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With the Senate impeachment trial scheduled to have opening arguments on Wednesday. the seven House managers submitted a brief that argued for Donald Trump to be convicted. They instructed the Senate to "eliminate the threat" to national security that will exist unless he is removed from office after the House impeached him on two articles.
The White House, meanwhile, rejected the argument as a "highly partisan and reckless obsession" by Democrats, who have wanted Trump removed since his inauguration.
The House managers, acting as prosecutors in the trial, filed the 111-page legal brief, laying out their case. The White House has until midday Monday to file its own brief to outline why the president must be acquitted.
The brief that was submitted on Saturday goes through the evidence the House Intelligence and House Judiciary committees gathered in hearings last fall, ending with a vote that impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on December 18.
The impeachment inquiry was launched last September after a whistleblower filed a complaint about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asking him to conduct investigations that were politically motivated for Trump and indicating in return he would get a White House visit and military aid for his country. The aid was withheld and released only after details of the phone call were learned.
"The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both," wrote the House managers in the brief. "The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional oaths."
Shortly after the brief was made public, Trump's legal team released a seven-page response. It dismissed the entire impeachment inquiry as a "dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president," the same criticism that has been lobbed at Democrats throughout. It said the two charges were the result of a "lawless process" and accused House Democrats of a "transparently political act."
White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in the response there was no basis for either article of impeachment, that the president didn't do anything wrong in his communications with Ukraine, and that by releasing a rough transcript of his July 25 call, he showed "unprecedented transparency."
"The articles of impeachment violate the Constitution. They are defective in their entirety," said the White House. However, the allegations themselves were not mentioned in the response.
A House aide who has been working on the impeachment inquiry said Trump's position in the response that was filed on Saturday was "not just wrong but dangerous," adding that "if the president were correct, it would represent a fundamental alteration to the American constitutional order."
The House framed the managers' brief as an explanation of "why the Senate should convict and remove President Trump from office and permanently bar him from government service."
"If the president could both avoid accountability under the criminal laws and preclude an effective impeachment investigation, he would truly be above the law," wrote the House managers. "But that is what President Trump has attempted to do and why President Trump's conduct is the Framers' worst nightmare."
"The Framers therefore would have considered a president's attempt to corrupt America's democratic processes by demanding political favors from foreign powers to be a singularly pernicious act," they continued, stating that the Framers "would have viewed a president's efforts to encourage foreign election interference as all the more dangerous where, as here, those efforts are part of an ongoing pattern of misconduct for which the president is unrepentant."
What is not shown in the brief is how the House managers will use the recently-released documents from Lev Parnas that show Trump was involved in the Ukraine strategy, along with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, an associate of Parnas's. The only reference to these documents is that they show Giuliani requested a meeting with Zelensky "as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent" to discuss a "specific request."
Also included is the opinion of the congressional watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, that was issued after the articles of impeachment were transmitted to the Senate. The GAO said that the administration withholding aid to Ukraine was unlawful
The House brief mentioned the evidence against Trump as "overwhelming" or "compelling" in seven instances. It argues that the House has gathered sufficient proof of the malfeasance alleged.
What is not mentioned in the brief is House Democrats' desire for witnesses in the trial, especially that of former national security adviser John Bolton, who was fired amidst the Ukraine scandal and who has indicated a new willingness to testify. House mangers are expected to make the case for witnesses separately on Tuesday when the Senate is discussing rules.
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