Trial After Presidency Is Constitutional, Managers Say

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House impeachment managers, including Representative Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania, watch the proceedings of the first day of former President Donald J. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The House managers prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump opened his Senate impeachment trial on Tuesday with a vivid and graphic sequence of footage of his supporters storming the Capitol last month in an effort to prevent Congress from finalizing his election defeat.

The managers wasted no time moving immediately to their most powerful evidence, the explicit visual record of the deadly Capitol siege that threatened the lives of Vice President Mike Pence and members of both houses of Congress juxtaposed against Mr. Trump’s own words encouraging members of the mob at a rally beforehand.

The scenes of mayhem and violence — punctuated by expletives rarely heard on the floor of the Senate — highlighted the drama of the trial in gut-punching fashion for the senators who lived through the events barely a month ago and now sit as quasi-jurors. On the screens, they saw enraged extremists storming barricades, beating police officers, setting up a gallows and yelling, “Take the building,” “Fight for Trump” and “Pence is a traitor! Traitor Pence!”

“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution,” Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the leader of the House Democrats prosecuting the case, told the senators after playing the videotape. “That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

The second trial of Mr. Trump opened in the crime scene itself, the same chamber occupied on Jan. 6 by the mob that forced senators to evacuate in the middle of counting the Electoral College votes ratifying President Biden’s victory. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the Senate president pro tempore, was presiding after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris declined to assume the role.

Never before has a president been tried by the Senate twice, much less after his term has expired, but Mr. Trump’s accusers argue that his actions in his final days in power were so egregious and so threatening to democracy that he must be held accountable.

“What you experienced that day, what we experienced that day, what our country experienced that day is the framers’ worst nightmare come to life,” Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado and another manager, told the senators. “Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened.”

Even though Mr. Trump can no longer be removed from office, conviction would stand as a statement of repudiation for history and permit the senators to bar him from ever running for federal office again. But the chances of conviction appeared remote given that it requires a two-thirds vote, meaning that 17 Republicans would have to abandon Mr. Trump, who still holds great sway in their party.

The two opposing camps opened four hours of arguments over whether the trial itself was constitutional given that Mr. Trump had already left office and was now a private citizen living in semi-seclusion in Florida.

The Senate has previously voted that he can, with five Republicans joining all 50 Democrats. But with 45 Republican senators rejecting that proposition, the president most likely has the votes necessary for acquittal.

The managers maintained that there must be no “January exception” for presidents to escape repercussions through impeachment on their way out of office and cited a series of writings by the nation’s framers as well as contemporary conservative scholars.

But the weighty legal arguments were overwhelmed by the visceral menace of the mob, relived via video footage. “Make no mistake about it, as you think about that day, things could have been much worse,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, another of the managers. “As one senator said, they could have killed all of us.”

Mr. Raskin closed on an emotional note, recalling that the mob assault came just a day after he buried his own 25-year-old son and that members of his family came with him to the Capitol that day to offer support only to become endangered themselves.

Representing Mr. Trump were lawyers recruited just in recent days after his legal team from last year’s impeachment trial and another set of attorneys backed out. His new lawyers — Bruce L. Castor Jr., David Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen — maintain that the Constitution does not permit an impeachment trial of a former president since it is meant to lead to removal and Mr. Trump is no longer in office.

The Trump team has characterized the impeachment as yet another partisan attack driven by animus against the former president. Mr. Trump’s lawyers argue that his words at the Jan. 6 rally constituted free speech akin to typical political rhetoric and hardly had the effect of incitement toward violence.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers are set to argue that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The very first issue to be considered in the opening hours of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday will be the question of whether it is constitutional to put an impeached former president on trial at all.

Senate Republicans who voted last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional came under pressure on Sunday to re-evaluate their position when a leading conservative constitutional lawyer, Charles J. Cooper — who has been a close ally and adviser to Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas — argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that their claims about the constitutionality of the proceeding were unfounded.

