September 22, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is “personally responsible” for inciting the fatal invasion of his supporters into the US Capitol, the House Democrats argued on Tuesday shortly before Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

The nine impeachment executives, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, also disproved Republican claims that it was unconstitutional to try a president for high crimes and misdemeanors after he resigned.

Later on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers filed a brief denial that he incited the mob.

The Democratic team set out their case against Trump on an 80-page short Tuesday morning, a week before the unprecedented second impeachment trial against the former president is due to begin.

They argue that Trump should not only be condemned by the Senate, but should be banned from holding federal office.

“President Trump’s behavior goes against everything the constitution stands for,” the letter said.

“The Senate must make it clear to him and everyone who follows that a president who provokes armed violence against the United States government in order to reject the results of an election will be tried and convicted.”

President Donald Trump looks on at the end of his speech during a rally to contest the certification of the results of the 2020 US presidential election by the US Congress on January 6, 2021 in Washington, USA.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

The House indicted Trump on January 13, a week before he left office, for instigating the January 6 riot that killed five people and forced a joint congressional session to go into hiding. At a rally in front of the White House shortly before the start of the uprising, Trump urged a crowd of his supporters to march to the Capitol and pressure the GOP lawmakers and then Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you will have no more land,” Trump told the crowd. The House’s impeachment executives took this statement and numerous others from the rally as evidence that Trump was using rhetoric that was “designed to incite violence.”

In their filing, Trump attorneys Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen denied that the phrase “had anything to do with the Capitol action, as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general.”

The Democratic letter accuses Trump of trying to “expand his power by inciting violence against Congress”.

“His behavior resulted in more than five deaths and many other injuries,” the letter said. “The Capitol has been tainted. Succession has been jeopardized. America’s worldwide reputation has been damaged. For the first time in history, the transfer of power from the president has been interrupted.”

Much of the document is devoted to pre-emptively addressing anticipated arguments from Republican senators and Trump’s legal team. Castor and Schoen said in their letter that since Trump was no longer president, impeachment proceedings should be dismissed as the constitution “requires a person to actually hold office to be charged”.

Legal scholars have found that there is a precedent for impeachment after a person resigns from office. They refer to the 1876 case involving Secretary of War William Belknap, who resigned just before the House decided to charge him with corruption charges. The House voted to indict him, but he was acquitted by the Senate.

Last week, 45 Republican senators voted for a motion declaring it unconstitutional to hold a trial to convict an out-of-office president – a view shared by one of Trump’s new attorneys, David Schoen, in an interview Monday night at Fox News repeated.

“Many have suggested turning the page of the tragic events of January 6, 2021. However, to heal the wounds he inflicted on the nation, we must hold President Trump accountable for his conduct, while reaffirming our core principles,” the letter said.

Democrats, who hold 50 seats in the Senate, must persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote in favor of Trump.