“This is precisely the sort of constitutional offence that warrants disqualification from federal office.”
The attack on the Capitol – which took place as the members of Congress were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory – led to five deaths. Two police officers also subsequently committed suicide.
It currently looks extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that Democrats will be able to convince 17 Republicans to vote to convict Trump – the number required under the Constitution for him to be found guilty.
In their brief, the impeachment managers try to pre-emptively rebut several expected arguments from Trump’s legal team – including the claim it would be unconstitutional to convict a president who has left office.
The Democrats write that the framers of the US constitution would not have wanted to leave the country defenceless against “a president’s treachery in his final days, allowing him to misuse power, violate his oath, and incite insurrection against Congress and our electoral institutions”.
“There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” the Democrats wrote.
“A president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.”
They also argue that Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud – which inspired his supporters to storm the capital – are not protected by his right to free expression.
“It would be perverse to suggest that our shared commitment to free speech requires the Senate to ignore the obvious: that President Trump is singularly responsible for the violence and destruction that unfolded in our seat of government on January 6,” they write.
The Democrats also note that in Trump’s speech to supporters before the riot, he said they should march to the Capitol peacefully.
But they say he then spoke for another 50 minutes, using “highly inflammatory rhetoric – exactly the kind of language calculated to incite violence given what had been reported about the crowd”.
“Rather than quell the crowd, urge peaceful demonstration, or promise to carry on the fight over the years to come, the overwhelming thrust of President Trump’s remarks – delivered to an armed, angry crowd widely known to be prepared for violence on his behalf – was a militaristic demand that they must fight to stop what was occurring in the Capitol at that very moment,” they write.
Trump’s legal team is expected to release their trial brief later in the day.
Trump last week parted ways with the lawyers he had hired to lead his defence and replaced them with a new team led by David Schoen, a Georgia-based lawyer who represented longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Pennsylvania.
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What in the World
Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.