‘I made the call’: Jamie Raskin stands by decision to forgo witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

Jamie Raskin
Rep. Jamie Raskin during former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on February 9, 2021.

  • Jamie Raskin defended the decision to pass on calling witnesses in Trump’s second impeachment trial.
  • Raskin said that the decision to forgo witnesses rested with him.
  • “We could have had 5,000 witnesses, and Mitch McConnell would be making the same speech,” he said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead House impeachment manager for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, defended the decision to pass on calling witnesses despite a Senate vote on Saturday that would have permitted the action.

The Senate initially passed a motion 55-45 to call witnesses, with five Republican senators crossing over to support the effort. But, after some debate, Democrats shifted course.

The effort to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection” fell short by a 57-43 margin, but 7 GOP senators joined with all 50 Democrats in finding the former president guilty. A conviction required two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes.

Raskin said that the decision to forgo witnesses rested with him.

“We could have had 5,000 witnesses, and [GOP Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell would be making the same speech, because what he’s asserting is that the Senate never has jurisdiction over a former president,” he said. “The point is that no number of witnesses demonstrating that Donald Trump continued to incite the insurrectionists even after the invasion of the Capitol would convince them. They wouldn’t be convinced. They were hinging it on a matter of law.”

He added: “I made the call. So you want to blame somebody [it’s me].”

Read more: Meet the little-known power player with the ‘hardest job’ on Capitol Hill. She’s shaping Trump’s impeachment trial and Joe Biden’s agenda.

The last-minute debate over witnesses came after a CNN report from Washington state GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler about a call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California on January 6. The Democratic managers sought to use the call to demonstrate Trump’s indifference to the chaos that unfolded that day.

Raskin said that he didn’t speak with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, or any other official in the White House before a decision was made to enter Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record without witness depositions.

He then roundly praised the work of the Democratic prosecution team, which included Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands and Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado, Joe Neguse of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Ted Lieu of California, Eric Swalwell of California, and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.

“We tried this case as aggressively as we could on the law and on the facts,” he said. “We got from the president’s lawyers exactly what we wanted.”

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The final day of the Trump impeachment trial was shaped by McConnell, Democrats, and breakaway GOP senators

Jamie Raskin
Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin.

  • Democrats asked GOP senators to put aside politics to convict Trump, but it wasn’t enough.
  • The effort to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection” fell short by a 57-43 margin.
  • Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina surprised many with votes to convict.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

An emotional appeal to the nation’s spirit defined former President Donald Trump’s second historic impeachment trial; Democrats tried to use the chaos and terror of the Capitol siege to drive Republicans to put aside their natural political instincts in the name of justice.

For the Democratic House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the crux of their argument contended that only accountability can deter deadly political violence in the future. Democrats reinforced that concept by playing never-before-seen video and radio transcripts from the fateful day of January 6 when rioting insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.

“This cannot be our future,” Raskin said during the trial on Tuesday. “This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people.”

The effort to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection” fell short by a 57-43 margin. A conviction required two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes.

All 50 Democrats in the Senate voted to convict Trump, while seven Republicans crossed over to support the former president’s conviction, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The remaining 43 Senate Republicans opposed the former president’s conviction.

Here’s what shaped the final day of impeachment:

McConnell voted to acquit Trump

For four years, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked in tandem with Trump to install scores of conservatives to the federal judiciary, including three Supreme Court justices: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

But after the Capitol riots, McConnell distanced himself from the former president and told his caucus that individual impeachment decisions were a “vote of conscience.”

In the end, McConnell decided that he would not vote to convict Trump.

“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” McConnell said to GOP colleagues early on Saturday.

Read more: Meet the little-known power player with the ‘hardest job’ on Capitol Hill. She’s shaping Trump’s impeachment trial and Joe Biden’s agenda.

After the final vote on Saturday, McConnell heaped blame on Trump, calling him out for spreading debunked claims of voter fraud after his loss in the 2020 presidential election.

mitch mcconnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) responds after the Senate voted 57-43 to acquit on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial at the US Capitol on February 13, 2021.

“There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the event of that day,” he said.

Still, McConnell, a sly 36-year veteran of the upper chamber, chose to play the long game. Trump is very likely to boost like-minded GOP candidates in the 2022 midterm elections and the Kentucky conservative would very much like to control the upper chamber once again.

Democrats demanded to call witnesses and then reversed course after the Senate approved the measure

The US Senate agreed not to hear witnesses on Saturday, avoiding an extension of the deliberate process that has consumed the Capitol this past week.

The Senate initially passed a motion 55-45 to call witnesses, with five GOP senators crossing over to support the effort. But, after some debate, Democrats changed their minds.

The last-minute debate over witnesses came after a CNN report from Washington state GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler about a call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California on January 6. Democrats sought to use the conversation to paint the former president as indifferent to the chaos that unfolded that day.

But the agreement to avoid having witnesses testify set the stage for closing arguments from the Democratic House impeachment managers and Trump defense attorney Michal Van der Veen.

Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, one of the Democratic impeachment prosecutors, implored senators to convict and “put country above our party because the consequences of not doing so are just too great.”

However, Van der Veen called the trial “a complete charade from beginning to end” and insisted that “the act of incitement never happened.”

Republicans who voted to acquit make their stand

While Republicans like Collins and Romney were not huge surprises in terms of their votes to convict Trump, there were some notable exceptions.

