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Trump 'summoned a mob,' Democrats say in formal impeachment brief

The U.S. House of Representatives Democrats who will prosecute former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial said in a brief filed on Tuesday he pointed a mob "like a loaded cannon" at the Capitol shortly before the deadly Jan. 6 rampage.

Trump's defence team says the Senate lacks jurisdiction to convict a private citizen

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington on Jan. 6. Democrats plan to focus on both the speech and the weeks of Trump denials over the election that preceded the rally. (Jim Borgi/Reuters)

Lawyers for former president Donald Trump said on Tuesday the U.S. Senate has no authority to try him as a private citizen on an impeachment charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, while the Democratic lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors urged his conviction.

Both sides filed briefs with the Senate a week before the impeachment trial is due to begin. Nine House of Representatives lawmakers said Trump pointed a mob "like a loaded cannon" at Congress and said he should be convicted and barred from holding public office in the future.

The nine House Democrats, known as House impeachment managers, in their brief also rejected Republican claims that it would be unconstitutional to put Trump on trial in the Senate since he became a private citizen after leaving office on Jan. 20.

"There is no 'January Exception' to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution," the managers said in the brief.

"He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue," the brief said. "As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly 'delighted.' "

READ | The Democrats' legal brief on why Trump should be convicted"

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Trump is just the third president to have been impeached, the first to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. Members of the 100-seat Senate will serve as jurors in his impeachment trial, due to begin next week.

Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds vote, meaning that 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate's 50 Democrats in voting to convict. That presents a daunting hurdle for Democrats. Last week, 45 of the 50 Republican senators voted in favour of a failed bid to dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional because Trump has left office.

A conviction could lead to a second vote banning Trump from holding public office again. The Democrats write that the Senate should "disqualify him from future federal officeholding."

'Amplified' lies, Democrats charge

Tuesday's deadline for briefs came just days after Trump parted ways with his initial legal team amid a reported dispute over strategy. Trump is still making false claims that his election loss to President Joe Biden was the result of widespread voting fraud and irregularities.

"He spent months asserting, without evidence, that he won in a 'landslide' and that the election was 'stolen,'" the impeachment managers wrote. "He amplified these lies at every turn, seeking to convince supporters that they were victims of a massive electoral conspiracy that threatened the Nation's continued existence."

The rampage by Trump followers interrupted the formal congressional certification of Biden's Nov. 3 election victory over Trump and sent lawmakers into hiding for their safety.

Lawyers for Trump said Tuesday the U.S. Senate has no authority to try him as a private citizen, and also that the chamber lacks the jurisdiction to prevent Trump from holding office again.

Democrats pressed Republican leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Senate to begin the trial while Trump was still president.

With respect to the two months before the rally that Trump spent disputing the election results, his lawyers said in the legal brief that Trump had "exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect."

"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."

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One of Trump's recently hired lawyers, David Schoen, called the impeachment process "completely unconstitutional" in an interview with Fox News on Monday but did not outline the former president's legal strategy.

"I think it's also the most ill-advised legislative action that I've seen in my lifetime," Schoen said. "It is tearing the country apart at a time when we don't need anything like that."

Trump's first impeachment trial, on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress arising from his phone call urging Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, ended last year in acquittal by the then Republican-controlled Senate.

A group of Republican former U.S. officials rebutted the argument that the trial was unconstitutional in an open letter released on Tuesday.

It is "essential to focus the nation on the gravity of what Mr. Trump did," the group said in a statement seen by Reuters.

WATCH | Former FBI director Comey speaks to CBC News about 2nd Trump impeachment:

Ex-FBI director James Comey says Trump should be banned from running again

Power and Politics

3 months ago
8:28
Former FBI director James Comey says former U.S. president Donald Trump should be convicted in the upcoming impeachment trial 8:28

The three dozen former officials signing the letter included former Governors Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and William Weld of Massachusetts and Carter Phillips, a veteran Washington litigator and assistant solicitor general under former president Ronald Reagan.

"It will be a permanent stain on the history of the Republican Party and the legacy of its members in the U.S. Senate if they fail to find a way to hold a president of their party to account for this unprecedented mayhem at our nation's Capitol," the group wrote.

With files from CBC News

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