The impeachment put pressure on Senate Republicans to either condone or repudiate Mr. Trump’s conduct. Some set aside the question to instead focus on the process itself, arguing that whether or not Mr. Trump’s actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors, the Senate could not try him because the Constitution did not allow a former president to stand trial for impeachment.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected to make a narrower and more technical argument that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.

“The Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction over the 45th president because he holds no public office from which he can be removed, rendering the article of impeachment moot,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wrote in a 14-page response to the House managers last week.

Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to broadly assert that a president can be put on trial for offenses committed in office, no matter when the trial is held. Otherwise, the Democrats say, there would be no way to hold to account a president who commits wrongdoing in the final weeks of a term.

In the opinion piece, Mr. Cooper took on the Republicans’ assertion that because the penalty for an impeachment conviction is removal from office, it was never intended to apply to a former president.

Mr. Cooper argued that the Constitution gives the Senate the power to bar convicted officials from holding office again, writing, “It defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, reviews a copy of the Constitution on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The House managers took one final shot at Donald J. Trump on Tuesday morning before the start of his impeachment trial, telling the Senate in a written brief that the former president’s lawyers were relying on “flawed legal theories” because they had “no good defense” for his conduct around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The 33-page document filed hours before the Senate was to meet as a court of impeachment sought to rebut Mr. Trump’s defenses one by one. The managers reiterated that they believed the Constitution’s founders had intended for impeachment to apply to someone like Mr. Trump, who was charged with a “high crime” on his way out of office, and that free speech protections were irrelevant to their charge.

“President Trump’s pretrial brief confirms that he has no good defense of his incitement of an insurrection against the nation he swore an oath to protect,” wrote the managers, led by Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “Instead, he tries to shift the blame onto his supporters, and he invokes a set of flawed legal theories that would allow presidents to incite violence and overturn the democratic process without fear of consequences.”

Mr. Trump’s team laid out its first sustained impeachment defense on Monday in a 78-page brief.

In it, they argued that Mr. Trump did not “direct anyone to commit unlawful actions” on Jan. 6 or deserve responsibility for the conduct of a “small group of criminals” who stormed into the Capitol after he urged them to “fight like hell.” But the bulk of the case rested on the contention that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try a former president after he has already left office.

It also took aim at Democrats, accusing them of cravenly exploiting a national tragedy to “silence a political opponent and a minority party.”

The Democratic House managers’ reply was just as sharp.

They dismissed as “implausible” the assertion that Mr. Trump had merely been urging his supporters to merely advocate election security, rather than actually try to overturn the election as Congress met to formalize his loss.

“In his speech, President Trump did not direct his supporters to go home and lobby their state legislatures, but instead directed them to march to the Capitol and fight,” they wrote.

They also argued that there should be no limit on the Senate’s ability to try a president who was impeached before his term expired for conduct while in office, since the Constitution allows the Senate to act to bar a convicted president from holding office in the future. Immunizing an ex-president from possible punishment, they argued, would create a dangerous “January exception” allowing presidents to do whatever they would like on the way out the door.

“President Trump does not even attempt to explain why the framers would have provided that a sitting president found to have endangered the nation should be disqualified from returning to office, but a former president found to have done the exact same thing should be free to return,” they wrote.

“This is not something I requested,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said in an interview. “I want to make sure I do the best job possible, when people look back at it.”
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Patrick J. Leahy, the chamber’s longest-serving senator, has been thrust into an unprecedented trifecta of roles in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump: Witness, juror and judge.

Mr. Leahy, 80, was inside the Senate chamber when it was locked down last month as rioters breached the Capitol. He is one of 100 senators now tasked with deciding whether to convict Mr. Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in stirring up the rampage on Jan. 6. And, barely a month into reclaiming his role as president pro tempore of the Senate — a post reserved for the senior-most member of the majority party that places him third in line to the presidency — overseeing the trial has fallen to him.

For Mr. Leahy, the role is the latest challenging chapter in a senatorial career that is older than some of his colleagues. He said he hoped his more than four decades of sitting on the Senate dais and wielding the ivory gavel had prepared him for the task.

