The riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was the direct result of a campaign by former President Donald J. Trump to undermine American democracy and overthrow the election at any cost, the House impeachment managers will argue in his Senate trial. They warn that acquitting him and failing to disqualify him from future office could do grave damage to the nation.
In a meticulously detailed 80-page pretrial brief filed with the Senate on Tuesday, the nine House Democrats preparing to prosecute the case next week argued that Mr. Trump was “singularly responsible” for a violent attack on the democratic process, and would do anything to “reassert his grip on power” if he were allowed to seek election again.
“That outcome is not only supported by the facts and the law; it is also the right thing to do,” wrote the managers, led by Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland. “President Trump has demonstrated beyond doubt that he will resort to any method to maintain or reassert his grip on power. A president who violently attacks the democratic process has no right to participate in it.”
Addressing Republicans’ arguments head on, they also asserted that history and even conservative constitutional theory supported the Senate’s right to try a former president. Mr. Trump’s legal team and many Republicans have argued that his status as a private citizen now makes such a proceeding unconstitutional.
“There is no ‘January exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” the managers wrote. “A president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.”
They likewise dismissed an argument by David Schoen, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, that the former president was merely exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. The managers argued that on the contrary, by attacking the Constitution, Mr. Trump was in fact undermining all rights enshrined there, including free speech.
The House filed its arguments two hours before a noon deadline for Mr. Trump to offer his first formal impeachment defense on Tuesday, in the form of a written answer to the charge of “incitement of insurrection.” The trial is scheduled to begin in earnest on Feb. 9.
The former president is all but certain to wave off the bipartisan charge as illegitimate, but the exact shape of his defense remains to be seen after a last-minute shake-up of his legal team. While Mr. Trump is said to have wanted the trial to include a full defense of his bogus election fraud claims that helped ignite the attack, his advisers and Republican senators are pushing a less inflammatory argument that trying a former president is simply unconstitutional.
Though Republican senators appear to be lining up to once again to acquit Mr. Trump, the arguments could determine the difference between a near-party-line verdict like the one that capped the former president’s first trial or a bipartisan rebuke.
Mr. Trump has sharply criticized the impeachment push and argued that the remarks he gave on Jan. 6 to thousands of supporters he summoned to Washington were “totally appropriate.” The House moved within a week of the riot to impeach him.
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