Days after jettisoning his team of South Carolina-based attorneys, former U.S. president Donald Trump has submitted his response to the article of impeachment the U.S. House of Representatives submitted against him to the U.S. Senate last month.
“The present proceedings are moot … since the 45th President cannot be removed from an office he no longer occupies,” Castor and Schoen wrote in their filing on behalf of Trump.
They further argued that banning Trump from seeking office again – which is the whole point of the impeachment trial – represented a violation of Trump’s individual liberty seeing as he is a private citizen and thus not subject to the Senate’s jurisdiction in this matter.
According to the impeachment resolution, Trump “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action.”
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” the resolution alleged. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
In making the ex-president’s case against this article, Trump’s lawyers repeatedly addressed the contention that he made false claims about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, they pointed out that just because Trump has not proven these allegations does not mean they are necessarily false.
“It is admitted that 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,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.
In fact, they argued there is no legal standard by which Trump’s statements could be construed as false.
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“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,” Castor and Schoen wrote.
In addressing Trump’s statements to supporters prior to the rioting at the capitol, his attorneys acknowledged that “persons unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, that people were injured and killed, and that law enforcement is currently investigating and prosecuting those who were responsible.”
However, they deny that Trump “incited the crowd to engage in destructive behavior” or that he “intended to interfere with the counting of electoral votes.” Trump’s lawyers go on to allege the article of impeachment approved by the U.S. House “misconstrues protected speech and fails to meet the constitutional standard for any impeachable offense.”
As we noted in the immediate aftermath of the violent rioting – which we categorically condemned – we do not believe criminalizing speech is the correct response to what happened. We further added that in our editorial view, Trump’s remarks were “plainly non-violative of existing federal laws regarding the inciting of violence.”
So, we are sympathetic to the arguments raised by his attorneys …
Having said that, we see some merit in the post-riot criticism leveled at Trump (including criticism from some Republicans) that he failed to move swiftly and act aggressively in responding to the violence. We also believe Trump said things that could have easily been perceived as glorifying the actions of the rioters.
Again, though, we do not believe criminalizing speech – or censoring speakers – is the answer to what amounts to poor political judgment on Trump’s part.
While we will await a legal disposition to these arguments, the Senate trial appears to be politically “moot.” In order for the former president to be convicted on the article, all fifty Democratic members of the U.S. Senate would need to vote against him – along with seventeen out of fifty GOP members of the chamber. Thirty-four Republican senators have already gone on the record saying they will not vote to convict Trump – which would deny Democrats the necessary two-thirds majority.
Nonetheless, the U.S. Senate trial of Trump is scheduled to commence on February 9, 2021.
Will there be any bombshells that upend the conventional wisdom as it begins? We shall see …
TRUMP IMPEACHMENT RESPONSE …493094029-BFW-020221-17250
(Via: Office of the 45th President)
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