Former President Donald Trump continues to defend the ludicrous lie that led him down the road to a second impeachment — even in his legal team’s official response to that impeachment.
The legal team’s initial written response to the House’s article of impeachment against Trump, submitted to the Senate on Tuesday, focuses on debatable constitutional arguments, particularly the claim that someone who is no longer in office can’t be convicted by the Senate. (Many legal scholars disagree.) But the response also includes defenses of some Trump claims that are very obviously not true — including the bonkers claim that he actually won the election.
The old big lie
The House article of impeachment charges that Trump incited the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. It alleges that earlier the same day, Trump made a nearby speech in which he repeated “false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.'”
The response from Trump lawyers Bruce L. Castor, Jr. and David Schoen? Yes, Trump gave a speech and exercised his First Amendment right to express his opinion — but if the House is alleging his opinion “that the election results were suspect” is factually inaccurate, Trump “denies this allegation.”
That is, frankly, ridiculous. Trump lost fair and square. Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Trump’s opinion is factually inaccurate. The end.
Another section of the Trump team’s response rejects the House’s assertion that, in the months prior to January 6, Trump “repeatedly issued false statements” in which he claimed the “election results were the product of widespread fraud.” The Trump team calls into question the legitimacy of pandemic-era changes in state and local election procedures, then argues: “Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false.”
That is very, very wrong. There is copious evidence that numerous specific Trump claims about supposed fraud are false. And Trump and his allies have thoroughly failed, in court and elsewhere, to prove his vaguer conspiratorial claims that the election was “rigged” and “stolen.”
Another big lie
The Trump team’s response makes a third claim that is transparently false: “It is denied President Trump made any effort to subvert the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election.”
Subvert can mean overturn, overthrow, undermine — and whatever definition you choose, Trump clearly tried to do it.
We don’t even have to get into Trump’s prolonged behind-the-scenes effort to change the outcome of the election; he waged much of his campaign in public. For example, on the morning of January 6, the day of the insurrection and the certification, Trump tweeted that he wanted then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the results: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
In his rally speech later in the day, Trump urged Pence again to “come through for us.” When Pence did not do so — Pence never had the constitutional power to reject the certification of Biden’s victory — Trump criticized him in a second tweet.
Trump probably won’t face a Senate penalty for continuing to propagate his lies. Most Republicans in the 50-Republican, 50-Democrat Senate appear poised to vote against convicting him, and conviction requires the support of two-thirds of senators present.
But it’s telling that Trump won’t even stick to the truth when it’s apparent he’s probably going to win regardless.