President Donald Trump launched his first formal attack on the House’s effort to remove him from office on Saturday, calling the Democrats’ impeachment case against him fatally flawed and “constitutionally invalid” while blasting the effort as a political hit job by his adversaries.
“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away,” Trump’s lawyers argued in a six-page response filed with the Senate just days before the president’s trial begins in earnest.
The allegations raised by Trump’s attorneys — a soft swing at the substance of the impeachment articles and a more direct rebuke of the process Democrats used to get there — mirror the House’s charges against him. Democrats allege the president pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf by launching investigations into his political opponents.
Saturday’s filing from Trump marks his initial entry into the impeachment battle. The president and his lawyers had explicitly sat out the House investigation, complaining in a December letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”
But that approach won’t fly in the Senate, where Chief Justice John Roberts last week outlined a detailed schedule of separate legal filings for both sides of the debate. Trump’s initial reply will be followed by a more exhaustive trial brief from his lawyers that’s due on Monday.
In its first filing, the Trump legal team hammered what it calls “procedural irregularities” in the House’s impeachment process and the decision by Democrats not to accuse the president of committing a statutory crime — a threshold that constitutional scholars have long said isn’t a necessity when Congress seeks to remove a federal officeholder.
“In the end, this entire process is nothing more than a dangerous attack on the American people themselves and their fundamental right to vote,” the Trump legal filing says.
I can't tell if Trump honestly thinks everyone is as stupid as he is, or if this is the best his legal team can do with impeachment. Either way, it's embarrassing, America deserves a much better class of villain running the place.
"Impeachments aren't legal because they overturn elections!" except for the part where impeachment is spelled out in the Constitution, making it legal. I'm not even a lawyer and I think this brief should be written in crayon or finger painted in baby poop, but here we are.
Of course as soon as Chief Justice Roberts rolls his eyes at this, Trump will have all the evidence he needs to convince his base that it will never be a fair trial, so that Trump can and should do whatever he wants regardless of the outcome.
Meanwhile, Mitch is up to his tricks again
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would leave room for President Trump's lawyers to move immediately to dismiss the impeachment charges if they so choose, according to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.
Yes, but: Republican Senate leaders, including McConnell and Roy Blunt, the senior senator from Missouri, have already said members aren't interested in a vote to dismiss. And it seems unlikely that Trump's team would push for what would almost certainly be a losing vote — a move that could be seen as a sign of weakness at the outset of the trial.
Behind the scenes: "I am familiar with the resolution as it stood a day or two ago," Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, told me in a phone interview on Saturday. "My understanding is that the resolution will give the president's team the option to either move to judgment or to move to dismiss at a meaningful time..."
Hawley added that in the most recent draft of the organizing resolution he saw there was an option for the president's counsel to make a motion in multiple places, including at the beginning of the proceedings.
A Republican leadership aide responded: "The White House has the right to make motions under the regular order, including a motion to dismiss, right after the resolution is adopted because a motion to dismiss is a motion permitted by the impeachment rules."
The real reason? It's the final option in case the trial goes south.
The big picture: Trump endorsed on Twitter the idea of outright dismissal of the charges against him. It could be an opportunity for some of Trump's closest Senate Republican allies to register their contempt for the case that House Democrats marshaled against the president — even if the motion is doomed to fail.
It could also serve as a break-glass option if the trial took a turn and Trump's allies felt they needed a mechanism to bring about an abrupt end to the trial.
The Trumpies expect an acquittal or dismissal by January 31, before the State of the Union speech on February 4. If the trial's not done by then, Trump can't take his victory lap on national TV.
That appears to be the most important consideration for this regime.