Politics live updates – A quick trial vs. witnesses: Senate weighs strategy on Trump impeachment proceedings

House Democrats replied Monday to former President Donald Trump’s written argument for his Senate impeachment trial by calling it “wholly without merit.”

Trump’s defense team had argued that the trial, with oral arguments beginning Tuesday, was unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. The defense also argued that Trump’s speech Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment, despite the House charge that he incited insurrection at the Capitol.

The House reply called Trump’s reliance on the First Amendment “baseless.” The Democrats again cited Trump’s statement to a crowd – “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more” – before the mob siege to the Capitol.

Trump’s team said the House’s article of impeachment was flawed because it contained multiple allegations behind a single charge. But House Democrats said they described a “single course of conduct” that constituted incitement.

“There must be no doubt that such conduct is categorically unacceptable,” the House reply said.

— Bart Jansen

Trump’s attorneys attacks Democrats ahead of impeachment trial, call case ‘political theater’

Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys on Monday laid out their defense to the impeachment article charging the former president with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In the 78-page filing, they argue the case is unconstitutional, would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights, and is based on cherry-picked facts and remarks.

Trump’s legal team also argued the House’s impeachment process was rushed, pointing out the chamber impeached him a week after the attack at the U.S. Capitol and before any investigation had started. The team argued the speed did not allow Trump due process

“This rushed, single article of impeachment ignores the very Constitution from which its power comes and is itself defectively drafted,” the brief states. “The Article of Impeachment presented by the House is unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal. Taken together, they demonstrate conclusively that indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic democracy and the rights that we hold dear.”

Impeachment stakes:The stakes are high not only for Trump but also for almost everybody else

The brief argues the president did not incite the crowd during his speech the day of the attack, noting law enforcement has said the attack was planned ahead of time. The lawyers argue Trump’s words about “fighting” the election have been used by before and they outline remarks top Democrats have used over the years about protesting and fighting against Trump’s policies.

The brief also lists one new member of Trump’s legal team: Philadelphia attorney Michael T. van der Veen. The attorney, who heads a law firm and specializes in personal injury and criminal defense cases, works with fellow Trump attorney Bruce Castor. The addition marks the third attorney to join Trump’s team, far less than the 10 who represented him during his first impeachment trial last year.

– Christal Hayes

White House: Trump hasn’t requested classified intelligence

The Biden administration hasn’t had to decide whether to bar former President Donald Trump from receiving classified materials because Trump hasn’t asked for an intelligence briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

If Trump does request a briefing, Psaki said, the president will let his intelligence team decide how to proceed.

Biden said Friday that Trump should no longer receive classified intelligence briefings because of his “erratic behavior.”

“There is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Biden said on the CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell. “What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”

Former presidents are frequently given routine intelligence briefings and access to classified materials after they leave office. But some Democratic lawmakers have questioned whether Trump should continue to receive the reports, arguing he could pose a national security risk.

Psaki said Biden was expressing his concern about Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, “but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information, if at any point the former president requests a briefing.”

“So that’s not currently applicable,” she added. “But if he should request a briefing, he leaves it to them to make a determination.”

– Maureen Groppe and Michael Collins

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby announces retirement in 2022

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., announced Monday he will not be seeking reelection and will be retiring from the Senate in 2022.

“Today I announce that I will not seek a seventh term in the United States Senate in 2022. For everything, there is a season,” Shelby said in a statement. “I am grateful to the people of Alabama who have put their trust in me for more than forty years.”

Shelby, 86, is the Senate’s fourth most senior member. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has spent the last two years as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, before Democrats gained control of the chamber in the last election.

“Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today,” he said in the statement. “I have two good years remaining to continue my work in Washington. I have the vision and the energy to give it my all.”

– Savannah Behrmann

Report: $15 per hour minimum wage would cost 1.4 million jobs

A new government report concludes that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would cause 1.4 million Americans to lose their jobs but would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

Higher wages would increase the cost of producing goods and services and cause employers to reduce their workforce, the Congressional Budget Office says in a report that examined the impact of boosting the minimum wage.

By 2025, when the hourly minimum wage would hit $15 under a proposal before Congress, some 1.4 million Americans would be out of work, the report concludes. Young, less educated people would account for a disproportionate share of the job reductions, the report says.

President Joe Biden advocated for raising for the minimum wage during his campaign last year and has proposed boosting the hourly rate to $15 as part of his COVID-19 relief package. Congressional Republicans, however, largely object to raising the minimum wage.

Biden conceded last week that the minimum wage proposal is unlikely to survive as part of his COVID-relief bill. “Apparently, that’s not going to occur,” he said in an interview with CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell.

Biden told O’Donnell he is prepared to negotiate a separate proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

– Michael Collins

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, dies after contracting COVID-19

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, died Sunday, according to a statement released by his campaign, weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 67. 

Wright, a second-term congressman from a district sprawling from Arlington to rural areas south of Dallas, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 21. He had also been undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19.

“His wife Susan was by his side and he is now in the presence of their Lord and Savior,” his campaign said. He and his wife had been in the hospital for the last two weeks, his campaign said.

Wright has three children and nine grandchildren, according to his official biography.

– Nicholas Wu

Senate to decide contours of Trump impeachment trial

With oral arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump scheduled to start Tuesday, senators face key decisions on how to arrange the trial, including the crucial question of whether to call witnesses.

Witnesses could help House Democrats prosecuting the case chronicle the insurrection Jan. 6 at the Capitol that Trump is charged with inciting. Some Senate Democrats, including Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was sworn in after the riot, are eager to hear as much detail as possible.

“I want a clear record for future generations about what happened on Jan. 6,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. “When I read that 40% of Trump’s followers believe that antifa was actually in the group that motivated these people to act in a terrorist way, I’m outraged.”

Extensive reporting by USA TODAY and other media organizations has identified dozens of people who forced their way into the Capitol, all of whom showed a history of being avid Trump supporters. USA TODAY also tracked how the antifa “false flag” conspiracy theory was generated online and quickly spread — even to the floors of Congress.

House Democrats are expected to play videos of Trump’s speech, the mob smashing into the Capitol and rioters occupying the Senate chamber. Police officers could offer harrowing witness testimony. Beyond the events of Jan. 6, the article charged Trump with pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change overturn the election results in his state based on a recorded phone call. Prosecutors could at least play the recording, but might also want to call him as a witness.

Jurors and witnesses:Senators take on unprecedented role in Trump’s second impeachment trial

House prosecutors, who are called managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked last week for Trump to testify under oath. He declined, with his lawyers calling the request a publicity stunt.

Witnesses could also prolong a trial that members of both parties want over quickly. Democrats are eager to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees and to adopt legislation dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. All but a handful of Republicans in each chamber opposed even holding a trial.

“I don’t think the country needs a whole lot,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who noted that House Democrats approved the article of impeachment without calling witnesses. “I guess the public record is your television screen, I don’t know.”

The decision on witnesses will be part of the Senate debate on a resolution organizing details about the trial such as how much time each side has for arguments. For Trump’s first trial, the Senate, then led by Republicans, voted to reject calling witnesses. At that time, House Democrats wanted witnesses to explain Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, but Senate Republicans refused.

In addition to the organizing resolution, the Senate is set to receive Monday the most detailed written argument yet from Trump’s defense team responding to a House brief filed last week. Trump’s team has called the trial unconstitutional for pursuing him after he left office. The team also argued that the speech Trump gave Jan. 6 before the mob rampaged through the Capitol was protected by the First Amendment.

– Bart Jansen

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