Feds Say Trump’s Senate Acquittal Can’t Protect Him From Prosecution

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In a new filing in federal court, the prosecution team led by Special Counsel Jack Smith contends that the acquittal given by the Senate to former President Donald Trump at the end of his second impeachment trial should not block him from prosecution in this case, which criminally alleges an election interference scheme.

The earlier impeachment proceedings accused the then-president of inciting insurrection in reference to the violence of January 6, 2021. The more recent criminal case against Trump that traces to Smith references behavior by Trump from roughly the same category, but it doesn’t cover precisely the same sets of actions. Instead, Trump is charged in the Smith case for his targeting of the 2020 election results, which is a different issue, though federal prosecutors have also tangentially connected the former president in the context of this case to that Capitol violence. But the specific charges from Smith accuse Trump of threatening government operations and the expression by everyday Americans of their right to vote.

There are other problems with Trump’s contentions he’s facing disallowed double jeopardy in the Smith case as well, prosecutors said. The nature of impeachment proceedings is distinct from the nature of a criminal case. Impeachment, if upheld by the Senate, leads to restrictions on running for office not a sentence in jail!

“The defendant cannot come close to showing that removal and disqualification from office is a criminal penalty. First, the historical evidence above showing that the framers intended that Congress could not impose the type of criminal sanctions following impeachment that the British Parliament could exact, see supra p. 50 n.19, indicates that the framers did not intend to create a criminal sanction,” the federal prosecutors said.

Trump has made the same underlying argument publicly, referencing the Senate’s acquittal — as it’s known — after the early 2021 impeachment from the House on an allegation of incitement of insurrection. The connections that prosecutors have made between Trump and the January 6 violence include an argument that he sought to exploit what happened to serve his then-ongoing ambitions of staying in power. Read the full filing here.