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Democrats and Republicans prepare arguments for Trump’s second impeachment trial

Democrats and Republicans are preparing for an unprecedented second impeachment trial for former President Trump, which is set to begin in the U.S. Senate next week, as Trump's legal team offered a first glimpse at their defense. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we turn now to the issues dividing lawmakers on Capitol Hill — that is, other issues — and that's with our Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, today, we learned more about the impeachment trial. It's going to start one week from today in the Senate. We learned more about the arguments each side is going to make. Tell us about that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    This unprecedented second impeachment trial for a U.S. president.

    Let's start with the House Democrats, their brief on exactly the case they're going to lay out, an 80-page pretrial brief.

    Judy, I want to pull out one quote that kind of lays out what Democrats are arguing here. They say: "President Trump's effort to extend his grip on power by fomenting violence against Congress was a profound violation of the oath he swore. If provoking an insurrectionist riot is not an impeachable offense, it is hard to imagine what would be."

    Essentially, Democrats in the House are laying out a case where President Trump's own words were responsible for and intentional to try and cause a riot at the U.S. Capitol to stop the election of President Joe Biden.

    They also lay out a case where they say there is precedent for impeaching a former officer.

    Now, let's go to the president's case. His relatively new attorneys filed a 14-page answer. Their fuller brief, more lengthy brief, is expected next week. But this is a first glimpse of what his attorneys will be arguing in court.

    And, Judy, they are planning to argue that the president was under his First Amendment protections to express his belief that the election was suspect, in their words.

    Let's go to a quote from this document. Those attorneys write that: "Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th president's statements were accurate or not. And he therefore denies that they were false," essentially saying that the president could have been right about the election.

    And, in addition, of course, his attorneys argue that this is a moot point, because they say that there is not enough constitutional justification for trying a now former president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, in connection with the assault on the Capitol, there's been a lot of discussion recent weeks about security around lawmakers on the Hill.

    What are you learning about concerns about that during and around the impeachment trial and then in general?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We have confirmed that House Democratic leaders are considering a September 11-style commission that would be an independent look at the events of September 6, who was behind them, what happened, hour by hour, and the lead-up to them, as well as the aftermath of them.

    In addition, House Democratic leaders are working on a potential emergency spending bill to increase security for lawmakers themselves. Now, the sergeant at arms has already moved forward with the idea of increasing security at airports, for example, in Washington where lawmakers land when they arrive here or, for some lawmakers who are under threat, in their home district.

    Now, this has really been, behind the scenes, a very serious emotional time, traumatic time for many members of Congress.

    And that came to bear last night on Instagram, when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent over an hour relaying her experience on January 6.

    And she ended talking about the trauma that she and other members are facing.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

    They're trying to tell us that it wasn't a big deal. They're trying to tell us to move on, without any accountability, without any truth-telling, or without actually confronting the extreme damage, physical harm, loss of life, and trauma that was inflicted on not just me as a person, not just other people as individuals, but as — on all of us as a collective.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, it's not just mistrust of the Capitol, but a sense of betrayal by some members.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, meantime, quickly, Lisa, ideological divisions among Republicans over two high-profile members of the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman congresswoman from Georgia, and Liz Cheney from Wyoming.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right, Marjorie Taylor Greene, someone whose remarks are increasingly under attack or criticism from those in the middle, and Liz Cheney, who may face a vote on her leadership tomorrow.

    Yesterday, last night, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, sent out this noteworthy statement about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

    He said that: "Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country," didn't mention her by name

    But, Judy, this is a very sharp intraparty fight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So interesting that he weighed in.

    Lisa Desjardins covering it all for us at the Capitol.

    Thank you, Lisa.

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