Donald J. Trump’s lawyers on Monday denounced the impeachment case against him as partisan “political theater,” arguing on the eve of the Senate’s trial that he bore no responsibility for the deadly assault on the Capitol and that trying a former president at all was unconstitutional.
In a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate, the lawyers asserted that Mr. Trump’s speech just before the attack “did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions,” and that he deserved no blame for the conduct of a “small group of criminals” who rioted at the Capitol on Jan 6. after he had urged them to “fight like hell” against his election loss. They also insisted that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try him at all because he was now a private citizen, calling such an effort “patently ridiculous.”
The arguments constituted Mr. Trump’s first sustained defense since the violence of Jan. 6. They concluded with the lawyers urging senators to promptly dismiss the single, bipartisan “incitement of insurrection” charge when the trial convened Tuesday.
“This impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice,” wrote the lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr., David I. Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen. “Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a few hundred people.”
The defense’s road map arrived as the rules and timeline for the trial came into sharper focus on Monday. Top Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement for an exceedingly swift proceeding that would begin on Tuesday with up to four hours of debate followed by a vote on the constitutionality question.
Because Mr. Trump is the first ex-president ever to be subject to an impeachment trial, the constitutionality question has loomed over the proceedings. Republicans, in particular, have embraced it to justify a speedy acquittal.
Legal scholars, including prominent conservatives, argue that the founders never intended to exempt someone like Mr. Trump from trial — a president who was impeached while in office but left before senators could judge him. They note that the Senate voted in the 19th century to try a former war secretary, and can do so now for a president who is no longer in office.
“Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last,” they wrote. “There is no ‘January Exception’ to the Constitution that allows presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability.”
They were just as blunt about Mr. Trump’s more substantive defenses: “To call these responses implausible would be an act of charity,” they wrote.
Neither party has much interest in allowing a proceeding, the second impeachment trial of Mr. Trump in just over a year, drag on. Republican leaders worry that days of intense focus on the former president’s mendacious campaign to overturn his election loss could further cleave their party. And for Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House, the proceeding threatens to complicate Mr. Biden’s attempts to quickly pass a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill.
If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward after Tuesday’s debate, as expected, the prosecution and defense would have up to 16 hours each to present their cases starting at noon on Wednesday. The trial is expected to break Friday evening and reconvene on Sunday to honor the Jewish Sabbath at the request of Mr. Trump’s lawyers. It could conclude as early as next week, faster than any presidential impeachment trial in American history.
The second Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump will open on Tuesday, just over a month after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol the House has charged him with inciting. Senate leaders were still haggling on Monday over final details, but they were closing in on a plan for an exceptionally speedy proceeding that could conclude in less than half the time of his first.
Monday was the final day for pretrial motions, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers laid out his defense in a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate, denying that he was responsible for the attack and arguing that in any case, an ex-president could not be tried by the Senate.
In their own filing, the House Democrats who are prosecuting him reiterated their allegation that Mr. Trump “willfully” incited the riot and insisted that he was subject to a Senate impeachment trial.
Here is a broad overview of how the trial will unfold under the rules being discussed.
Tuesday: Four hours of debate, then a procedural vote.
The first public clash between the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers will be over the question of whether the trial is even legitimate under the Constitution.
Senators are planning to allow up to four hours of debate between the managers and defense team on the question that has loomed over the proceedings — whether a former president can be tried by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. No former president has ever been, but the Senate did try a war secretary in the 1870s after he left office.
If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.
Wednesday to Friday or Sunday: 16 hours of oral arguments per side.
The prosecution and defense each have up to 16 hours to present their cases, likely starting at noon on Wednesday under the terms of the deal being discussed by Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.
Neither side is expected to take the fully allotted time. But because one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers requested that the trial pause Friday at sundown for the Jewish Sabbath, which ends at sundown on Saturday, it is unclear if the presentations will be completed before or on Sunday.
Sunday to early the following week: Senators questions, a possible debate over witnesses and possibly a verdict.
The sequence of what happens next is less certain.
Traditionally, senators are allowed at least a day to question the prosecution and defense after they present their cases.
This time, senators also appear willing to give the House managers the option to debate and vote on calling witnesses. It is unclear if they will avail themselves of that option.
Mr. Trump declined last week to accept the Democrats’ offer to testify voluntarily at his trial, but the managers have yet to decide whether they will try to subpoena him or any other witness. Doing so could bolster their case, but Democrats are also eager to quickly resume their push to pass the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Whenever the witness question is resolved, the trial is likely to conclude with closing arguments and a final, up-or-down vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump.
