House Rests Trump Impeachment Case, Defense Begins Today

In this file photo taken on December 7, 2020 -ex-US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony. PHOTO:AFP

 

House prosecutors wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday with an impassioned appeal to the Senate to convict the former president of inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol and bar him from holding office again.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,” said Democratic Representative Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives.

“Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen — or worse, if we let it go unanswered — who’s to say it won’t happen again?”

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The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters who were seeking to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Trump’s lawyers will begin their defense on Friday, arguing that the former president cannot be held personally responsible for the storming of Congress.

They have also argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office, although the Senate rejected that argument earlier this week.

Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render “impartial justice.”

“Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,” Raskin said, noting that Trump stood by doing nothing for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.

“Why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?” Raskin asked. “As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?”

Earlier, Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change “some minds.”

But despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.

It would take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats.

 

– ‘Future of democracy’  –

The mayhem on January 6 erupted after Trump held a large rally near the White House, insisting falsely, as he had done since losing to Biden in November, that he was cheated.

Instructed by Trump to march on Congress, where lawmakers were at that moment certifying Biden’s election, the crowd smashed through police lines, then went on a rampage.

The chaos left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.

Video footage played by impeachment managers showed the mob hunting down opponents of Trump, as well as senior figures, including then vice president Mike Pence, having to flee to safety.

The defense will stress that Trump did not expressly tell his supporters to commit violence, but Raskin pointed out that the Republican president had been stoking anger and encouraging extremism since Election Day — and even before.

“This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,” Raskin said. “This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.”

Raskin said it was imperative the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.

“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Raskin asked.

“Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”

Raskin also dismissed claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president did not incite the riot but was just exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Calling this a “smokescreen,” Raskin said that “nobody can incite a riot.”

“First Amendment doesn’t protect it,” he said. “Nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.”

 

– Republicans stand by Trump –

Biden said he did not watch any of the trial live but had seen news coverage of Wednesday’s wrenching video footage.

“My guess is some minds may be changed,” Biden told reporters in the White House.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden, who has been trying to stop the trial from overshadowing his push for a huge economic stimulus package and the fight against Covid-19, was not intending to predict the outcome.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said video footage shown by House managers on Wednesday was “powerful,” but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”

Other Republican senators have clearly already made up their minds and do not intend to break with Trump, who has threatened to derail their careers.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted the Senate cannot try a former president.

“What happened on Jan. 6 — I said it the moment it started — was unpatriotic, un-American, treasonous, a crime, unacceptable,” he said.

“The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is,” said Rubio.

AFP

Impeachment Trial: Lawmakers Ask Trump To Testify

In this file photo ex-US President Donald Trump speaks following a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on January 12, 2021.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

 

Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday requested the former president to testify in his trial for allegedly inciting insurrection in the attack on the US Capitol last month.

“I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021,” chief impeachment manager Jamie Raskin wrote in a letter to Trump, ahead of the February 9 opening of the trial.

Raskin made the request after Trump’s lawyers filed a pre-trial brief denying the allegations that he encouraged the violent assault by his supporters on the US Congress, which left five people dead.

“You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue, notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin said.

 

File photo: Outgone US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

Trump will go on trial in the Senate for the second time in a year beginning next week.

Raskin proposed that Trump provide testimony, and face cross-examination on it, between February 8 and February 11, “at a mutually convenient time and place.”

Raskin said Trump had little excuse to avoid testifying, saying he could no long claim that he was too busy overseeing the country, as was the White House position when he was still president.

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“We therefore anticipate your availability to testify.”

If Trump, who now lives in his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, declines to testify, Raskin warned, the impeachment prosecutors could cite that as evidence supporting his guilt.

Raskin gave Trump until 5 pm Friday to respond to the letter.

AFP

Trump Names Defense Lawyers As Impeachment Trial Looms

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 Ex-US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

 

Former US President Donald Trump announced Sunday he had picked two lawyers to head his defense team days before his historic second impeachment trial, as Republicans braced for a battle over the future of their party.

Trump’s Senate trial is due to start on February 9, but he had reportedly parted ways with several members of his initial legal team just a day ago.

His lead lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr, are “highly respected trial lawyers” with backgrounds in criminal law and defense, according to a statement from Trump.

Schoen has represented Trump ally Roger Stone, and said he was in discussions to join the legal team for Jeffrey Epstein in 2019 days before the disgraced US financier killed himself while in jail on allegations of trafficking underage girls for sex.

Castor previously served as as the district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where he declined to push forward with a case when US comedian Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault by Andrea Constand.

The case moved forward under Castor’s successor and Cosby was convicted in 2018.