“I’ve presided hundreds of hours — I don’t know how many rulings I’ve made,” Mr. Leahy said in an interview. “I’ve never had anyone, Republican or Democrat, say my rulings were not fair.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have a different view, pointing to Mr. Leahy’s participation in the trial as evidence for their contention — rejected by many scholars and prominent lawyers — that the entire proceeding is unconstitutional.

“Now, instead of the chief justice, the trial will be overseen by a biased and partisan senator who will purportedly also act as a juror while ruling on issues that arise,” they wrote in their trial memorandum submitted on Monday.

The role of presiding officer in an impeachment trial has traditionally been a murky and limited one. The Constitution provides little guidance, other than to specify that the chief justice of the Supreme Court should preside over the impeachment trial of a president.

But Mr. Trump is a former president, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. signaled that he was not interested in reprising his role. As president of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris was the next logical choice, but she had little desire to insert herself into what promised to be a highly politicized trial.

So the job landed in Mr. Leahy’s lap.

“This is not something I requested,” Mr. Leahy said. “I want to make sure I do the best job possible, when people look back at it.”

In a letter to his colleagues before the trial on Tuesday, Mr. Leahy vowed to “conduct this trial with fairness to all,” and said he would put any constitutional question before the Senate for a full vote.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager in former President Donald J. Trump’s trial, talking with fellow House managers in an empty hearing room on Monday as they prepare for their opening arguments.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins on Tuesday, about a month after he was charged by the House with incitement of insurrection for his role in egging on a violent mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Here’s what you need to know.

A bipartisan agreement reached on Monday could pave the way for an especially quick and efficient proceeding that could be over by early next week.

The Senate is poised to vote to approve the rules and formally begin the trial at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Up to four hours will be devoted to debating the constitutionality of impeaching a president who is no longer in office. If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.

Starting Wednesday, the prosecution and the defense will have 16 hours each to present their cases to the senators, who are serving as a jury.

Tradition dictates that senators are then allowed at least one day to ask questions. The trial is expected to conclude with closing arguments and a final vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump. If the trial is not over by Saturday, the Senate intends to hold a rare Sunday session to continue with it, according to the trial rules.

In a fast-paced and cinematic case, the House managers will argue before the Senate that Mr. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The prosecution plans to show videos captured by the mob, Mr. Trump’s unvarnished words and criminal pleas from rioters who said they acted at the former president’s behest. House managers are aiming for a conviction and to bar Mr. Trump from holding office again.

In a 78-page brief filed on Monday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the impeachment proceedings were unconstitutional because Congress has no basis for judging a former president.

On Friday, more than 140 constitutional lawyers took aim at that argument, calling it “legally frivolous.”

Members of the Sergeant at Arms’ office placing social distancing markers on the floor of the press area outside the Senate chamber.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The United States Capitol is made out of marble, sandstone, cast iron and the less visible buttresses of American democratic traditions.

For all the history within its walls, the Capitol has never seen days like these — a pandemic that has altered the operations of the national legislature, a violent attack by a mob of Americans on Jan. 6 and, now, the second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump. With their attack on the Capitol, the mob of his supporters threatened a foundational principle of democratic government, the peaceful transfer of power.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The most conspicuous damage from the deadly riot at the Capitol was swept away and patched up weeks ago, but jarring reminders of the attack still scarred the Capitol as the Senate prepared for the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump which began on Tuesday.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

House Democrats, acting as the impeachment managers — legislator-prosecutors, in effect — worked late into the night on Monday to prepare a case against Mr. Trump, relying on videos of the attack, Mr. Trump’s previous statements and written testimony.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Capitol is not just a workplace these days. It is also home to a contingent of armed National Guard troops deployed to defend against the ongoing threat of attacks. It is the first time troops have been quartered in the complex since the Civil War, before the invention of snack machines.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Metal detectors stood in the writers’ gallery on Tuesday ahead of the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump at the Capitol.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The cordon of security added to the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 riot appeared to tighten a notch as former President Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial began in the Senate on Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials have not publicly reported any new threats in the days leading up to the proceedings, but tensions remain high and many of the precautions put in place after Jan. 6 will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

The biggest factor in reducing the threat of violence might be the most obvious: No permits for large demonstrations, like the one Mr. Trump headlined before the attack, have been issued, local and federal officials said.

