Trump lawyers: Riots trial 'theatre’ stoked by ‘hatred’
Donald Trump should not be blamed for the actions of a "small group of criminals" who rioted at the Capitol last month after he urged them to "fight like hell" against his election loss, his lawyers argue.
In a 78-page brief submitted ahead of his second impeachment trial, the former president's legal team dismissed the case against him as "political theatre" and said it was unconstitutional for the Senate to try a former president.
They also said that Democrats were guilty of stoking "fevered hatred" of Mr Trump, whose trial starts Wednesday morning AEDT.
But a final bid by his team to have the trial thrown out on the basis it is unconstitutional because he is a "private citizen" was rejected.
"The evidence of President Trump's conduct is overwhelming. He has no valid excuse or defence for his actions. And his efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing," House managers wrote in response to Trump's lawyers.
"As charged in the Article of Impeachment, President Trump violated his Oath of Office and betrayed the American people. His incitement of insurrection against the United States government - which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power - is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president."
The five-page House brief says that Mr Trump can stand trial in the Senate for a crime that he committed while in office.
"Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last," the Democrats wrote.
They were responding after his lawyers said the trail was being driven by "fevered hatred" against the former president.
"One might have been excused for thinking that the Democrats' fevered hatred for Citizen Trump and their 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' would have broken by now, seeing as he is no longer the President," his lawyers wrote.
"And yet for the second time in just over a year the United States Senate is preparing to sit as a Court of Impeachment, but this time over a private citizen who is a former President."
The defence submission contends that Mr Trump's speech just before the January 6 attack "did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions".
"The intellectual dishonesty and factual vacuity put forth by the House managers in their trial memorandum only serve to further punctuate the point that this impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice.
"Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on January 6 by a few hundred people.
"Instead of acting to heal the nation, or at the very least focusing on prosecuting the law-breakers who stormed the Capitol, the Speaker of the House and her allies have tried to callously harness the chaos of the moment for their own political gain."
Five people died during the riot which led to the House of Representatives impeaching Mr Trump for "incitement of insurrection".
But the trial is almost certain to fail in the Senate, where the Democrats require support from 17 Republicans to find Mr Trump guilty.
The former president's defence team has already said Mr Trump will not appear at the trial, which both sides of politics want to conclude as quickly as possible.
Democrat House managers prosecuting the case are expected to rely on videos from the siege, along with Mr Trump's incendiary rhetoric refusing to concede the election, to make their case.
"The story of the president's actions is both riveting and horrifying," the Democrats' lead prosecutor Jamie Raskin told the New York Times.
"We think that every American should be aware of what happened - that the reason he was impeached by the House and the reason he should be convicted and disqualified from holding future federal office is to make sure that such an attack on our democracy and Constitution never happens again."
But Mr Trump's defence team will counter with its own cache of videos of Democratic politicians making fiery speeches.
The footage will reportedly show Democratic members of Congress calling for violence against Trump administration officials and law enforcement, according to the Washington Times.
Mr Trump is the first president to be twice impeached, and the only one to face trial after leaving the White House.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky called the proceedings a farce with "zero chance of conviction" and described Trump's language and rally words as "figurative" speech.
Originally published as Trump lawyers: Riots trial 'political theatre' stoked by 'hatred'