Trump accused of 'grievous betrayal' in impeachment trial brief

In a pre-trial brief outlining their prosecution arguments, the House impeachment managers made their case for the Senate to convict Donald Trump, saying the American people should be protected "against a President who provokes violence to subvert our democracy".

FILE: Former US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - US lawmakers leading the impeachment case against Donald Trump Tuesday accused the former president of a "betrayal" of historic proportions over his role in the storming of the US Capitol, one week before his Senate trial begins.

In a pre-trial brief outlining their prosecution arguments, the House impeachment managers made their case for the Senate to convict Trump, saying the American people should be protected "against a President who provokes violence to subvert our democracy".

The managers, all Democrats, argued in the sweeping 77-page document that Trump, speaking to a crowd of supporters in Washington on January 6, whipped them into a "frenzy" shortly before they marched on the US Capitol building.

They declared him "singularly responsible" for the subsequent riot that left five people dead and threatened the lives of lawmakers and vice president Mike Pence.

"In a grievous betrayal of his oath of office, President Trump incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol" and impede Congress's confirmation of Joe Biden as the winner of the November election, wrote the lawmakers, led by congressman Jamie Raskin.

"If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a joint session of Congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense, it is hard to imagine what would be," the brief states.

"Failure to convict would embolden future leaders to attempt to retain power by any and all means - and would suggest that there is no line a president cannot cross."

NO 'JANUARY EXCEPTION'

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13 for an unprecedented second time. But his term ended before the beginning of the Senate trial, prompting Republican lawmakers to argue it is unconstitutional to convict a president after he has left office.

It is an argument Trump's lawyers are expected to make in his defense, but the Democrats rejected that reasoning outright.

"There is no 'January Exception' to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution," they wrote, adding that a president must answer for his conduct in office "from his first day in office through his last".

The brief points to multiple videos - expected to be used as evidence in the trial - which they say show Trump inciting the crowd to commit violence, and show rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and hunting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump spent much of his time after the November 3 vote claiming that the election was stolen through massive fraud.

Dozens of courts in multiple states found the argument baseless.

But impeachment managers argued that Trump's constant promoting of the unfounded accusations that the election was stolen fueled his supporters into backing efforts to overturn the election.

When those efforts failed, the Democrats wrote, Trump "summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue".

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