Many of the safeguards put into place at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago were visible this week, augmented by restrictions imposed soon after to deal with the pandemic.

An airport-type magnetometer has been placed outside the doors to the chamber in the press gallery on the building’s third floor; spectators without specially issued badges will not be granted access; and typically free-range reporters were kept behind stanchions, shouting questions at passing lawmakers through their masks.

Some Democratic impeachment managers, now as then, have been given their own security details.

Those precautions were set against a backdrop of a building under siege. The National Guard contingent at the Capitol, reduced since its aftermath, was still patrolling parts of the complex — and the iconic domed edifice is now caged behind a perimeter of chain-link fence guarded by armed troops.

In a letter to Democrats last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote that members would be given additional protections when they traveled through airports and train stations to and from the Washington area.

President Biden walking to the Oval Office at the White House on Monday.
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President Biden’s predecessor stands accused of fomenting an insurrection, but Mr. Biden insisted that he was not allowing the spectacle to distract him from addressing the pandemic and the economy.

“I’m sure they’re going to conduct themselves well, and that’s all I have to say about impeachment,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, as Democratic impeachment managers were making their opening arguments in the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Biden’s schedule aimed at illustrating his walk-and-chew-gum point that impeachment would not impede governance.

He is due to meet in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the vice president, and a handful of business executives for a discussion about the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being debated on Capitol Hill, and Mr. Biden’s push to increase the minimum wage.

“I think it’s clear from his schedule, and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday.

Mr. Biden and his team have gone out of their way for weeks to insist that responding to Mr. Trump’s actions ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol should be left to members of Congress. Ms. Psaki repeatedly waved off questions about what Mr. Biden thought about how the trial should be conducted.

Now that the spectacle is beginning, the White House is maintaining that above-the-fray posture. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to receive their daily intelligence briefing on Tuesday morning. Ms. Psaki will hold her daily exchange with reporters even as senators begin their impeachment debate.

The afternoon meeting with Ms. Yellen will also include chief executives: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Doug McMillon of Walmart; Sonia Syngal of the Gap; Marvin R. Ellison of Lowes; and Thomas J. Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A White House news release described the meeting as an opportunity for Mr. Biden to press his case for “the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy.” But one person said the president also intended to discuss his case for increasing the minimum wage.

Mr. Biden has proposed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 as part of his virus relief package. The chamber asked Mr. Biden in a letter this month to drop the minimum wage increase from his relief proposal. At least one Democratic senator is on record opposing the increase, which could make it difficult to pass in the evenly divided chamber.

Mr. McMillion, the Walmart chief, said last month that he opposes a universal minimum wage increase to $15, saying wage increases should take into account regional differences and the impact on small businesses.

Donald J. Trump and Melania Trump board Air Force One on Inauguration Day.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

A big difference between the second and first impeachment trials of Donald J. Trump is the sound of (relative) silence.

Unlike his first Senate trial, just over a year ago, Mr. Trump has no Twitter feed to provide play-by-play commentary, amplify supporters and attack his political opponents as the proceedings unfold. He also lacks the bully pulpit of the presidency.

Instead, as the trial began Tuesday afternoon, the former president is expected to be busy with meetings at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., while sporadically watching the trial, people close to him said on Tuesday.

Even his allies were putting up only a scattered defense of him in connection to the single charge he faces for his role in inciting the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Instead, most focused their comments on the decision by the Senate to hold the trial at all now that he has left office, and casting it as an argument over constitutional principles rather than a defense of his behavior.

