WASHINGTON – 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 says.
Trump faces trial next week on accusations that he incited a harrowing and deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when loyalists in town for a rally supporting the president overran the police and violently stormed the building. The House passed a single article of impeachment against Trump one week before he left office, triggering a trial that Democrats say is necessary to hold Trump publicly accountable for the attack. If Trump is convicted, Congress could bar him from holding public office again.
Whether the Senate trial is constitutional is a point of contention because of the unique circumstances: never before has a president faced an impeachment trial after leaving office. Democrats say there is precedent, pointing to an 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who resigned his office in a last-ditch attempt to avoid an impeachment trial. The Senate held it anyway.
On the eve of expected legal briefs from lawyers for both sides, Trump attorney David Schoen's appearance on Fox News Monday night previewed some of the arguments he plans to make at the trial. He called the case needlessly divisive.
“It's also the most ill-advised legislative action that I've seen in my lifetime,” Schoen said.
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, but was acquitted by the Senate. Impeachment, Schoen said, “is the weapon they've tried to use against him.”
The new case was an effort to bar Trump from ever running for office again, Schoen said, “and that's about as undemocratic as you can get.”
The Constitution specifies that disqualification from office can be a punishment for an impeachment conviction.