Sens. Burr and Cassidy are Southern conservatives who rarely stray from the party line. And yet, they thoroughly repudiated the former president’s actions on January 6.

Read more: Meet the little-known power player with the ‘hardest job’ on Capitol Hill. She’s shaping Trump’s impeachment trial and Joe Biden’s agenda.

“The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Burr said in a statement. “Therefore, I have voted to convict.”

Lisa Murkowski
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asks a question during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

He continued: “By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Burr is not running for reelection in 2022.

Cassidy, who was reelected last November, was seen as a wild card vote in recent days after he criticized the former president’s defense strategy earlier this week.

“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person,” Cassidy said in a recorded statement explaining his vote. “I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.”

Murkowski, who’s up for reelection in 2022 and hasn’t been shy about calling out Trump in the past, said political considerations were not part of her calculus in voting to convict Trump.

“If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?,” she said to Politico. “This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions.”

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Rep Jamie Raskin says an ‘assassination party’ of insurrectionists hunted Pelosi and Pence during Capitol siege

jamie raskin
House Impeachment Managers Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) (R) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) wear protective masks while walking to the House Floor during a vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin on Sunday said US Capitol rioters were violently seeking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence during the Capitol siege on January 6.
  • “They built a gallows outside the Capitol of the United States,” Raskin said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper Sunday. “There was an assassination party hunting for Nancy Pelosi.”
  • Raskin is the lead impeachment manager against President Donald Trump who on Wednesday faced a second impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin said the US Capitol riot was “an attack on our country” and recalled how pro-Trump rioters violently sought out Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Capitol breach earlier this month.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Raskin said he heard rioters calling and chanting to “hang Mike Pence” outside the building where lawmakers had gathered to certify the presidential election results. 

“They built a gallow outside the Capitol building of the United States,” Raskin said. “There was an assassination party hunting for Nancy Pelosi.”

The Jan. 6 breach forced lawmakers to immediately evacuate the building and seek safety as the pro-Trump supporters wandered throughout the building. More than 100 people were arrested for their involvement including Richard Barnett who took pictures at Pelosi’s desk and Adam Christian Johnson who was seen holding Pelosi’s lectern.

On Jan. 14, Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House for “incitement of insurrection” of the Capitol riots, which resulted in the deaths of five people including a Capitol Police officer

When asked about the timeline for the articles of impeachment, Raskin responded, “I know that everybody wants to focus on trial tactics and strategy and so on. I want people to focus on the solemnity and gravity of these events. Five Americans are dead because a violent mob was encouraged, exhorted, and incited by the President of the United States of America.”

Read more:

Trump becomes first president to be impeached twice as House charges him with inciting an insurrection

House Democrats call for accountability while Republicans call for unity and rail against ‘cancel culture’ in impeachment debate

Capitol goes into lockdown as Trump supporters breach barriers and clash with law enforcement while Congress debates election challenges

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Rep. Jamie Raskin on Trump impeachment: ‘I’m not going to lose my son’ in 2020 and ‘lose my country’ in 2021

Jamie Raskin
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland).

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland on Sunday said that he’s “not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021” as he reflected on the recent death of his 25-year-old son, Tommy, and his own role as the lead House manager in President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
  • On CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper, Raskin said that the memory of his son drove him to accept House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request to become an impeachment manager.
  • “I did it really with my son in my heart, and helping lead the way,” Raskin said. “I feel him in my chest.”
  • Raskin called the Jan. 6 Capitol riots “the most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland on Sunday said that he’s “not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021” as he reflected on the recent death of his 25-year-old son, Tommy, and his own role as the lead House manager in President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper, Raskin expressed how the memory of Tommy, a graduate of Amherst College and student at Harvard Law School who died on Dec. 31, drove him to accept House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request to become an impeachment manager during such a personal tragedy.

“I did it really with my son in my heart, and helping lead the way,” Raskin said. “I feel him in my chest.”

On Jan. 14, Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for “incitement of insurrection” of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, making him the sole president in US history to be impeached twice.

Read More: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a ‘vote of conscience’

Raskin, who was present in Capitol during the attacks along with his youngest daughter and son-in-law, had to navigate what was the most significant breach of the building since 1814. Even during that harrowing attack, which resulted in five deaths, the spirit of his son guided him.

“When we went to count the Electoral College votes, and it came under that ludicrous attack, I felt my son with me,” he said.

A touching Medium post written by Raskin and his wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, highlights the trajectory of their son’s far-too-short, but highly accomplished life. They spoke lovingly of his innate spirit.

“Tommy Raskin had a perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind,” they wrote. “He began to be tortured later in his 20s by a blindingly painful and merciless ‘disease called depression,’ a kind of relentless torture in the brain for him.”

The congressman, who for years taught constitutional law at American University, brought up the dangers of the Jan. 6 riots and their effect on democracy.

“I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021,” he said. “It’s not going to happen.”

He emphasized: “This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America – the most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States. There are Republicans who are recognizing it, as well as Democrats.”

The House vote for Trump’s second impeachment included support from ten GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the conference.

Raskin pledged that House Democrats will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a timely fashion, which will result in Trump facing a Senate trial.

“We don’t have a minute to spare,” he said. “He’s a clear and present danger to the people.”

He added: “We’re putting together a trial plan, which is designed to get the truth of all of these events out. We are going to be able to tell the story of this attack on America and all of the events that led up to it.”

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