The Slatest

Democrats Lay Out Impeachment Arguments: “Trump’s Conduct Is the Framers’ Worst Nightmare”

President Donald Trump speaks during an event honoring the 2019 college football national champions, the Louisiana State University Tigers, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks during an event honoring the 2019 college football national champions, the Louisiana State University Tigers, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

House Democrats outlined their case for impeachment while President Donald Trump’s legal team issued a stinging response, laying out the competing arguments over the commander in chief’s fate as Washington gears up for the opening arguments in the Senate trial to begin Wednesday afternoon.

In a 46-page trial memorandum that is accompanied by a 60-page statement of facts, the House impeachment managers outline the narrative in favor of impeachment, claiming that Trump carried out a campaign to get a foreign government to help him win the 2020 election. The president pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival while also withholding military aid as leverage and then proceeded to try to hide the actions from Congress, according to the Democrats.

The evidence shows that Trump is guilty of both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the impeachment managers argue. “The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the House managers wrote. The seven Democratic managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff added that “President Trump’s conduct is the framers’ worst nightmare.”

In the brief, the House Democrats insist Trump poses a threat to national security and frequently refer to the Founding Fathers and the way they warned about foreign influence on domestic matters. “The Framers therefore would have considered a President’s attempt to corrupt America’s democratic processes by demanding political favors from foreign powers to be a singularly pernicious act,” the managers wrote, adding that “they would have viewed a President’s efforts to encourage foreign election interference as all the more dangerous where, as here, those efforts are part of an ongoing pattern of misconduct for which the President is unrepentant.”

The House managers make their arguments to the senators who will act as jurors in the trial and call on them to go beyond their partisan alliances. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution,” the managers wrote. “The outcome of these proceedings will determine whether generations to come will enjoy a safe and secure democracy in which the President is not a king, and in which no one, particularly the President, is above the law.”

In a six-page response, Trump’s lawyers Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone laid out a stinging response to the arguments in the impeachment trial, saying the president “categorically and unequivocally” denies the charges against him. “The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” the lawyers said. “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.” They also said that the case against the president was “constitutionally invalid.”

The lawyers are set to present a fuller legal brief on Monday but for now they did not outright deny any of the facts presented by the Democrats. After all, the evidence has shown there is little that can be said to counter that Trump did withhold aid from Ukraine and asked the country’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. But the lawyers argue Trump didn’t break any laws.

A Democratic aide working on impeachment told reporters that the response from Trump’s lawyers “is more like a fundraising email” than a statement addressing issues involving constitutional law. “This answer is not like any answer we’ve ever seen in an impeachment. The House and the Senate have done fifteen,” the aide said, according to Axios. “If the following is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable.”