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House managers rebut Trump team's calls to dismiss impeachment case, say evidence is 'overwhelming'

Trump "has no valid excuse or defense for his actions," the House managers wrote. "And his efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing."
Image: People walk in front of he Capitol
People walk in front of he Capitol on Jan. 15, 2021.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

House impeachment managers responded to the final pretrial brief from Donald Trump's legal team on Monday, saying the former president's defense — that such a trial is unconstitutional and that he quickly moved to suppress the violence during the Capitol riot last month — is "wholly without merit."

"The House denies each and every allegation in the answer that denies the acts, knowledge, intent, or wrongful conduct charged against President Trump," the Democratic managers wrote. "The House states that each and every allegation in the article of impeachment is true, and that any affirmative defenses and legal defenses set forth in the answer are wholly without merit."

"The House further states that the article of impeachment properly alleges an impeachable offense under the Constitution, is not subject to a motion to dismiss, is within the jurisdiction of the Senate sitting as a court of impeachment, and should be considered and adjudicated by the Senate sitting as a court of impeachment," they added.

The response comes after the president's legal team argued, as it has in prior filings, that the impeachment trial should be dismissed, saying it is unconstitutional because the president is no longer in office. Trump's lawyers also argued the then-president did not incite the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol with his speech beforehand, which they argued was protected by the First Amendment, and that he moved quickly to suppress the violence.

Many Senate Republicans have coalesced around the first argument, saying that a former president cannot be tried by the Senate after leaving office. A number of prominent legal experts disagree with that assessment, however, and many have pointed to the Senate impeachment trial of Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876, which took place after he resigned from office, as proof that a post-departure impeachment trial is valid under the Constitution. Additionally, Trump was still president when he was impeached.

Trump, however, did not publicly call for the rioters to leave the Capitol until hours after the ransacking had begun — something Republicans who voted to impeach him cited as part of their rationale.

"The article of impeachment presented by the House is unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal," the former president's lawyers wrote. "Taken together, they demonstrate conclusively that indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our republic, democracy and the rights that we hold dear."

In their response, the Democratic managers said evidence Trump incited the riot and failed to take action after it was underway "is overwhelming."

"He has no valid excuse or defense for his actions," they wrote. "And his efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing. As charged in the article of impeachment, President Trump violated his oath of office and betrayed the American people."

"His incitement of insurrection against the United States government — which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power — is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president," they continued, calling the president's conduct "categorically unacceptable" and saying they seek to prove he "merits conviction and disqualification" from holding future office.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.

The rules released Monday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., allow for 16 hours over two days for the arguments made by House managers and the same period of time for the former president's counsel. If managers decide they want to call witnesses, the Senate would vote on that.

Schumer added that at the request of Trump's lawyers, the trial will pause for the Jewish Sabbath, stopping before sundown Friday and not resuming until Sunday afternoon. Each side will have equal time for senators' questions and for closing arguments.

Ultimately, the Senate will hold a vote on whether to convict Trump and if that happens, the Senate would then hold another vote on whether Trump should be barred from holding elected office ever again.