The Canadian press

Take out legal dossier for Trump’s impeachment proceedings

WASHINGTON – The legal battle over Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings is ongoing. Briefs were filed this week setting out radically different positions ahead of next week’s Senate trial. Prosecutors and the former president’s defense team are making their case about Trump’s role in the January 6 riots in the U.S. Capitol and the legality of a trial. They are also debating the First Amendment and a blunted view by Democrats that the insurrection poses a threat to the president’s successor. Here are some of the lessons learned from both sides’ arguments: “INDIVIDUALLY RESPONSIBLE” Who is responsible for the insurrection? Democrats say there is only one answer and it is Trump. Democrats claim Trump was “uniquely responsible” for the January 6 attack by “creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal gain from the resulting chaos.” They say it is “impossible” to imagine what happened without Trump’s encouragement, and they even quote a Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who said essentially the same thing. Trump’s attorneys propose that I cannot be held responsible for never causing anyone to engage in destructive behavior. They admit that there was an illegal violation of the Capitol Building that resulted in death and injury. They say, however, that those “responsible” – those who entered the building and destroyed it – will be investigated and prosecuted. FIRST LINE OF AMENDMENTS Trump’s attorneys do not deny that he told supporters to “fight like hell” ahead of the Capitol siege. But the defense says Trump, like every citizen, is protected by the First Amendment to “express his belief that the election results were suspect”. He had an opinion he was entitled to express, it is said, and if the first amendment only protected public speech it would be “no protection at all”. House Democrats don’t see it that way. For one thing, they say that the first amendment is meant to protect individuals from the government and not allow government officials to abuse their power. And while a private individual may have the right to advocate totalitarianism or the overthrow of the government, “no one would seriously suggest” that a president holding the same positions be safe from impeachment. Succession line The impeachment managers say Trump-instigated loyalists directly threaten the safety of lawmakers who fled the House and Senate when the rioters arrived. Those affected included the top post-Trump government leaders – then Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley – were all in the Capitol and had to flee for security reasons. Trump’s behavior not only endangered “the life of every single member of Congress,” wrote the Democrats, but also “endangers the peaceful transition of power and succession”. The brief details that startled the threats to Pence and Pelosi when rioters raided the building and “targeted them”. According to the document, which cited media and videos, insurgents shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” And called him a traitor for claiming that he would not challenge the election census as Trump wanted. One person reportedly said that if Pelosi had been found, he would have been “torn into small pieces”. The Democrats also describe the terror lawmakers and staff felt during the siege. “Some members called family members because they feared they would not survive the attack by President Trump’s insurgent mob,” the impeachment managers wrote. DENY, DENY, DENY This is the message from Trump’s defense team, who used the word “denied” or “denied” a full 29 times in his 14-page letter. Trump’s team denies the impeachment trial can be held because he is no longer in office. They deny that he incited violence to his followers. And they deny he did anything wrong on January 6, or in the weeks leading up to the uprising, when he enraged his followers by convincing them, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the election had been stolen from him. When Trump told the crowd, “If you don’t fight like hell, you will run out of land,” all he was pushing was the “need to fight for election security in general,” Trump lawyers claim. He made no attempt to interfere in the vote count, even though he had told Pence to do just that. “It is denied that President Trump ever threatened the security of the United States and its government institutions,” they wrote. “It is denied that it threatened the integrity of the democratic system, disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and endangered an equal branch government.” Rather, it is said, “he has done admirably in his role as president and has always done what he has done.” Thinking was in the best interests of the American people. “There was no widespread election fraud, as has been confirmed by a number of election officials across the country and former Attorney General William Barr. Almost all of the legal challenges raised by Trump and his allies in the election have been dismissed. HISTORY LESSON Both sides have divided over whether or not a trial is legal after Trump resigns – and the seemingly arcane argument could be key to his acquittal. Trump’s attorneys say the case is contentious as he is no longer in the White House and as a result, the Senate does not have jurisdiction to try him on impeachment. Many Senate Republicans have agreed, and on that basis 45 of them voted to end the process before it began. A two-thirds vote from the Senate would be required for Trump to be convicted. It is true that no president has faced impeachment proceedings after leaving office, but property managers say there are enough precedents. They cite the case of former Secretary of War William Belknap, who resigned in 1876, just hours before he was charged with a plot of backfire. The House charged him anyway, and the Senate then put him on trial and won a conviction. Democrats also note that Trump was indicted by the House while he was still President. The drafters of the constitution intended to use the power of impeachment to sanction current or former officials for acts committed in office – with no “January exception,” wrote the Democrats. In addition, the Constitution expressly allows the Senate to exclude a former civil servant whom it is convicting from future office. This possibility, they suggest, makes the case against Trump – who could contest another run in the White House in 2024 – anything but controversial. Eric Tucker, Jill Colvin, and Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press