President Donald Trump’s legal team filed a lengthy legal brief with the Senate on Monday calling the House Democrats’ impeachment effort an “affront to the Constitution” that should be rejected on its face.
Trump’s 110-page legal brief highlights that the House voted to impeach the president without alleging any criminal conduct.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The House passed two articles of impeachment last month, claiming first that Trump abused the powers of his office by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.
The second article alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by not providing all the documents and witnesses requested by various congressional committees looking into the matter.
“The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions,” the opening of the Trump legal brief reads. “The Articles themselves — and the rigged process that brought them here — are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.”
“House Democrats’ novel conception of ‘abuse of power’ as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective. It supplants the Framers’ standard of ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.'”
The brief includes a robust defense of Trump’s right as commander in chief to inquire about alleged corruption in Ukraine, including potentially that involving the Bidens, before directing the release of military aid to Zelensky’s government in September.
While serving as vice president, Biden demanded in March 2016 that a Ukrainian prosecutor who was overseeing an investigation into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings be fired, or the country’s government would not receive a $1 billion loan guaranteed by the United States.
Hunter Biden was reportedly receiving at least $50,000 a month to serve on the Burisma board of directors at the time.
“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 president’s lawyers wrote.
“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.”
Trump’s legal team also dismissed the notion that the president obstructed Congress by claiming executive privilege regarding members of his staff and documents sought.
“House Democrats’ charge of ‘obstruction’ is both frivolous and dangerous,” the brief reads.
“The President does not commit ‘obstruction’ by asserting legal rights and privileges,” the president’s lawyers contended. “And House Democrats turn the law on its head with their unprecedented claim that it is ‘obstruction’ for anyone to assert rights that might require the House to try to establish the validity of its subpoenas in court.”
“Treating a disagreement regarding constitutional limits on the House’s authority to compel documents or testimony as an impeachable offense would do permanent damage to the Constitution’s separation of powers and our structure of government.”
The Trump legal team noted that George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month that “basing impeachment on this obstruction theory would itself be an abuse of power.”
The president’s attorneys argued that “the Senate should speedily reject these deficient Articles of Impeachment and acquit the President.”
“The only threat to the Constitution that House Democrats have brought to light is their own degradation of the impeachment process and trampling of the separation of powers.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is seeking the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney among others during the Senate impeachment trial.
Schumer has charged that if these witnesses do not testify and the document Democrats seek are not handed over, the White House is engaging in a cover-up.
“They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!” Trump tweeted on Monday in response to the charge.
They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2020
“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?” the president added in a subsequent tweet.
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