WASHINGTON – The speech, delivered Tuesday to an elated Senate chamber, will be remembered on Capitol Hill, likely for a long time, for its appeal to still raw emotions following the mob attack in the workplace and courtroom jurors.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, lead prosecution counsel in Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial, spoke about the horror of January 6: what it was like to hear “the most haunting sound that I’ve never heard “as members of a pro-Trump mob pounded” like a ram “on the bedroom doors of the house.
He spoke of seeing terrified colleagues. “All around me people were calling their wives and husbands, their loved ones, to say goodbye,” Raskin said. He recounted how his daughter Tabitha and a son-in-law were hiding under a desk in another lawmaker’s office. “They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said.
And he recounted how he apologized to Tabitha for the ugly experience she had endured just one day after the family buried her 25-year-old brother, Tommy, who died of suicide on ” saddest of our life ”. Mr. Raskin said he promised her the next visit to his office would be better.
“Daddy, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol,” Tabitha replied, her father said, fighting back tears.
Even at a time when the Capitol became numb with emotional appeals, it was an extraordinary speech. While there was a parade of additional prosecution lawyers and two defense attorneys who spoke on Tuesday and will become more familiar as the week goes on, it is Mr. Raskin, a Democrat from the Maryland suburb, which was the emotional centerpiece of the day. procedure.
- A trial is underway to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a murderous mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on January 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers go underground as they convene to certify President Biden. victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the United States government” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove him.
- To condemn Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to agree. That means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to be sentenced.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with the Democrats in pushing back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. On the eve of the start of the trial, only 28 senators say they are undecided on whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate condemns Mr. Trump, convicting him of “inciting violence against the United States government,” then senators could vote on whether to prevent him from performing his future duties. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it were party lines, Democrats would win with Vice President Kamala Harris voting for the tiebreaker.
- If the Senate does not condemn Mr. Trump, the former president could again be eligible for public office. Public opinion polls show he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
The circumstances were, of course, remarkable: a second presidential impeachment trial for the first time in American history, held after he was removed from office at a location that was itself the scene of the crime. Armed members of the National Guard remained stationed throughout the Capitol complex.
As several of those listening wiped away tears, Mr. Raskin recounted the most searing and brutal footage of the day. He spoke of rioters beating a fallen policeman with a pole, his American flag still attached, using it “to harpoon him and hit him”, “ruthlessly, ruthlessly, tortured by a pole with a flag on it which he was defending with its very life. “
He described scenes that appeared to come from a distant land fighting savage insurgents, not from the heart of American democracy. “People died that day,” Raskin said. “The officers ended up with head and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged out. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers committed suicide. “
He seemed to dwell on details that would resonate personally with the experience of his audience. “Members of Congress, at least on the House side, were removing their pins so that they could not be identified by the crowd as they attempted to escape,” Raskin said.
His voice calmed down as he made his point.
“Senators, this cannot be our future,” Raskin said. “This cannot be America’s future.”
Mr Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, opened his presentation with a violent video montage of news footage, ground speeches and a series of clips posted to social media by attendees.
The presentation was organized to show Mr. Trump as a sort of narrator for the reconstruction of events. It started with his speech to supporters at a “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House that the president presented as the culmination of his long and false claim that he won the election.
The video showed Mr. Trump urging his supporters to come to Capitol Hill and then shots of the crowd in which his supporters were heard swearing to “take the Capitol” and “get the traitors back.” The scene then moved to the end and a clip of Mr. Trump provoking outside the White House.
“I love you,” Mr. Trump told his supporters in a short video, pointedly made to encourage them to leave Capitol and return home. “You are very special.”
The final image featured a tweet sent by Mr. Trump later that evening. “Remember this day forever,” he said.
Mr Raskin’s emotional appeal came after a long legal row in which he said Mr Trump and his lawyers were asking senators to create an illogical “January exception” that went against the intent of founders. Recreating the debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Mr. Raskin argued that the Senate should not allow a president to become immune from conduct committed during his last month in office.
“Anyone can immediately see why it’s so dangerous,” he says. “It is an invitation to the president to do his best in whatever he wants to do on his way out of the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hang on at all costs to the Oval Office and block the transfer of power. “
Mr Trump’s lawyers had argued that the entire trial was unconstitutional because he had already left office, denying the need for a procedure they claimed was designed to remove him from office.
In response, Mr Raskin said the events of January 6 were proof of the need for such a remedy: to deter an incumbent president from resorting to violence in order to remain in office.
“He would have you believe that there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it,” Raskin said, pointing to the footage in the montage. “No trial. No facts. He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at this point. It cannot be fair.
Mr. Raskin said the editors intended the exact opposite. They were perfectly comfortable with the dismissal of former officials, he said.
They chose to give the Senate “the exclusive power” to try “all indictments,” he said, citing the Constitution. “Everything means everything,” Mr. Raskin said. “There are no exceptions to the rule.”
Despite the graphic images Mr. Raskin used and the horrific events he described, his tenor was without partisan hard feelings or blame. He explained how colleagues from both parties offered his condolences to him on Jan.6 as he prepared for the speech he would deliver as Congress meets to certify the election results.
“I felt the feeling of being out of agony,” said Mr. Raskin, shortly before that day took its turn.