As former President Donald J. Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial opens, two defense lawyers are in the national spotlight: David I. Schoen, an Alabama-based civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, and Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former district attorney in Montgomery County, Pa., outside Philadelphia.
Neither has worked with the other before, and it remains unclear who has primacy as the lead lawyer on the team. Their uncertain relationship began when Mr. Trump abruptly hired them as his initial defense team for the trial was falling apart; they now find themselves trying to organize without much idea of what to expect.
Mr. Schoen, 62, graduated from Boston College Law School and has had an eclectic, decades-long legal career. He has done extensive work on public interest and civil rights cases in the South about matters like police and prison violence and ballot access. Among his many cases, he played a significant role in a class-action lawsuit that challenged Alabama’s foster care system, and he represented the Ku Klux Klan in successfully challenging a law that forbade them from marching while wearing hoods and without paying a fee.
An observant Jew, Mr. Schoen requested that Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial be paused if it continues past sundown on Friday, to allow him to observe the Sabbath until it ends on Saturday evening. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said he would “accommodate” the request, which could prolong what both sides had hoped would be a quick proceeding.
Mr. Castor, 59, who did not respond to a request for an interview, brings a different set of experiences. After earning his law degree from Washington and Lee University, he served two terms as the elected district attorney in Montgomery County and a later stint as the Pennsylvania solicitor general. He has since worked as a criminal defense lawyer.
He is most famous for his unapologetic defense of his decision in 2005 not to prosecute Bill Cosby after a Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
Mr. Castor was recommended to Mr. Trump and his advisers by his cousin, Stephen R. Castor, a House Republican staff lawyer who helped lead the president’s early defense against his first impeachment in 2019. Stephen Castor clashed with Democrats over Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into announcing a corruption investigation into Joseph R. Biden Jr., his political rival.
Mr. Castor and Mr. Schoen must now defend the former president against a charge of “incitement of insurrection” related to the riot at the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6.
Together, the lawyers are expected to argue that the Senate lacks constitutional jurisdiction to try former officials and that Mr. Trump’s incendiary language before the riot fell short of what could yield an incitement conviction if he had been charged in a criminal court because of the First Amendment.
Top House Democrats are preparing to unveil legislation that would send up to $3,600 per child to millions of Americans, as lawmakers aim to change the tax code to target child poverty rates as part of President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The proposal would expand the child tax credit to provide $3,600 per child younger than 6 and $3,000 per child up to 17 over the course of a year, phasing out the payments for Americans who make more than $75,000 and couples who make more than $150,000. The draft 22-page provision, reported earlier by The Washington Post and obtained by The New York Times, is expected to be formally introduced on Monday as lawmakers race to fill out the contours of Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan.
“The pandemic is driving families deeper and deeper into poverty, and it’s devastating,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of the champions of the provision. “This money is going to be the difference in a roof over someone’s head or food on their table. This is how the tax code is supposed to work for those who need it most.”
The credits would be split into monthly payments from the Internal Revenue Service beginning in July, based on a person’s or family’s income in 2020. Although the proposed credit is for only a year, some Democrats said they would fight to make it permanent, a move that could reshape efforts to fight child poverty in America.
The one-year credit appears likely to garner enough support to be included in the stimulus package, but it will also have to clear a series of tough parliamentary hurdles because of the procedural maneuvers Democrats are using to muscle the stimulus package through, potentially without Republican support.
The House Democratic leadership is aiming to have the stimulus legislation approved on the chamber floor by the end of the month, and Congress moved last week to fast-track Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan even as details of the legislation are still being worked out. Buoyed by support from Democrats in both chambers and a lackluster January jobs report, Mr. Biden has warned that he plans to move ahead with his plan regardless of whether Republicans support it.
Chris Cameron and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.
Senator Richard C. Shelby, a shrewd force in the Senate for more than 30 years and a longtime political powerhouse in his home state of Alabama, said on Monday that he would not seek a seventh term.
Mr. Shelby, 86, a onetime conservative Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in 1994, had been hinting that he would not run again, and said in an interview that he had decided to bring his time in Washington to a close.
“There is a season for all of this and I recognize that,” he said. “I had a good run, and I still have a couple of years left.”
“I didn’t mean to stay there that long,” added Mr. Shelby, who was first elected to the House from Tuscaloosa in 1978 and the Senate in a strong year for Democrats in 1986.
His retirement next year will touch off an intramural scramble for the open seat among Republicans, but Democrats have little chance of picking off a seat in deep-red Alabama, particularly in a midterm election with a Democrat in the White House.
