By ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are using the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump as a political “weapon” to bar the former president from seeking office again, and are pursuing a case that is “undemocratic” and unconstitutional, one of his lawyers said Monday night.
Trump faces trial before the Senate next week on accusations that he incited a harrowing and deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob of loyalists overran the police and stormed the building. Though a conviction is unlikely, Democrats are aiming to present a damning account that links Trump’s encouragement of his supporters to “fight like hell” against the results of his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden to the violence and chaos.
On the eve of expected legal briefs from lawyers for both sides, Trump attorney David Schoen forecast some of the arguments he plans to make at the trial, calling the case unconstitutional — though many legal scholars disagree — as well as “undemocratic” and needlessly divisive.
“It’s also the most ill-advised legislative action that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Schoen said in an interview with Fox News.
Trump is the first president in American history to be impeached twice. He was acquitted at a Senate trial last year over his contacts with his Ukrainian counterpart. Impeachment, Schoen said, “is the weapon they’ve tried to use against him.”
He alleged that the case was an effort to bar Trump from ever running for office again, “and that’s about as undemocratic as you can get.”
Schoen, an Alabama attorney, and Bruce Castor, a former county prosecutor in Pennsylvania, were announced as Trump’s lawyers on Sunday evening, one day after it was revealed that the former president had parted ways with another set of attorneys in what one person described as a mutual decision.
In a separate interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Schoen said he did not plan to argue that Trump lost the election because of fraud, as Trump has repeatedly insisted, and would instead argue that the trial itself is unconstitutional since Trump has already left office and that he did not incite a riot.
House Democrats plan to lay out what happened on Jan. 6 in graphic detail — an effort to get through to Senate Republicans who have largely avoided talking about the attack itself and Trump’s role in it, instead focusing on the process of the impeachment trial. They are expected to play videos and verbally recount the violence of the day in hopes of stirring the Republicans, most of whom fled the Senate that day as the rioters broke in.
The nine House impeachment managers who will argue the case also are expected to lay out how they believe Trump’s actions over the previous several months led up to it and eventually incited the insurrectionists to act.
Their arguments will include a look at Trump’s “prolonged effort” to persuade his supporters to believe his false claims that the election was stolen — and describe how his pleas for them to come to Washington and his words immediately before the attack directly caused it.
The violent mob that broke into the Capitol as the House and the Senate tallied electoral votes not only ransacked the building but repeatedly called out for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and for Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the building to preside over the count. Ahead of the rally, Trump encouraged the mob to walk to the Capitol and told them to “fight like hell.”
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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