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Schoen had already been working with the defense team, and both he and Castor “agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional,” Trump’s statement said.

The trial of the former president for alleged “incitement of insurrection” over the storming of the Capitol by his supporters has exposed a rift between Trump loyalists who dominate the Republican Party, and its moderate wing.

“The Senate trial… is going to call all Republicans to take a position more clearly,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told ABC’s “This Week.”

He added: “We’ve got to have a regard for those people that supported Donald Trump… But at the same time, we don’t want to gloss over the terrible actions that happened at the Capitol.”

 

File photo: US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides over Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against ex-President Donald J. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

Trump looks increasingly likely to avoid conviction due to party support in the Senate — where all but five Republicans already backed an attempt to throw out the case on constitutional grounds.

But the trial is still sure to see battle lines drawn over who controls the party following Trump’s first-term defeat.

On January 6, Trump gave a fiery speech outside the White House exhorting his supporters to march on the US Capitol to overturn the election results.

– Still Trump’s party? –
The protesters then violently stormed the Capitol building in scenes that shocked the world.

“The president’s comments that day were partly responsible for what happened, for the horrible violence,” Republican Senator Rob Portman told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What he did was wrong and inexcusable.

“I am a juror. I’m going to keep an open mind as we go through this (trial). But I do think that this constitutionality issue has to be addressed. We would be convicting a private citizen, someone who’s out of office. That sets up a precedent.”

Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote for impeachment earlier this month, said Sunday that Trump was “desperate to continue to look like he’s leading the party.”

“We need to quit being the party that even an iota defends an insurrection, a dead police officer and other dead Americans on the Capitol,” Kinzinger told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Kinzinger has launched a new political action committee seeking to raise funds to challenge the Trump wing of the party.

File photo: Ex-U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

While signaling opposition to Trump’s trial, Republican senators are instead fueling efforts to censure him over his role in the Capitol assault.

But, while a conviction would lead to a simple-majority vote on whether to bar Trump from holding future public office, a censure resolution carries no such trigger.

Republican divisions have been further exposed in recent days by the newly-elected lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has promoted the unhinged conspiracy theories pushed by the QAnon far-right movement, and has backed Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Party leaders are under pressure to take action against the lawmaker, whose past online posts have indicated support for executing Democrats and claimed school shootings were staged to undermine backing for gun rights.

But Taylor Greene has remained defiant, tweeting Saturday that she had had a “GREAT call” with Trump as she casts herself as a new champion of the party’s Trumpist wing.

AFP

Trump Impeachment Defense Lawyers Leave Team Days Before Trial

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 Ex-US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Several of former US President Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers have left his team a little over a week before his trial, US media reported Saturday.

CNN cited unnamed sources as saying that five lawyers — including two who were thought to be leading the team — had parted ways with the Republican billionaire after disagreeing over his legal strategy.

Trump had wanted the lawyers to continue his baseless claims of mass election fraud rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he has left office, CNN said, adding that he was “not receptive” to discussion.

The lawyers included Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, expected to lead Trump’s defense, CNN and other outlets reported, saying it had been a “mutual decision.”

“We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly,” tweeted Trump advisor Jason Miller in response to the reports.

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The development leaves Trump, who has reportedly been struggling to form a defense ahead of his historic second impeachment trial over the ransacking of the US Capitol this month, facing new hurdles with just days to go.

However, even with his legal team in chaos he looks increasingly likely to dodge conviction.

Nearly all senators from his party have signaled opposition to his trial and fueled efforts to censure him instead.

The trial — in which Trump faces a charge of “incitement of insurrection” — will begin on February 9.

 

File photo: Ex-U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

But with just five Republicans joining all 50 Democrats this week in agreeing that the trial should go forward, it appears unlikely that 17 Republicans would vote against Trump, the minimum number needed to reach the two-thirds threshold for conviction.

A censure would be less severe than expulsion but is a formal statement of disapproval.

It would still need 10 Republicans to go along in order to overcome any blocking tactics set out by Trump loyalists.

While a conviction would lead to a simple-majority vote on whether to bar Trump from holding any future public office, a censure resolution carries no such trigger.

That would leave the door open for Trump to run again in 2024, a prospect that a significant portion of Republicans now support, despite the deadly storming of the Capitol on January 6 by a mob of pro-Trump extremists in an effort to overturn the results of the election.

AFP

Pence Rejects Invoking 25th Amendment To Remove Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Advisor Jared Kushner, speaks in the Oval Office to announce that Bahrain will establish diplomatic relations with Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

US Vice President Mike Pence told House leaders Tuesday he does not support invoking the 25th Amendment process to remove Donald Trump, all but guaranteeing an impeachment vote against the besieged president.

