Impeachment Trial: Managers, Trump Defense Preview Arguments : Trump Impeachment Aftermath: Updates In a separate filing due ahead of next week's trial, former President Donald Trump's defense team calls the impeachment effort unconstitutional and denies he incited the crowd on Jan. 6.
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Impeachment Managers Argue Trump Is 'Singularly Responsible' For Capitol Attack

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Impeachment Managers Argue Trump Is 'Singularly Responsible' For Capitol Attack

Impeachment Managers Argue Trump Is 'Singularly Responsible' For Capitol Attack

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/963214171/963563050" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We now know more of how House managers will argue their case against former President Trump and how the ex-president will defend himself at a Senate trial next week. Some of the facts here were witnessed by millions on January 6 and in the months before. The defeated president duped his supporters with an elaborate con about the election. He then told a crowd to fight for him. And they marched on the Capitol and attacked January 6. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been reading what advocates for each side say in their legal briefs. Ryan, good morning.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I feel, in conversation with people, people are sometimes still confused about the basics. So I just want to lay it out again, remind people. He's been impeached by a vote of the House of Representatives. That's on his record. It's not the same as an indictment, but it's sort of like that. He's been charged. Next week, it goes to trial before the Senate. And managers from the House, which indicted him, make their case like prosecutors. So what is their case?

LUCAS: Well, they begin their case, actually, in the summer of 2020, saying that Trump back then was laying the foundations for what we ultimately saw on January 6. They cite interviews from the summer in which Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost. And then after the election, Trump repeatedly was pushing his baseless claims that the election had somehow been stolen. The House managers document those. And they say that Trump's rhetoric grew more and more incendiary as the weeks passed after the election and ultimately came to a crescendo on January 6 when he took the stage near the White House. The managers say, on that stage, Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy and aimed them, quote, "like a loaded cannon" at the Capitol when he told them to, quote, "fight like hell." They say Trump incited the mob. They say he incited the violence. And for that, the House managers say he should be convicted and barred from holding office in the future.

INSKEEP: Who are the people in Trump's latest legal team? And how are they shaping their defense?

LUCAS: Well, Trump's two new lawyers are David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr. And what they say in their filing is that the proceedings against Trump are unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. They say the Constitution requires that a person be in office to be impeached and tried before the Senate. And since Trump is clearly out of office, this trial, in their view, is moot. Now, there is a legal debate on this point. Scholars do come down on both sides of the question. The House managers, for their part, in their case, argued that this is, indeed, constitutional and that a president has to be held accountable for his actions from the first day to the last day of his presidency. They say there is no January exception. But what may be more pertinent here is that the constitutionality argument seems like something that's registering with a lot of Senate Republicans, since 45 of them voted last week that impeaching a former president was, in their view, unconstitutional.

INSKEEP: Yeah. That's politically pertinent. Although, of course, there's also this precedent where a former official was, in fact, put on trial before the Senate in the past. So we know what the facts of the precedent are there. How is the former president dealing with the big lie here, everything that he said falsely for months leading up to the January 6 attack?

LUCAS: Well, his lawyers brought up his - Trump's election fraud claims. But I wouldn't say that they focused on them. What they say is that when Trump publicly was challenging the election outcome that he is within his rights to do so - that he was just expressing his opinion. They also argue that there's insufficient evidence to conclude that Trump's claims of fraud are false. Now, his lawyers gloss over the fact that dozens of courts had rejected the Trump campaign's legal challenges to the vote. Instead, his lawyers spend their time in their brief denying allegations against their client. They deny that Trump incited the mob. They deny that he violated his oath of office. And they deny that he committed any sort of high crimes or misdemeanors.

INSKEEP: So what happens before the trial begins next week?

LUCAS: Well, we expect a full trial brief from Trump's legal team by next Monday. And, of course, we will keep an eye out to see whether any Republicans start to, perhaps, waver on supporting Trump.

INSKEEP: And, of course, a bunch of Republicans would have to vote to convict for there to be a conviction. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks.

LUCAS: Thank you.

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