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Trump legal professionals, Dems spar over impeachment

Lawyers for former president Donald Trump say the US Senate has no authority to try him as a private citizen on an impeachment charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 while the Democratic lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors urged his conviction.

Both sides filed briefs with the Senate on Tuesday, a week before the impeachment trial is due to begin.

Nine House of Representatives lawmakers said Trump pointed a mob “like a loaded cannon” at Congress and said he should be convicted and barred from holding public office in the future.

Trump’s defence team said that no only does the Senate lack the authority to put Trump on trial as a private citizen but that the chamber also lacks the jurisdiction to prevent Trump from holding office again.

“President Trump’s conduct offends everything that the Constitution stands for,” the Democratic impeachment managers wrote in an 80-page brief noting that Trump had begun voicing his intention to contest an election loss months before the November 3 election was held.

“He summoned a mob to Washington (DC), exhorted them into a frenzy and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Capitol was overrun, President Trump was reportedly ‘delighted,'” they said.

During his January 6 speech, Trump repeated claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” “stop the steal,” “show strength” and “fight like hell”.

The rampage interrupted the formal congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory and sent lawmakers into hiding for their own safety.

“The Senate must make clear to him and all who follow that a president who provokes armed violence against the government of the United States in an effort to overturn the results of an election will face trial and judgment,” the Democratic managers added.

Trump is just the third president to have been impeached, the first to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office.

Members of the 100-seat Senate will serve as jurors in his impeachment trial, due to begin next week.

Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds vote, meaning that 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats in voting to convict.

That presents a daunting hurdle for Democrats.

Last week, 45 of the 50 Republican senators voted in favour of a failed bid to dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional because Trump has left office.

A conviction could lead to a second vote banning Trump from holding public office again.

The Tuesday deadline for briefs in the case came just days after he parted ways with his initial legal team amid a reported dispute over how to respond to the charge.

One of Trump’s recently hired lawyers, David Schoen, called the impeachment process “completely unconstitutional” in an interview with Fox News on Monday but did not outline the former president’s legal strategy.

“I think it’s also the most ill-advised legislative action that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Schoen said.

“It is tearing the country apart at a time when we don’t need anything like that.”

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