Radical supporters of President Donald Trump breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count to certify President Joe Biden's election victory, in Washington, D.C., on January 6. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- In the first legal impeachment brief filed on Tuesday, House Democrats say they will accuse former President Donald Trump of being singularly responsible for the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last month.
The brief charges that Trump for weeks before the Jan. 6 attack repeated unproven and baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. It says his pursuit to overturn the election results culminated in the Capitol riot.
"It is one thing for an official to pursue legal processes for contesting election results," the House impeachment managers state in the brief. "It is something else entirely for that official to incite violence against the government, and to obstruct the finalization of election results, after judges and election officials conclude that his challenges lack proof and legal merit."
The managers said Trump was "unmistakably" responsible for the Capitol riot, which led to the deaths of five people, including a Capitol police officer.
"The facts are compelling and the evidence is overwhelming," the managers said in a joint statement after the filing. "After months of spreading his 'Big Lie' that he won a landslide victory in the 2020 election, leading up to and on January 6, 2021, President Trump summoned, assembled and incited a violent mob that attacked the Capitol, cost the lives of three police officers and four other people, threatened the vice president and Congress, and successfully halted the counting of the Electoral College vote."
Trump's defense team filed a 14-page response CNN obtained Tuesday, arguing it was unconstitutional to convict him while he was no longer in office and his speech was protected by the First Amendment.
"The constitutional provision requires that a person actually hold office to be impeached," Trump's attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen wrote in the response.
The House impeachment managers argued against that point in their brief ahead of the Senate impeachment trial set to begin next week.
"The Senate's responsibility to hear this case is clear and unavoidable," the managers said. "There is no 'January exception' to the Constitution that allows a president to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office.
"The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again. We must protect the Republic from any future dangerous attacks he could level against our constitutional order."
Trump's lawyers also addressed the former president's false claims of widespread election fraud, which were repeatedly thrown out of courts, and the Justice Department confirmed were baseless, asserting that he still disputes the election results and that his claims were protected free speech.
"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," Castor and Schoen said in the response.
Trump's lawyers also denied that Trump's remark to a crowd at the Capitol shortly before the Jan. 6 insurrection, "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore," incited the action in an attempt to disrupt lawmakers duty that day to certify the presidential election results.
The remark did not have "anything to do with the action at the Capitol as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general, as evidenced by the recording of the speech," the response said.
The Democratic House managers rejected an earlier suggestion from Republicans that the impeachment is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
The managers contend that Trump's offense warrants that he be banned from ever again holding public office.
"This is not a case where elections alone are a sufficient safeguard against future abuse; it is the electoral process itself that President Trump attacked and that must be protected from him and anyone else who would seek to mimic his behavior," the House managers wrote.
"Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a case that more clearly evokes the reasons the Framers wrote a disqualification power into the Constitution."
Democrats said they plan to present new video evidence and witness testimony describing the hostility of attackers as they injured Capitol police officers and overran the building.
Since leaving office on Jan. 20, Trump has remained at his Mar-a-Largo resort in South Florida.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signs the article of impeachment during an engrossment ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Read the article of impeachment here
. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo