President Donald Trump’s legal team on Monday filed a lengthy response to charges he abused his office and obstructed Congress, decrying the attempt to remove him as a “charade” and calling on senators to quickly reject it.
The 110-page filing reflects the most fulsome rebuttal of Democrats’ accusations against Trump and amounts to a preview of the case Trump’s lawyers will make on the Senate floor when the impeachment trial commences this week.
They argue the impeachment was a partisan sham that failed to prove any violation of law. They warn against dangerous precedents should Democrats’ efforts prove successful. And they insist Trump was well within his prerogatives to raise the issue of his political rivals with a foreign leader.
“The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions,” the President’s lawyers wrote in opening sentences of the document. “The Articles themselves — and the rigged process that brought them here — are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected. They debase the grave power of impeachment and disdain the solemn responsibility that power entails.”
The legal brief attempts to dismantle both charges against the President that were formalized along a mostly party-line vote in the House of Representatives late last year.
The first — that Trump committed “abuse of power” in his attempts to surface political dirt by withholding military aid to Ukraine — is a “made up theory,” the President’s legal team argues.
“Under the Constitution, impeachable offenses must be defined under established law. And they must be based on objective wrongdoing, not supposed subjective motives dreamt up by a hostile faction in the House and superimposed onto a President’s entirely lawful conduct,” the document reads.
The second charge — that Trump obstructed congressional investigators during the impeachment proceedings — is “frivolous and dangerous” and represents an attempt to alter the separation of powers outlined by the Constitution, the lawyers argue.
Trump’s legal team also insists the President was well within his rights to push his Ukrainian counterpart about unsubstantiated theories about Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election, and argue that Trump was right to ask Ukraine’s President to look into former Vice President Joe Biden, who they said should be subject to scrutiny regardless of his status as a potential political rival.
“House Democrats’ accusations rest on the false and dangerous premise that Vice President Biden somehow immunized his conduct (and his son’s) from any scrutiny by declaring his run for the presidency,” the lawyers write. “There is no such rule of law. It certainly was not a rule applied when President Trump was a candidate. His political opponents called for investigations against him and his children almost daily.”
Monday’s filing comes after a shorter document was submitted on Saturday laying out Trump’s arguments against impeachment.
That response — which called the articles “constitutionally invalid” and claimed they are an attack on Americans — argued both substantively against the charges in the articles and procedurally against the House’s impeachment inquiry.
The document submitted on Monday expands on those arguments in detail, offering examples of what Trump’s legal team claims are reasons the impeachment is invalid.
Trump’s lawyers were required to produce the comprehensive filing ahead of the trial, which is expected to begin in earnest on Tuesday.
The legal team — led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside attorney Jay Sekulow — is expected to rely on the arguments in Monday’s brief in their presentations to the Senate.
Sources working with the legal team who briefed reporters on the filing declined to specify whether their call for a swift rejection of the impeachment charges would include asking for a motion to dismiss during the Senate impeachment trial.
“I’m not going to get into our details on what our strategy will be when the trial starts,” one of the people said.
Instead, they argued the impeachment case should be rejected because the “articles of impeachment are deficient on their face.”
The House on Monday submitted its rebuttal to the White House’s argument that the impeachment articles were “constitutionally invalid,” charging that the President’s assertions the about the articles was “chilling” and “dead wrong.”
“President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion,” the House managers wrote in their nine-page brief. “The Framers deliberately drafted a Constitution that allows the Senate to remove Presidents who, like President Trump, abuse their power to cheat in elections, betray our national security, and ignore checks and balances. That President Trump believes otherwise, and insists he is free to engage in such conduct again, only highlights the continuing threat he poses to the Nation if allowed to remain in office.”
The House’s filing on Monday was in response to the White House brief released on Saturday that called the House’s impeachment a “brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of 2016 election.”
The House will also respond on Tuesday to the White House’s trial briefing that was released on Monday that said the impeachment process was a “charade” and called on senators to swiftly dismiss the charges.
The briefings are the preamble to the substance of the Senate trial that will begin on Tuesday. The House managers are preparing for the trial on Capitol Hill, meeting on Sunday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and conducting a walkthrough of the Senate chamber on Monday.
It’s still not clear what day the trial arguments will start, as the Senate still has to vote on the rules of the trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet released. But it’s expected that the House and President’s team will each have 24 hours to make their case split over two days, which Democrats have blasted as an attempt to conduct the trial in the middle of the night.
Trump himself weighed in on the impeachment matter on Monday morning, echoing the themes of fairness and process that were included in his lawyer’s brief.
“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for ‘fairness’, when he and the Democrat House members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the House. So, what else is new?” he wrote on Twitter.
He also seemed to reject demands that his former national security adviser John Bolton appear as a witness during the Senate trial. Bolton has said he would appear if subpoenaed.
“They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House,” Trump wrote. “They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!”
As his lawyers were preparing their legal filing over the weekend in Washington, Trump was at his Florida resort where guests said he seemed distracted by the impeachment saga.
A tuxedo’d Trump spent part of Saturday evening complaining about the looming impeachment trial to friends at Mar-a-Lago before inviting guests to join him to watch the UFC fight.
Trump stopped by the yearly Palm Beach Policemen’s and Firemen’s Ball in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, where he railed against the impeachment proceedings.
Trump called the impeachment “fake” and said the media wasn’t giving him a “fair shake,” according to an attendee. He spoke from a podium for about 15 minutes before making the rounds shaking hands in the room.
Later, Trump invited friends and some club guests to watch the UFC fight marking Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon after more than 15 months.
The fight, which lasted less than a minute, took place in Las Vegas. Trump and his guests watched on pay-per-view.
By Kevin Liptak, CNN