for Trump.
However, Raskin and the other Democrats didn’t have a Senate sponsor required to back up their objection.
Challenging the count has become routine after Republican victories under the Electoral Act of 1887, which allows such challenges. In most cases, House members object but fail to get a Senate sponsor. Only in 1969, 2005, and 2021 did a House member and senator sponsor an objection to force debate over the Electoral College count.
The House impeachment managers contend a president has not openly supported such an objection.
“No president had ever refused to accept an election result or defied the lawful processes for resolving electoral disputes. Until President Trump,” their memorandum says, adding:
In a grievous betrayal of his oath of office, President Trump incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol during the joint session, thus impeding Congress’s confirmation of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the presidential election. As it stormed the Capitol, the mob yelled out, ‘President Trump Sent Us,’ ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ and ‘Traitor Traitor Traitor.’
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