“The Senate is now set to spend yet another week focused on impeaching a private citizen from an office he no longer holds,” Representative Lauren Boebert, a first-term Republican from Colorado who also encouraged the protesters, wrote late Monday on Twitter. “The Left doesn’t know how to govern and is still focused on trying to blame Trump for everything.”

Sean Hannity, the Fox host and Trump adviser, spent more of his show on Monday lashing out at Democrats than explicitly defending his friend’s actions, claiming that impeachment was “like a drug” and that liberals had become addicted to it.

Over the past few days, the Twitter accounts of many Republicans who had fiercely defended Mr. Trump during his first trial had turned to other topics.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House who was one of Mr. Trump’s stoutest defenders a year ago, on Tuesday blasted the three-week-old Biden administration for “taking away” jobs from blue-collar workers. And Mr. Trump’s former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, posted a string of tweets celebrating the Super Bowl victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

President Biden boards Marine One on his way back to the White House on Monday from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

President Biden will travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday to participate in a CNN town hall event, his first substantive trip outside of Washington since assuming office at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has substantially limited presidential travel.

CNN said in a statement that Anderson Cooper will moderate the town hall event, which will be held at the Pabst Theater in front of what the network described as an “invitation-only, socially distanced audience” in observance of Wisconsin’s pandemic guidance and regulations.

In the announcement, CNN said Mr. Biden was expected to field questions about several issues, including efforts to “defeat the coronavirus” and return a “sense of normalcy” to life in the United States. White House officials confirmed the trip but declined to provide any details.

The visit will be the president’s first official trip. Mr. Biden’s first flight on Air Force One as president came last weekend, when he made the short trip to his home in Wilmington, Del.

The pandemic has so far prevented Mr. Biden from the kind of presidential travel that new White House occupants often undertake shortly after taking office. The White House has repeatedly declined to say when Mr. Biden might make his first foreign trip, which typically happens in February or March of a new president’s first year.

In addition, Mr. Biden has so far resisted making appearances around the country to push his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, which is pending in Congress. In normal times, presidents would travel to different parts of the country to highlight the impact of the legislation on the lives of Americans.

Instead, Mr. Biden has been making the case in virtual events from the White House. On Monday, he participated in a virtual tour of a Covid-19 vaccination center at a stadium in Arizona. During the event, Mr. Biden said he wished he could have been there in person.

“Because of Covid, we can’t come and see you, which we’d ordinarily be doing, getting on a plane and coming out and looking firsthand,” he said.

The visit to Milwaukee next Tuesday suggests that Mr. Biden’s eagerness to get out of Washington is pushing the White House to find ways to begin presidential travel in a manner that does not violate the new administration’s pandemic guidance.

Members of President Biden’s administration have sent careful signs that they are listening to liberal Democrats.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

For now, at least, Democrats are huddling in harmony under their big tent.

After a 15-month primary contest that highlighted deep divides within the party, President Biden is enjoying an early honeymoon from the political vise of a progressive wing that spent months preparing to squeeze the new administration.

Democrats have remained resolute about pushing through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan over near-unanimous dissent from Republicans, and they are determined to hold former President Donald J. Trump accountable for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol violence in the impeachment trial that started Tuesday afternoon.

Liberal standard-bearers like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are holding their fire. The progressive “Squad” in the House — Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her allies — have focused their rage on the Republicans who inspired the siege of the Capitol.

And activists who have built careers out of orchestrating public pressure campaigns have been disarmed by the open line to the White House they enjoy, and by the encouragement they receive from its highest levels — a signal that the administration is tending to the Democratic base in a way that wasn’t done during the Obama or Clinton years.

“President Biden understands that, like Roosevelt, he has entered office at a time of extraordinary crises and that he is prepared to think big and not small,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “There is an understanding that if we’re going to address the crises facing this country, we’re all in it together.”

Still, the moment of unity could be fragile: Sharp differences remain between Mr. Biden and his left flank. Battles are already brewing over a $15 per hour minimum wage and whether to eliminate the Senate filibuster.

