Impeachment Defense for Dummies

Complex Legal Arguments Simplified, For Non-Lawyers

Garrett Epps helpfully summarizes the complex and sophisticated constitutional arguments made by the Mango Moroni’s counsel:

Trump, not being president, can’t be impeached, tried, or punished for his misconduct as president. …

Trump thinks the election was stolen, and so he did what anybody would do and proposed thoughtful reforms to avoid a repetition. Now look, the lawyers seem to be saying, we don’t necessarily agree with him, because it wasn’t stolen, ok, which is why he’s not president now (we mentioned that before) but still, if you stand on one leg and look at the picture with your head tilted to the left, doesn’t it sort of maybe look a little bit stolen (not that we are saying it is but maybe it was though we aren’t really saying it)? And if the President thought that (not saying he should have thought that but if he did) doesn’t he have a right to disrupt all of American politics because believing this made him very angry and sad?

And anyway, he had a right to say the election was stolen if he thought that, and he didn’t say anybody should do anything about it. 

C’mon, get real, which of us hasn’t at one time or another called a Secretary of State and asked him to change just a few vote totals? The lawyers admit that Trump called Georgia Secretary Brad Raffensperger and asked him a teeny tiny favor of “find[ing] 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” But they suggest that is really rather humorless of the House managers to actually suggest that this was in some way improper. “President Trump was expressing his opinion that if the evidence was carefully examined one would ‘find that you have many that aren’t even signed, and you have many that are forgeries.’” …

Those bad people in the House impeached Trump too fast, and they impeached him too slowly. Trump’s lawyers mentioned repeatedly that Trump isn’t president. But then they explain that the House, by rushing to impeach him while he was president, also violated his due process right to have a slow process. Of course, that slow impeachment would then be dismissed because he would no longer be president. The acts for which he has been impeached took place two weeks before the end of his term, so I suppose if you want to be hyper-technical he was “President;” but he was entitled to more than two weeks’ notice of impeachment; if he had gotten more than two weeks’ notice then he couldn’t be impeached, but he didn’t get them so he still can’t.

Since the Chief Justice presides over the trial of the president, and since Trump is not president, the Chief Justice can’t preside over his trial, which is no fair because OK the reasoning behind this one eludes me completely but apparently they don’t think Patrick Leahy is someone they would choose [to preside over the trial]. 

Really, the only meritorious claim in the brief is the observation that Trump is no longer president. That’s what lawyers call an “admission against interest,” and one that the former president should be held to.