Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House manager, demolished the notion that presidents get a free pass to commit high crimes in the waning days of their terms. On its face, Raskin explained, it’s absurd to argue that “conduct that would be a high crime and misdemeanor in your first year as president and your second year as president and your third year as president and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all,” he said, adding that it would have been the Founders’ “worst nightmare.”
Let’s not forget that the only reason the impeachment, which the House voted on before Trump left office, was not sent to trial immediately was because then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans stalled. They break the hypocrisy meter by turning around and claiming that the Senate, therefore, cannot try Trump now.
Beyond conclusively establishing the trial’s constitutionality, Raskin brought back to life the horrifying hours of Jan. 6 when insurrectionists, hyped-up on Trumpian fury, assaulted the Capitol. The Post reported: “Almost every senatorial eye in the chamber was glued to the screens as lead House manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) played a 13-minute video depicting the events of Jan. 6 to introduce the impeachment case against [former president Donald Trump] — with a few notable exceptions.” It was obvious why Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.), and Rand Paul (Ky.) cravenly averted their gaze: The scenes were so disturbing as to render their defense of the former president a moral abomination.
The voices of rioters parroting Trump’s incendiary words dismantle the notion that rioters were not motivated by Trump. “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing,” Raskin concluded after the video.
While the images were a powerful, still heart-wrenching reminder of the damage wrought by the ex-president and his enablers, Raskin added personal experience that went to the core of the assault on our democracy. He described the experience of his own children hiding in a nearby office, afraid for their lives:
Raskin, his voice cracking with emotion, was forced to pause after relaying that his terrified daughter never wanted to come back to the Capitol. That, he said, and the sight of an insurrectionist using a flag pole to assault a police officer were the hardest moments of the day for him.
Raskin’s colleague, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), took the Senate through an air-tight argument citing constitutional language, history, precedent and the views of renowned conservative legal scholars to demonstrate why the defense’s argument is preposterous. Add in the bumbling, nearly incoherent presentation from the former president’s lawyer, Bruce Castor, and the screeching, partisan harangue from his colleague David Schoen (who seemed to threaten violence if Trump is convicted when he said, “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history”), and it is easy to see there is no real constitutional objection to trying the case. (One supposes you get the legal representation you pay for; the former president, notorious for stiffing lawyers, got nothing from this performance.)
Clearly, Republicans do not want to try the case that would force them to face up to their constitutional obligations. The House managers made crystal clear that no conscientious senator should let the former president escape accountability. Put differently, they presented those bent on acquittal as lacking in courage, decency and intellectual honesty. Whatever the result of the trial, the verdict is already in for the senators who refuse to hold the seditious Trump responsible for the greatest betrayal of office by any president.