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Trump ‘singularly responsible’ for riots after aiming ‘loaded cannon’ mob at Capitol, House impeachment managers say in trial brief

Trump ‘singularly responsible’ for riots after aiming ‘loaded cannon’ mob at Capitol, House impeachment managers say in trial brief

Trump ‘singularly responsible’ for riots after aiming ‘loaded cannon’ mob at Capitol, House impeachment managers say in trial brief

The nine Democratic House impeachment managers have laid out their case against Donald Trump in a pre-trial brief filed on Tuesday.

The former president, they have written, was “singularly responsible” for fomenting resentment among millions of his supporters with lies about the 2020 election results, firing up a crowd of his supporters on 6 January based on those lies, and aiming them like a “loaded cannon” towards the US Capitol, where they sacked the building in a deadly riot that forced lawmakers to evacuate or duck for cover.

The 80-page trial memorandum, posted in full on the House Judiciary Committee website, provides a preview of how lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin of Maryland will prosecute his case against Mr Trump.

“He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted,’” the memo states, citing reporting from several news outlets about the president’s reaction in real time to the chaos at the Capitol.

“Rather than take immediate steps to quell the violence and protect lives, President Trump left his Vice President and Congress to fend for themselves while he lobbied allies to continue challenging election results,” the impeachment managers accuse in their memo.

The ex-president’s defence team is expected to file its own brief later on Tuesday.

House Democrats, along with 10 Republicans, impeached Mr Trump last month (13 January) for inciting the mob that stormed the US Capitol just a week earlier (6 January), interrupting Congress’ certification of Mr Biden’s electoral victory for several hours by sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives from the House and Senate chambers.

The evidence

Tuesday’s trial brief outlines how the former president spent countless hours before the press and his supporters during his final year in office casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election even before it happened, saying mail-in voting would lead to rampant voter fraud. After the election, Mr Trump, his campaign team, and dozens of congressional Republicans spent weeks challenging Mr Biden’s victory citing disproven conspiracy theories that were summarily dismissed in court for having no supporting evidence.

Throughout December, Mr Trump egged on rallygoers chanting “stop the steal” and falsely proclaimed himself the real winner of the 2020 contest, Tuesday’s memo from the Democrats details.

On 6 January, the day Congress was set to certify Mr Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, Mr Trump told throngs of his supporters gathered in Washington that they were “not going to have a country anymore” unless they fought for it.

“He insisted that the election had been ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen,’ and that his followers had to ‘fight like hell’ and ‘fight to the death’ against this ‘act of war,’ since they ‘can’t let it happen’ and ‘won’t take it anymore!’” the impeachment managers recount in their brief.

“These statements turned his ‘wild’ rally on January 6 into a powder keg waiting to blow. Indeed, it was obvious and entirely foreseeable that the furious crowd assembled before President Trump at the ‘Save America Rally’ on January 6 was primed (and prepared) for violence if he lit a spark,” the impeachment managers write.

That’s exactly what happened, according to the memo.

At the end of his speech, the president exhorted his supporters to march on Capitol Hill, where they overran police, ran roughshod through the Capitol, and, in some cases, tried to hunt down public officials, including Mr Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence.

“Videos of the events show that dozens of the insurrectionists specifically hunted Vice President Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the first and second in the line of Presidential succession, respectively,” the impeachment managers’ brief states.

The argument

Several Senate Republicans — 17 of whom the impeachment managers will need to win over to successfully convict Mr Trump with the requisite two-thirds majority —  have already acknowledged that Mr Trump bears some responsibility for inspiring the Capitol insurrection on 6 January.

But they have been publicly skeptical that the Constitution allows a former president to be put on trial in the Senate — a tenuous legal position, most constitutional scholars from across the ideological spectrum agree, but one they are entitled to since each senator acts as his own judge and jury in an impeachment trial.

And some, such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have argued that the impeachment trial, irrespective of the evidence, will only serve to further divide the American populace along partisan lines.

“I think the trial is stupid. I think it’s counterproductive. We already have a flaming fire in this country and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire,” Mr Rubio said in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News last month.

The House impeachment managers’ pre-trial brief filed on Tuesday addresses those arguments, which they will have to dismantle if they are to successfully convict Mr Trump and bar him from ever holding federally elected office again in the future.

“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 managers argue.

“Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a case that more clearly evokes the reasons the Framers wrote a disqualification power into the Constitution,” the memo states.

As for the argument of whether the Constitution allows a former federal official from being impeached, the House managers’ brief highlights multiple cases throughout US history where a former official has been tried.

The memo also highlights the obvious loopholes for justice permitted by a reading of the Constitution that prohibits post-service trials.

“The Constitution does not allow officials to escape responsibility for committing impeachable offenses by resigning when caught, or by waiting until the end of their term to abuse power, or by concealing misconduct until their service concludes,” the impeachment managers argue.

What’s more, they point out, the language of the Constitution plainly states in Article I, Section 3, Clause 6: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

Legal scholars, including former federal judges appointed by Republican presidents, have written extensively on how that phrase provides standing for this trial and others.

“If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a Joint Session of Congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense,” the managers conclude, “it is hard to imagine what would be.”

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