Trump brief assails impeachment, demands immediate acquittal

Temperature checks will be carried out on anyone entering the White House complex -- including officials, advisors and journalists (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump's lawyers submitted a trial brief Monday calling his impeachment by the House "a dangerous perversion" of the US constitution and demanding his immediate acquittal by the Senate.

Almost simultaneously, House impeachment managers responded to an earlier Trump filing, saying the president engaged in "corrupt conduct... to cheat in the next election." They said the Senate should remove him from office "following a fair trial."

The historic impeachment trial is set to open in earnest at 1 pm (1800 GMT) Tuesday. Senators will hear arguments for six hours a day, six days a week in a somber exercise presided over by the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts.

The dueling briefs came in a sudden flurry on what normally would be a quiet federal holiday in Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. day.

But the weeks to come will be anything but normal, as the Senate opens only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history.

The president's brief Monday, which ran to over 100 pages, made clear that his legal team will contest the very idea of his impeachment, calling the two articles of impeachment forwarded by the House "constitutionally deficient on their face."

It said the theories underpinning them "would do lasting damage to the separation of powers under the Constitution and to our structure of government."

It maintained that the articles are "the product of an unprecedented and unconstitutional process that denied the president every basic right" to represent his cause.

The brief added: "The only constitutional option is to reject the articles and acquit the president."

The brief from the House managers, all Democrats, accused Trump of using "presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit."

It added, "In doing so, he jeopardized our national security and our democratic self-governance."

"He then used his presidential powers to orchestrate a cover-up unprecedented in the history of our republic."

The two articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power by pressuring Ukraine to provide dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, and of obstructing Congress by refusing to allow top aides to testify.

To the assertion by Trump's lawyers that the Senate could not remove him even if all charges in the articles are proved, the House brief replied, "That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong."