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Members of the House of Representatives deliver to the Senate the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump on January 25, 2001. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson and House Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Blodgett lead the Democratic House impeachment managers as they deliver to the Senate the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump, in Washington, D.C. on January 25, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) 

House Impeachment Managers Argue Trump Aimed Violent Mob at Capitol 'Like a Loaded Cannon'

Pre-trial brief says the former U.S. president bears "singular responsibility" for inciting January 6 insurrection.

Brett Wilkins

House impeachment managers on Tuesday filed a trial memorandum laying out their case for convicting Donald Trump for "incitement of insurrection against the republic he swore to protect" ahead of the former president's historic second impeachment trial slated to begin next week.

"Trump's responsibility for the vicious January 6 insurrection is unmistakable. The Senate must convict President Trump... and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again."
—House impeachment managers

The brief alleges that Trump perpetrated a "grievous betrayal of his oath of office" when he "incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol" while Congress was convening on January 6 to count the electoral votes confirming Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Instead of accepting defeat, the brief says, Trump "summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue."

"As it stormed the Capitol, the mob yelled out 'President Trump Sent Us,' 'Hang Mike Pence,' and 'Traitor Traitor Traitor,'" the memo states. It continues:

The nation will indeed remember January 6, 2021—and President Trump's singular responsibility for that tragedy. It is impossible to imagine the events of January 6 occurring without President Trump creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal advantage from the ensuing havoc.

The brief also notes that instead of immediately telling his supporters who were overrunning the Capitol to stand down and condemning their attack, Trump was reportedly "delighted" and publicly told the insurrectionists that they were "special" and "loved." 

In an apparent refutal of the Republican lawmakers and jurists who argue that former presidents cannot be subjected to impeachment trials, the brief states that "the Constitution governs the first day of the president's term, the last day, and every moment in between."

"Presidents do not get a free pass to commit high crimes and misdemeanors near the end of their term," it continues. "The framers of our Constitution feared more than anything a president who would abuse power to remain in office against the will of the electorate."

"Allowing presidents to subvert elections without consequence would encourage the most dangerous of abuses," the memo asserts. It concludes that:

To reaffirm our core constitutional principles—and to deter future presidents from attempting to subvert our nation's elections—the Senate should convict President Trump and disqualify him from holding or enjoying  "any office or honor, trust, or profit under the United States."

That outcome is not only supported by the facts and the law; it is also the right thing to do. 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.

Failure to convict would embolden future leaders to attempt to retain power by any and all means—and would suggest that there is no line a president cannot cross. 

The House impeachment managers are: Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).

In a statement accompanying the brief, the lawmakers state that "the facts are compelling and the evidence is overwhelming" that: 

After months of spreading his Big Lie that he won a landslide victory in the 2020 election, leading up to and on January 6, 2021, President Trump summoned, assembled, and incited a violent mob that attacked the Capitol, cost the lives of three police officers and four other people, threatened the vice president and Congress, and successfully halted the counting of the Electoral College vote.

"Trump's responsibility for the vicious January 6 insurrection is unmistakable," the House managers conclude. "The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again. We must protect the republic from any future dangerous attacks he could level against our constitutional order." 

"Failure to convict would embolden future leaders to attempt to retain power by any and all means—and would suggest that there is no line a president cannot cross."

Oral arguments for Trump's second impeachment trial are scheduled to begin on February 9. It is highly unlikely he will be convicted, as 17 Republican senators in addition to all 50 Democrats would need to find him guilty. Last week, 45 Republican senators voted to invalidate the proceeding, arguing that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a private citizen. 

However, according to (pdf) the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency within Library of Congress, "it appears that most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office."

Trump's legal defense team responded to the impeachment managers' memo in a response that was deemed "laughable" by Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump, both for its spelling errors and for what many jurists called its severely flawed legal arguments.

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