In their written reply to former President Trump’s defense brief ahead of his impeachment trial, the House impeachment managers pushed back on Trump’s attempts to suggest that his supporters would have ransacked the Capitol with or without Trump’s remarks that day.
“There can be no doubt that President Trump is singularly responsible for inciting the violent insurrection that followed his speech,” the House managers wrote in a brief Tuesday morning, filed two hours before the Senate trial will be begin in earnest.
The brief picked apart several Trump arguments for why the Senate should not convict him. His claim that the Senate cannot hold an impeachment trial for a former government officer has been “discredited,” the House managers said, and that rationale would “leave the Senate powerless to hold Presidents accountable for misconduct committed near the end of their terms.”
“Equally weak,” they said, was his invocation of the First Amendment, which the House managers said “does not immunize President Trump from impeachment or limit the Senate’s power to protect the Nation from an unfit leader.”
And there is “no support” for the Trump argument that he can only be impeached for criminal violations, according to the brief, which noted that the scholar Trump’s defense team relied on had “rejected” the notion.
To buttress their rebuttals to Trump’s defense, the House managers quoted several top Republican officials — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney — who have connected Trump’s actions to the Capitol breach. A recent op-ed from conservative lawyer Chuck Cooper was also quoted extensively in the House brief to argue in favor of the constitutionality of convicting a former government official and disqualifying him from future office.
While much of the brief was focused on dismantling the legal arguments Trump’s lawyers made in their defense, the House managers also spent several pages recounting Trump’s conduct itself and why his lawyers’ excuses for it don’t hold up.
The House brief dismissed Trump’s attempts to equate his rhetoric in the lead up to the insurrection to the language other politicians have used.
“While other political figures have used heated rhetoric, none of the speeches that President Trump cites bears any resemblance to President Trump’s anti-democratic effort to prolong his presidency by exhorting a mob to attack the Congress,” the brief said.
The House managers scoffed at the explanations Trump’s lawyers gave justifying his remarks to the mob before it marched on the Capitol. The Trump team claimed the then-President’s Jan. 6 speech was about promoting “election security generally.”
“To call this argument implausible would be an act of charity,” the House brief said, noting that the Jan. 6 rally was timed specifically to Congress’ certification of the election that Trump has lost.
“In his speech, President Trump did not direct his supporters to go home and lobby their state legislatures, but instead directed them to march to the Capitol and fight. President Trump’s speech did not promote election security—it exhorted a mob to attack Congress in order to overturn a free and fair election,” the House said.
The House managers also rebuffed Trump’s claim that the rioters “completely misunderstood” him when they violently attacked the Capitol by noting that Trump continued to attack Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter while the siege was underway.
“President Trump barely attempts to justify his abject failure to stop the riot after it began, and confines his entire discussion of the point to a convoluted footnote that hardly offers any response or explanation at all,” the brief said.
Read the brief below: