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Trump lawyer: Impeachment case ‘undemocratic,’ ill-advised

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 US Capitol on January 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.

In this file photo taken on February 06, 2020, US President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper that displays a headline “Acquitted,” as he arrives to speak at the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

On the eve of expected legal briefs from lawyers for both sides, Trump attorney David Schoen’s appearance on Fox News previews some of the arguments he plans to make at the trial. He calls the case needlessly divisive.

“It’s also the most ill-advised legislative action that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Schoen says.

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 says, “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 says, “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.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Trump supporters, including Doug Jensen, center, confront US Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Some followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory are now turning to online support groups and even therapy to help them move on, now that it’s clear Donald Trump’s presidency is over. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Schoen, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, and Bruce Castor, a former county prosecutor in Pennsylvania, were announced as Trump’s legal team 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 an 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. He also said he’ll make the case that his words were protected by the First Amendment and did not incite a riot.

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