He is the fourth Senate Republican to disclose he will not run in 2022, joining Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
In 2017, Mr. Shelby injected himself into the state’s race for the Senate seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became attorney general, making it clear that he could not vote for the Republican candidate Roy Moore, a former judge who had been accused of trying to establish relationships with teenage girls while he was in his 30s.
Mr. Shelby will exit as his state’s longest-serving senator. Though he has had some health issues in the past, he said he is “spry” these days.
“Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today,” he said in a statement.
During his long career, Mr. Shelby achieved the rare feat of chairing four separate Senate committees — Banking, Intelligence, Rules and, lastly, Appropriations, a perch he used to direct billions of federal dollars back home for space and law enforcement-related facilities as well as transportation projects that provided jobs and other opportunities for Alabamians.
Mr. Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1986, defeating Republican Jeremiah Denton, a former Vietnam prisoner of war and one of a wave of Republicans elected on Ronald Reagan’s coattails in 1980.
He was considered a “boll weevil,” a group of conservative Southern Democrats who often formed a bloc with Republicans against liberal Democratic initiatives, named for a pest common in the South that destroys cotton crops and is difficult to eradicate.
One of Washington’s leading conservative constitutional lawyers publicly broke on Sunday with the main Republican argument against convicting former President Donald J. Trump in his impeachment trial, asserting that a former president can indeed be tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.
In an opinion piece posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, the lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, who is closely allied with top Republicans in Congress, dismissed as illogical the claim that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president. The piece came two days before the Senate was set to start the proceeding.
Since the rampage, Republicans have made little effort to excuse Mr. Trump’s conduct, but have coalesced behind the legal argument about constitutionality as their rationale for why he should not be tried, much less convicted. Their theory is that because the Constitution’s penalty for an impeachment conviction is removal from office, it was never intended to apply to a former president, who is no longer in office.
Many legal scholars disagree, and the Senate has previously held an impeachment trial of a former official — though never a former president. But 45 Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader who is said to believe that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, voted last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional on those grounds.
Mr. Cooper said they were misreading the Constitution.
“The provision cuts against their interpretation,” he wrote. He argued that because the Constitution allows the Senate to bar officials convicted of impeachable offenses from holding public office again in the future, “it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”
Mr. Cooper’s decision to take on the argument was particularly significant because of his standing in conservative legal circles. He was a close confidant and adviser to Senate Republicans, like Ted Cruz of Texas when he ran for president, and represented House Republicans — including the minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California — in a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But Mr. Cooper, who is said to be dismayed by the unwillingness of House and Senate Republicans to hold Mr. Trump accountable, took on the main claim made by his own confidants and clients, offering a series of scholarly and technical arguments for why the Constitution allows for a former president to stand trial.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.
The United States will rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, nearly three years after President Donald J. Trump withdrew the country from it, the State Department announced Monday.
While President Biden pledged during the presidential campaign to rejoin the council, doing so is expected to cause a political backlash: Mr. Trump’s allies have warned that rejoining would effectively allow the body to continue ignoring human rights abuses committed by council members such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced on Twitter on Monday that the United States is “back at the table.”
“When it works well, the @UN Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as a beacon for those fighting against injustice and tyranny,” Mr. Blinken said.
The United States will return to the council, the world’s most important human rights body, as a nonvoting observer, and full membership will be assessed later this year.
The decision, reported earlier by The Associated Press, comes at a time when nations facing widespread criticism for human rights abuses have tried to influence how the council assesses wrongdoing. China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela are all members.
Mr. Trump withdrew from the council in 2018 over what he and his allies called unfair targeting of Israel. The departure made the United States the first country to leave voluntarily. But the Trump administration continued give robust financial support to the body.
Mr. Blinken said the move “did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”
John Fetterman — the media-savvy political battering ram who serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor — announced on Monday that he is running in 2022 for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey.
The 6’8” former mayor of Braddock, Pa., a struggling postindustrial town near Pittsburgh, is positioning himself as the rarest of figures in 21st American politics — a populist Democrat hoping to unite the party’s left wing with Rust Belt voters who backed former President Donald J. Trump.
The announcement video posted on his Twitter page weaves together clips of appearances on liberal mainstays like “The Colbert Report” with images of a set-jawed Mr. Fetterman stomping through the gritty streets of small town Pennsylvania in work boots.
“These places across Pennsylvania feel left behind, they don’t feel part of the conversation,” Mr. Fetterman, 51, said in his voice-over. “That’s why Donald Trump went to these small counties, and held these big rallies. We cannot afford to take any vote for granted.”
