(Headline USA) Lawyers for Donald Trump on Monday blasted the impeachment case against him as an act of “political theater” and accused House Democrats on the eve of the former president’s trial of exploiting the chaos and trauma of last month’s Capitol siege for their party’s gain.
Trump’s legal brief is a wide-ranging attack on the House case, foreshadowing the claims his lawyers intend to present on the same Senate floor that was invaded on Jan. 6. The sharp-tongued tone, with accusations that Democrats are making “patently absurd” arguments and trying to “silence a political opponent,” makes clear that Trump’s lawyers are preparing to challenge both the constitutionality of the trial and any suggestion that he was to blame for the insurrection.
“While never willing to allow a ‘good crisis’ to go to waste, the Democratic leadership is incapable of understanding that not everything can always be blamed on their political adversaries, no matter how very badly they may wish to exploit any moment of uncertainty on the part of the American people,” the defense lawyers say.
In their brief, they suggest that Trump was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he disputed the election results and argue that he explicitly encouraged his supporters to have a peaceful protest and therefore cannot be responsible for the actions of the rioters. They also say the Senate is not entitled to try Trump now that he has left office, an argument that has been disputed by some, and they deny that the goal of the Democrats’ case is justice.
“Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a few hundred people,” the lawyers wrote in a brief obtained by the Associated Press.
The trial will begin Tuesday with a debate and vote on whether it’s even constitutional to prosecute the former president, an argument that could resonate with Republicans keen on voting to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior. Opening arguments would begin Wednesday at noon, with up to 16 hours per side for presentations.
Under a draft agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the proceedings will break Friday evening for the Jewish Sabbath at the request of Trump’s defense team and resume on Sunday. There will likely be no witnesses, and the former president has declined a request to testify.
Trump’s second impeachment trial is opening with a sense of urgency — by Democrats who want to hold him accountable for the violent Capitol siege and Republicans who want it over as quickly as possible.
The proceedings are expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated trial that resulted in Trump’s acquittal a year ago on charges that he privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a Democratic rival, Joe Biden, now the president.
So far, it appears there will be few witnesses called, as the prosecutors and defense attorneys speak directly to senators who have been sworn to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors. Most are also witnesses to the siege, having fled for safety that day as the rioters broke into the Capitol and temporarily halted the electoral count certifying Biden’s victory.
Instead, House managers prosecuting the case are expected to rely on videos from the siege, along with Trump’s incendiary rhetoric refusing to concede the election, to make their case. His new defense team has said it plans to counter with its own cache of videos of Democratic politicians making fiery speeches.
“We have the unusual circumstance where on the very first day of the trial, when those managers walk on the floor of the Senate, there will already be over 100 witnesses present,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led Trump’s first impeachment, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Whether you need additional witnesses will be a strategic call.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s ardent defenders, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he believes Trump’s actions were wrong and “he’s going to have a place in history for all of this,” but insisted it’s not the Senate’s job to judge.
The 45 votes in favor of Paul’s measure suggest the near impossibility of reaching a conviction in a Senate where Democrats hold 50 seats but a two-thirds vote — or 67 senators — would be needed to convict Trump. Only five Republicans joined with Democrats to reject Paul’s motion: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.