The House impeachment managers accused former President Donald Trump of “the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a President” in their final brief before Trump’s Senate impeachment trial begins in earnest Tuesday.
Their brief — technically a reply to the Trump team’s answer to the article of impeachment — follows the submission by Trump’s lawyers of their full pre-trial brief earlier Monday.
The House managers in their brief most prominently counter the two main defenses that Trump’s legal team has put forth — that the Senate cannot constitutionally hold an impeachment trial for a former president and that Trump’s conduct was protected by the First Amendment.
The impeachment managers generally fall back on arguments they made in their full pre-trial brief submitted last week on the issue of whether the Senate has jurisdiction to try an impeachment of a former president.
“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 brief reads. “There is no “January Exception” to the Constitution that allows Presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability.”
Of Trump’s First Amendment defense, the impeachment managers said that the argument from the president’s lawyers is “utterly baseless.”
“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 brief says. “[T]o be clear, this is not a case about ‘protected speech.’ 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.”
The impeachment managers also address Trump’s false claims that he won the election, which Trump’s lawyers defended in a filing last week as impossible to prove “accurate or not.”
“Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false,” Trump’s lawyers said.
The House managers shot back Monday: “To call these responses implausible would be an act of charity. President Trump’s repeated claims about a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election were false, no matter how many contortions his lawyers undertake to avoid saying so. When President Trump demanded that the armed, angry crowd at his Save America Rally ‘fight like hell’ or ‘you’re not going to have a country anymore,’ he wasn’t urging them to form political action committees about ‘election security in general.'”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., is the lead impeachment manager representing the House in the Senate.
The Senate trial technically started weeks ago when the impeachment managers transmitted the article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., struck a deal to put off the main in-person hearings so the Senate could immediately address critical nominations to President Biden’s Cabinet.
That deal included two rounds of briefs from Trump’s legal team and the impeachment managers — one last week and one Monday. Now, a deal for how to conduct the in-person hearings is circulating in the Senate. That deal would allow for four hours of debate on whether the trial is constitutional on Tuesday before a vote on “Constitutionality.”
It would also allow the trial to pause at 5 p.m. Friday at the request of Trump lawyer David Schoen, who observes the Jewish Sabbath. The trial would then resume on Sunday.
Traditionally, the Senate hears impeachments six days per week and takes Sundays off. This would effectively switch the off day from Sunday to Saturday.
Fox News’ Kelly Phares and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.