At the same time, Mr. Fetterman is not shying away from his political positions — marijuana legalization, expanded LGBTQ rights, support for some elements of the Green New Deal (sans the fracking ban) and a minimum-wage increase — that place him comfortably in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Fetterman’s announcement was long expected in a race that is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in an especially consequential midterm election. He has already raised about $1.4 million, and secured the support of several unions.
Other possible Democratic rivals include two members of Congress, Rep. Conor Lamb and Rep. Brendan Boyle, along with State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Ex-Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and former federal prosecutor William McSwain are among possible entrants in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field.
This is not the first time Mr. Fetterman has sought Mr. Toomey’s seat. In 2014, he finished a distant third behind the veteran state official Katie McGinty, who was subsequently defeated by Mr. Toomey.
After running successfully for the state’s number-two post in 2018, Mr. Fetterman established himself as one of Mr. Trump’s most persistent and colorful critics.
Case in point: In December, he demanded Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, make good on his promise to pay $1 million for any cases of voter fraud discovered in the country, after Pennsylvania officials announced that a Trump supporter voted illegally.
Mr. Patrick has not paid up.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming waded deeper into Republicans’ identity crisis on Sunday, warning her party on the eve of a Senate impeachment trial not to “look past” former President Donald J. Trump’s role in stoking a violent attack on the Capitol and a culture of conspiracy roosting among their ranks.
In her first television interview since fending off an attempt by Mr. Trump’s allies to oust her from House leadership over her vote to impeach him, Ms. Cheney said Republican voters had been “lied to” by a president eager to steal an election with baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. She cautioned that the party risked being locked out of power if it did not show a majority of Americans that it could be trusted to lead truthfully.
“The notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie, and people need to understand that,” Ms. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth, and that we are being honest about what really did happen in 2020 so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024.”
The remarks made plain that Ms. Cheney, a leading Republican voice trying to push the party back toward its traditional policy roots, had no intention of backing off her criticism of the former president after two attempts last week to punish her for her impeachment vote. In Washington, her critics forced a vote to try to oust her as the chairwoman of the House Republican conference, but it failed overwhelmingly on a secret ballot. And on Saturday, the Wyoming Republican Party censured her and called for her resignation.
Answering that call, Ms. Cheney said on Sunday that she would not resign and suggested that Republicans in her home state continued to be fed misinformation about what had taken place.
That message is not expected to go over well with wide swaths of Republicans. Public opinion surveys suggest that Mr. Trump remains the most popular national figure in his party by far, and Republican senators appear to be lining up overwhelmingly to acquit him of the “incitement of insurrection” charge that Ms. Cheney backed.
“We are the party of Lincoln,” Ms. Cheney said. “We are not the party of QAnon or anti-Semitism or Holocaust deniers, or white supremacy or conspiracy theories.”
Chris Cameron contributed reporting.
Representative Ron Wright, Republican of Texas, died on Sunday after battling Covid-19 in the hospital, his office said on Monday. He was 67.
Mr. Wright announced on Jan. 21 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after coming into contact earlier in the month with someone who had the virus. In the statement about Mr. Wright’s death, his office said that he and his wife, Susan, had both been hospitalized in Dallas for the past two weeks.
The statement did not confirm whether the virus caused the death of Mr. Wright, who had also been undergoing treatment for cancer.
He is the first seated member of Congress to die after battling the virus. Luke Letlow, a Louisiana Republican elected in November, died a few days before he was scheduled to be sworn in.
“Congressman Wright will be remembered as a constitutional conservative,” the congressman’s office said in a statement. “He was a statesman, not an ideologue.”
“As friends, family, and many of his constituents will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end,” the statement continued. “Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice.”
Mr. Wright, a sixth-generation resident of Tarrant County, has represented Texas’ sixth congressional district since 2018. A former city council member, he was a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, said on Twitter that Mr. Wright “was a gentleman who cared deeply about public service.”
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said on Monday that Mr. Wright was a colleague who “led with principle, integrity, and thoughtfulness” and “emulated the very best of America.”
Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Wright had been the chief of staff for his predecessor, Representative Joe Barton.
“Ron was not only a dedicated public servant, a principled conservative, and a proud Texan, he was also a loving father and grandfather,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a statement. “Ron’s life is a testament to his unshakable faith and now he rests with the Lord, having fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members of Congress are praying for Mr. Wright’s family and the loved ones of the more than 460,000 Americans who have died from the virus.
“May it be a comfort to Congressman Wright’s wife Susan, their children Rachel, Derek and Justin, and their nine grandchildren, and the entire Wright family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time,” she said.