“With just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment,” Pence wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the process that would declare Trump unable to fulfill his duties and install Pence as acting president for the remainder of the term.

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” he said.

 

A fly rests on the head of US Vice President Mike Pence as he takes notes during the vice presidential debate against US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California Kamala Harris in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (ERIC BARADAT / AFP )
A fly rests on the head of US Vice President Mike Pence as he takes notes during the vice presidential debate against US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California Kamala Harris in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (ERIC BARADAT / AFP)

 

Democrats mobilized rapidly to begin the process to have Trump removed after he encouraged his supporters last Wednesday to “march” to the US Capitol and “fight.”

In a violent insurrection, the rioters stormed past outnumbered police, rampaged through and ransacked the building, and interrupted Congress as it was certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

Pence, who was presiding over the vote, as well as Pelosi and other lawmakers, were forced to take shelter. Five people died during the unrest including a US Capitol Police officer.

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The vice president’s letter came just hours before the House of Representatives was to vote on a resolution that calls on Pence to initiate the 25th Amendment process and “declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: that the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Pelosi has said Pence’s failure to trigger that process would lead to a Trump impeachment vote on Wednesday. She has described Trump as being “unhinged.”

But Pence told Pelosi that her call for invoking the 25th Amendment was misplaced, saying it was designed to “address presidential incapacity or disability,” not as a “means of punishment or usurpation.”

He also pointed out that despite intense pressure from within his party to invalidate the electoral votes from swing states won by Biden, he fulfilled his consitutional duty to certify the results.

“I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation,” he wrote.

Earlier in the day Trump said the 25th Amendment was of “zero risk” to him.

AFP

Cabinet Members Discussing Trump’s Removal – US Media

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet on Wednesday discussed the possibility of removing Trump from office after his supporters stormed the Capitol, three US news channels reported.

The discussions focused on the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for a president’s removal by the vice president and cabinet if he is judged “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Invoking it would require Vice President Michael Pence to lead the cabinet in a vote on removing him.

CNN quoted unnamed Republican leaders saying the 25th amendment had been discussed, saying they had described Trump as “out of control.”

CBS reporter Margaret Brennan said that “nothing formal” had been presented to Pence, and ABC reporter Katherine Faulders said “multiple” sources had told her that discussions took place on the unprecedented move.

Trump’s encouragement of the protesters, his unfounded claims that he lost the November 3 presidential election due to massive fraud, and other bizarre behavior have raised questions about his ability to lead.

READ ALSO: Trump Pledges ‘Orderly Transition’ After Congress Affirmed Biden’s Win

While only two weeks remain before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, after the attacks on Congress Wednesday Democratic lawmakers called for invoking the 25th Amendment as well.

Democrats of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Pence urging him to act to remove Trump, saying he had stoked an act of insurrection and “sought to undermine our democracy.”

Pointing to a rambling speech Trump gave Wednesday, it said he “revealed that he is not mentally sound and is still unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election.”

Others blamed Trump for fueling terrorism.

“The President incited a domestic terror attack on the Capitol. He is an imminent threat to our democracy and he needs to be removed from office immediately,” said Representative Kathleen Rice in a tweet.

“The Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment,” she wrote.

The lawmakers’ call was echoed by the influential Washington Post.

“Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president, who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to US democracy. He should be removed,” the Post said.

“The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security,” they said.

AFP

Trump Impeachment: Evidence Of Misconduct ‘Overwhelming’ – House Report

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 20, 2019, Representative Mike Conaway, R-TX, during the House Intelligence Committee hearing, into President Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to tie US aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on November 19, 2019.
Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

The evidence for impeaching President Donald Trump for misconduct in office and obstruction is “overwhelming,” the final report on the House investigation into the US leader said Tuesday.

The 300-page report, meant as the basis for articles of impeachment, accused Trump of endangering national security and of an unparalleled effort to stifle the probe into claims he pressured Ukraine for dirt on a Democratic election rival.

“The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the US government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection” next year, the report said.

“The president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security.”

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The report, which will form the basis for the House Judiciary Committee to draw up formal charges, or articles of impeachment, in the coming weeks, spells out two key areas of wrongdoing by Trump.

In the first instance, it alleged, Trump, conditioned military aid and a face-to-face meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Kiev opening several politically-motivated investigations, including into former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 election race.

Secondly, the report said, Trump actively sought to obstruct the congressional probe, refusing to provide documents to investigators, preventing witnesses from appearing, and threatening some of those who did appear.

“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” said the report.

“No other president has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent.”

In a statement, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham dismissed both the report and the investigation led by House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff.

“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” she said.

The report “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

AFP