Yet, the singular focus on the pandemic has exerted a unifying force on the party, allowing Mr. Biden to align the central promise of his campaign — a more effective government response — with the priorities of Democrats in battleground states, who say that voters expect Mr. Biden to deliver a competent vaccine distribution along with direct economic relief. Already, there is widespread agreement within the party that Democrats will be judged in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential contest by their handling of the twin crises.

“Needles and checks — that’s got to be the focus,” said Thomas Nelson, a Democrat running for the Senate in Wisconsin. “People in my county, we need those checks.”

The Justice Department dropped a lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide and friend of Melania Trump’s who had written a critical memoir.
Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has withdrawn a lawsuit it brought in October against a onetime friend and aide to Melania Trump over her book, one of several cases in which the Trump administration went after former allies who wrote critical memoirs.

The Biden administration requested on Monday to dismiss the case against the friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, which Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered. That brought to an abrupt end a lawsuit whose filing had prompted accusations that Trump administration officials were abusing their power over the machinery of federal law enforcement to enact retribution.

Ms. Wolkoff’s book, “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,” depicted the then-first lady as selfish and shallow. The book contains no classified information, but the Justice Department accused Ms. Wolkoff of violating a nondisclosure agreement.

A department official said its new leadership had evaluated the case and concluded that ending it was in the best interests of the United States based on the facts and the law.

“We are very pleased that the Department of Justice has dismissed this lawsuit,” Lorin L. Reisner, a lawyer for Ms. Wolkoff, said in a statement.

The Trump administration used the Justice Department to go after several onetime members of the Trump circle who wrote harsh tell-alls.

In 2018, the day after it became public that Mr. Trump’s former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman had written an unflattering book, the Trump White House asked the department to open an investigation into a paperwork dispute that led to a government lawsuit against her. Her lawyer filed a motion for summary judgment last week.

In June, the department asked a judge to issue an extraordinary order requiring Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton pull his already printed memoir, which presents a negative account of Mr. Trump. The judge refused to grant that order but is still weighing the department’s request to seize Mr. Bolton’s $2 million advance in a dispute over the prepublication review process.

In July, a judge ruled that department officials had engaged in retaliation against Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, who was about to publish “Disloyal: A Memoir,” which portrays the president as a mafia-like figure. Mr. Cohen was serving a prison sentence at home because of the pandemic, but officials had ordered him returned to prison when he refused their demand that he sign an agreement not to publish the book.

In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Mr. Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will begin oral arguments on Tuesday but the apparatus that fed him much of his power — the conservative news media — is facing a test of its own. This might ultimately have a much bigger impact on the future of American politics than anything that happens to Mr. Trump as an individual.

In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Mr. Trump’s lawyers and his allies in the media, claiming they spread falsehoods that did tangible harm. This comes amid an already-raging debate over whether to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online companies from being held liable for the views expressed on their platforms.

“The greatest consequence of the Trump presidency has been the weaponizing of disinformation and parallel dismantling of trust in the media,” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime political strategist and co-host of the Showtime political series “The Circus.”

“Unfortunately, it took the perpetration of the big lie that the election was a fraud, an insurrection at the Capitol, and almost destroying our democracy for someone to finally take action,” Mr. McKinnon said. “But it appears to be working. Nothing like threatening the bottom line to get the desired attention.”

On Thursday, the voting-machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, some of its prominent hosts and two lawyers who represented Mr. Trump, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. The suit accuses them of mounting a campaign of defamation by claiming that Smartmatic had been involved in an effort to throw the election. That came on the heels of a similar $1.3 billion suit that Dominion Voting Systems brought against Mr. Giuliani the week before.

The impact was immediate. Newsmax, an ultraconservative TV station that has expanded its popularity by lining up to the right of Fox News, cut off an interview with the MyPillow founder Mike Lindell last week while he attacked Dominion — something that commentators had done on the station many times before. Then, over the weekend, Fox Business sidelined Lou Dobbs, one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest TV news defenders and a defendant named in the Smartmatic lawsuit.

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