The White House released its first official legal brief in the impeachment fight today, its opening salvo in what is likely to be a vicious battle over the Democrat-led attempt to impeach and remove Donald Trump from office. The White House legal team, led by the lawyer Pat Cippollone, called the articles of impeachment filed by the house “structurally deficient,” and the result of a “rigged process.” The 171-page brief urged senators to “immediately” acquit the president when his charges are presented at his trial this week.
The brief is a legal broadside against not just the House Democrats’ case, but also their motives. “The only threat to the Constitution that House Democrats have brought to light is their own degradation of the impeachment process and trampling of the separation of powers,” Trump’s lawyers wrote, adding that Trump “did absolutely nothing wrong” and claiming that House Democrats are trying “to interfere in the 2020 election.”
The brief argues that Democrats are operating purely for partisan motives.
“Their fixation on damaging the President has trivialized the momentous act of impeachment, debased the standards of impeachable conduct, and perverted the power of impeachment by turning it into a partisan, election-year political tool,” it reads.
The administration argues that Trump deserves to be acquitted for two reasons—one, the articles against him do not accuse him of breaking the law, and are therefore “deficient.” Secondly, the charge of obstructing congress gives too much power to the House and goes against the constitutionally mandated separation of powers between the branches of government. “Accepting that unprecedented approach [from Democrats] would fundamentally damage the separation of powers by making the House itself the sole judge of its authority,” the lawyers wrote. “It would permit Congress to threaten every President with impeachment merely for protecting the prerogatives of the Presidency.”
The brief goes into extensive detail rebutting the accusations that Democrats have made in the Ukraine matter, claiming that there is no evidence that Trump withheld the security aid to Ukraine in exchange for the country opening investigations into Biden. It also claims that Trump’s July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president was “perfectly appropriate.” On the call, Trump told Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” Democrats have claimed that this constitutes the president asking for a favor to benefit his 2020 reelection campaign. The brief denies this claim, saying, “The President cannot be removed from office because House Democrats deliberately misconstrue one of his commonly used phrases.”
In short, the brief manages to translate the type of fiery, dismissive rhetoric that the president has used on Twitter to discuss the case into legal language. Democrats will have the chance to rebut the claims once the trial starts up in earnest this week.