Impeachment articles, 'an affront to the U.S. Constitution,' says Trump's legal team

Urges quick acquittal in Senate

By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump did "absolutely nothing wrong," is the victim of a partisan plot to take him down and should be swiftly acquitted in a Senate trial, his legal team argued in a brief Monday.

Trump's lawyers submitted a trial brief Monday calling his impeachment by the House "a dangerous perversion" of the US constitution and demanding his immediate acquittal by the Senate.

Almost simultaneously, House impeachment managers responded to an earlier Trump filing, saying the president engaged in "corrupt conduct... to cheat in the next election." They said the Senate should remove him from office "following a fair trial."

The historic impeachment trial is set to open Tuesday.
The 110-page trial memo, prepared for submission to the Senate a day before the president's impeachment trial is set to begin in earnest, counters House Democrats' argument that Trump abused the power of his office for personal gain by working to pressure Ukraine to announce politically advantageous investigations and then, once caught, sought to obstruct Congress' investigation.

Those two articles of impeachment, adopted by the House in December, set a dangerous precedent, Trump's lawyers said in the memo released publicly by the White House Monday.

They argued that House Democrats were intent during their impeachment inquiry, which lasted from last September until mid-December, “to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”

Thus, the GOP-controlled Senate should reject the two impeachment charges and acquit the president with all due haste.

"All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” they wrote. "The Articles themselves — and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected."

The legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and includes former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton, and famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, is also expected to argue that neither of the two articles is legitimate because they don’t say that the president broke the law.

"The Framers adopted a standard that requires a violation of established law to state an impeachable offense. By contrast, in their Articles of Impeachment, House Democrats have not even attempted to identify any law that was violated," they wrote.

Many legal scholars say, however, that a president doesn't have to break the law in order to commit an impeachable offense. House Democrats have maintained there is ample evidence that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son while withholding almost $400 million in aid, and that he had obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to his actions.

The White House brief comes after the seven House managers, selected to represent House Democrats as prosecutors of the case against Trump in the Senate, filed a brief to the Senate Saturday arguing that Trump’s behavior amounted to "the Framers' worst nightmare" and his actions present a "danger to our democratic processes."

The president will be represented at the trial by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow. Other attorneys expected to take part in the defense are Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Serene Raskin, Eric Herschmann and Robert Ray.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to allot a total of 24 hours per side for opening statements in the trial, but that time must be confined to two working days, two Republican sources familiar with the proposal said Monday.

Democrats have expressed frustration about being kept in the dark about the rules. A resolution outlining the trial’s initial parameters has yet to be released.

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