On Monday, President Donald Trump’s legal defense team filed a 109-page brief (171 pages long including appendices) urging the U.S. Senate to reject the Democrats’ articles of impeachment. The letter deconstructed the impeachment case and denounced the very charges as “an affront to the Constitution.”
“The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions. The Articles themselves—and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected,” the lawyers wrote. “They debase the grave power of impeachment and disdain the solemn responsibility that power entails.”
“The process that brought the articles here violated every precedent and every principle of fairness followed in impeachment inquiries for more than 150 years. Even so, all that House Democrats have succeeded in proving is that the President did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump’s legal team argued. “After focus-group testing various charges for weeks, House Democrats settled on two flimsy Articles of Impeachment that allege no crime or violation of law whatsoever—much less ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ as required by the Constitution. They do not remotely approach the constitutional threshold for removing a President from office.”
Yet fighting this impeachment is about more than just defending the president, the lawyers argued. “The diluted standard asserted here would permanently weaken the Presidency and forever alter the balance among the branches of government in a manner that offends the constitutional design established by the Founders,” they wrote. “House Democrats jettisoned all precedent and principle because their impeachment inquisition was never really about discovering the truth or conducting a fair investigation. Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way—any way—to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”
“All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” the brief states.
The lawyers went through the Democrats’ claims and rebutted them. They claimed the first article — abuse of power — weaponizes a policy dispute and that the second article — obstruction of Congress — damages the separation of powers by depriving the executive branch of presidential privilege. In fact, rather than litigating their request for documents arguably protected by presidential privilege, the Democrats accused Trump of obstruction when the White House went to court.
Trump’s lawyers argued that Democrats’ “fixation on damaging the President has trivialized the momentous act of impeachment, debased the standards of impeachable conduct, and perverted the power of impeachment by turning it into a partisan, election-year political tool. The consequences of accepting House Democrats’ diluted standards for impeachment would reverberate far beyond this election year and do lasting damage to our Republic.”
“The Articles of Impeachment presented by House Democrats are constitutionally deficient on their face,” Trump’s defense team concluded. “The theories underpinning them would do lasting damage to the separation of powers under the Constitution and to our structure of government. The Articles are also the product of an unprecedented and unconstitutional process that denied the President every basic right guaranteed by the Due Process Clause and fundamental principles of fairness.”
“These Articles reflect nothing more than the ‘persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives’ that the Framers warned against. The Senate should reject the Articles of Impeachment and acquit the President immediately,” the brief concludes.
The House of Representatives passed the articles of impeachment on December 18 last year. After a nearly month-long delay, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forwarded the articles to the Senate last week with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. The delay undermined the claim that Trump must be impeached immediately as he poses a threat to the 2020 election. The Senate impeachment trial is set to begin Tuesday.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.