Hundreds of congressional staffers have signed an open letter to the Senate imploring all the U.S. senators to vote to convict former President Donald Trump and bar him from ever holding office again.
Trump’s impeachment trial is set to begin in the Senate on February 9.
In the staffers’ letter, which was published online Wednesday morning, more than 370 congressional aides, including schedulers, staff members, advisers and press secretaries, as well as chiefs of staff and committee staff directors, described how they had to hide under desks, barricade themselves inside their offices, and watch as a mob of Trump loyalists, egged on and incited by Trump to go to the Capitol building that day, attempted to undermine the process of certifying Electoral College votes on January 6.
“The former President broke America’s 230-year legacy of the peaceful transition of power when he incited a mob to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes,” the staffers said in the letter.
Noting that six individuals have died as a result of the Trump loyalists’ attacks on their building, the staffers also noted how a Capitol Police officer, whom they described as “one of our co-workers who guards and greets us every day,” was beaten to death by the mob.
The writers of the letter did not mince words in placing the blame for the attacks on Trump.
“The attack on our workplace was inspired by lies told by the former president and others about the results of the election in a baseless, months-long effort to reject votes lawfully cast by the American people,” the letter stated.
The congressional staffers also argued that individuals who don’t value the beliefs of “a shared commitment to equal justice, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of our differences” don’t deserve to be given the opportunity to work in Washington ever again. They called on senators to vote to convict Trump, and to “bar him from ever holding office again.”
“The use of violence and lies to overturn an election is not worthy of debate. Either you stand with the republic or against it,” they wrote.
Notably absent from the letter are signatures from any Republican staffers in Congress. According to reporting from The New York Times, Democratic staff members who did sign the letter attempted to convince staffers representing GOP lawmakers to do so as well, even offering to change the language of some parts of the letter. Some showed tentative interest in doing so, but reportedly decided to decline due to fears of retribution from their bosses, as well as reactions from Trump loyalists on social media.
The chances of Trump being indicted in the impeachment trial are currently slim, as 17 Republicans, presumably joining with every senator in the Senate Democratic caucus, would have to vote to convict the former president in order to reach a two-thirds threshold. While a number of senators have said they are open to considering the idea, other statements from Republicans in that chamber suggest that House impeachment managers will have their work cut out for them.
Some have said they oppose voting to indict due to President Joe Biden’s recent calls for “unity,” arguing that the process of impeaching Trump goes against values the current president is trying to establish.
“If they proceed with the impeachment trial, I think that will further divide the country,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said last month.
Democrats have largely rejected that idea, and indeed, a majority of Americans in some polls have as well. In a recent Monmouth University survey, for example, 56 percent of Americans said they approved of the House of Representatives voting to impeach Trump for a second time.
Other Republicans, as well as Trump’s legal defense team in the impeachment trial, have tried to defend the former president against indictment by arguing the entire process is unconstitutional, as Trump is now a private citizen.
“The Senate lacks jurisdiction to remove from office a man who does not hold office,” Trump’s lawyers said in a legal briefing released on Tuesday.
Legal experts have decried that notion, however, noting that the wording of the Constitution with regard to impeachment allows for a former official to face such consequences. There is even precedent for doing so, as a member of President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration was impeached after they had resigned, attempting to avoid being held to account for bribery charges.
House impeachment managers, in their own filing published on the same day, also disagreed with Trump’s lawyers on the legality of impeaching him.
“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” they said.