Trump impeachment: Lawyers insist ex-president had right to question election results

Mr Trump’s team also claims he cannot be impeached now he is out of White House

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 02 February 2021 18:30 GMT
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Donald Trump’s lawyers say that the ex-president had the right to question the election results, as they responded formally to his impeachment.

Mr Trump’s new legal team submitted a 14-page response to his historic second impeachment ahead of his Senate trial, which is set to begin in less than a week.

In it they claim that Mr Trump in denying Joe Biden’s election victory and claiming it had been stolen from him, was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

Trump's lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, also argued that the Senate cannot vote to impeach Trump when he no longer holds office.

"The constitutional provision requires that a person actually hold office to be impeached. Since the 45th president is no longer ‘president,’ the clause 'shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for...' is impossible for the Senate to accomplish," wrote Mr Trump's team.

The House impeachment managers pushed back on that claim in their own pre-trial brief, also filed on Tuesday, claiming that there is history and precedent to hold a trial and convict Mr Trump as he was impeached while still in office.

"There is no 'January Exception' to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution," the impeachment managers wrote. 

“A president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.”

The response from Mr Trump’s lawyers briefly touched upon his false and regularly debunked claims of voter fraud in his loss to Mr Biden.

"After the November election, the 45th president exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect, since with very few exceptions, under the convenient guise of Covid-19 pandemic 'safeguards' states election laws and procedures were changed by local politicians or judges without the necessary approvals from state legislatures," they wrote.

"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."

Mr Trump and his supporters were unable to provide any evidence of voter fraud and the elections were described as the “most secure” in US history by the federal government’s cyber-crime team.

The House impeachment manager’s say in their own brief that Mr Trump’s actions in denying the election results played a major role in the violence that happened at the Capitol on 6 January.

“President Trump created a powder keg on 6 January 6,” they wrote.

"Hundreds were prepared for violence at his direction. They were prepared to do whatever it took to keep him in power.

“All they needed to hear was that their President needed them to 'fight like hell.' All they needed was for President Trump to strike a match.”

They also denied Mr Trump’s argument on free speech.

"The First Amendment protects private citizens from the government; it does not protect government officials from accountability for their own abuses in office," they wrote.

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