Feb 10, 2021
Rep. Jamie Raskin Speech on Why Senate Should Convict Trump Transcript: Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial
Impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin’s opening statement on February 10, 2021, the second day of Trump’s second impeachment trial. He argued why the Senate should vote to convict Donald Trump. Read the transcript of his opening argument remarks here.
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Jamie Raskin: (00:00)
Thank you very much, Mr. President, members of the Senate. Good morning, good day. Some people think this trial is a contest of lawyers, or even worse, a competition between political parties. It’s neither. It’s a moment of truth for America.
Jamie Raskin: (00:18)
My late father, Marcus Raskin, once wrote, “Democracy needs a ground to stand upon. And that ground is the truth.” America needs the truth about ex-President Trump’s role in inciting the insurrection on January 6th because it threatened our government and it disrupted, it easily could have destroyed the peaceful transfer of power in the United States for the first time in 233 years. It was suggested yesterday by President Trump’s counsel that this is really like a very bad accident or a natural disaster, where lots of people get injured or killed. And society is just out looking for someone to blame. And that’s a natural and normal human reaction, according to president’s council. But he says it’s totally unfair in this case.
Jamie Raskin: (01:09)
President Trump, according to Mr. Caster, is essentially an innocent bystander who got swept up in this catastrophe, but did nothing wrong. In this assertion, Mr. Caster, unerringly echos his client ex-President Trump, who declared after the insurrection that his conduct in the affair was totally appropriate.
Jamie Raskin: (01:29)
And therefore, we can only assume he could do and would do the exact same thing again, because he said his conduct was totally appropriate. So now, the factual inquiry of the trial is squarely posed for us. The jurisdictional constitutional issue is gone. Whether you were persuaded by the president’s constitutional analysis yesterday or not, the Senate voted to reject it. And so, the Senate is now properly exercising its jurisdiction. And sitting as a court of impeachment, conducting a trial on the facts. We are having a trial on the facts. The House says ex-President Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection against Congress and the constitution and the people.
Jamie Raskin: (02:21)
The president’s lawyers and the president say his conduct was totally appropriate. And he’s essentially an innocent victim of circumstances, like the other innocent victims that we’ll see getting caught up in all of the violence and chaos over the next several days. The evidence will be for you to see and hear and digest. The evidence will show you that ex-President Trump was no innocent bystander.
Jamie Raskin: (02:51)
The evidence will show that he clearly incited the January 6th instruction. It will show that Donald Trump’s surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous instruction. And this was as one of our colleagues put it so cogently on January 6th itself, “The greatest betrayal of the presidential oath in the history of the United States.”
Jamie Raskin: (03:22)
The evidence will show you that he saw it coming and was not remotely surprised by the violence. And when the violence, inexorably and inevitably came as predicted and overran this body and the House of Representatives with chaos, we will show you that he completely abdicated his duty as commander in chief, to stop the violence and protect the government and protect our officers and protect our people. He violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution, the government, and the people of the United States. The evidence will show you that he assembled, inflamed, and incited his followers to descend upon the Capitol to stop the steal, to block Vice President Pence and Congress from finalizing his opponent’s election victory over him.
Jamie Raskin: (04:20)
It will show that he had been warned that these followers were prepared for a violent attack, targeting us at the Capitol through media reports, law enforcement reports, and even arrests. In short, we will prove that the impeached president was no innocent bystander whose conduct was totally appropriate and should be a standard for future presidents, but that he incited this attack and he saw it coming. To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method in the madness that day. This was an organized attack on the counting of the electoral college votes in joint session of the United States Congress under the 12th Amendment and under the Electoral Count Act to prevent Vice President Mike Pence, and to prevent us from counting sufficient electoral college votes to certify Joe Biden’s victory of 306 to 232 in the electoral college, a margin that President Trump had declared a landslide in 2016.
Jamie Raskin: (05:38)
When my colleague, Mr. [Nagoose 00:05:40] speaks after me, he will set forth in detail, the exact roadmap of all the evidence in the case. My fellow House managers and I will then take you through that evidence step-by-step so everyone can see exactly how these events unfolded. But I want to tell you a few key reasons right now that we know this case is not about blaming an innocent bystander for the horrific violence and harm that took place on January 6th. This is holding accountable the person singularly responsible for inciting the attack.
Jamie Raskin: (06:15)
Let’s start with December 12th. You will see during this trial, a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence. “We have just begun to fight,” he says more than a month after the election has taken place. And that’s before the second Million MAGA March, a rally that ended in serious violence and even the burning of a church.
Jamie Raskin: (06:42)
And as the president forecast, it was only the beginning. On December 19th, 18 days before January 6th, he told his base about where the battle would be that they would fight next. January 6th would be “wild,” he promised. “Be there, will be wild,” said the President of the United States of America. And that too turned out to be true. You’ll see in the days that followed, Donald Trump continued to aggressively promote January sex to his followers. The event was scheduled at the precise time that Congress would be meeting in joint session to count the electoral college votes and to finalize the 2020 presidential election.
Jamie Raskin: (07:26)
In fact, in the days leading up to the attack, you’ll learn that there were countless social media posts, news stories, and most importantly, credible reports from the FBI and Capitol Police that the thousands gathering for the President’s Save America March were violent, organized with weapons, and were targeting the Capitol. This mob got organized so openly, because as they would later scream in these halls, and as they posted on forums before the attack, they were sent here by the president. They were invited here by the President of the United States of America. And when they showed up, knowing of these reports that the crowd was angry and it was armed, here’s what Donald Trump told them.
Jamie Raskin: (08:16)
President Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy, exhorting followers, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And then, he aimed straight at the Capitol declaring, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” He told them to fight like hell. And they brought us hell on that day. Incited by President Trump, his mob attacked the Capitol. This assault unfolded live on television before a horrified nation. According to those around him at the time, this is how President Trump reportedly responded to the attack that we saw him incite in public.
Jamie Raskin: (09:08)
Delight, enthusiasm, confusion as to why others around him weren’t as happy as he was. Trump incited the January 6th attack. And when his mob overran and occupied the Senate and attacked the House and assaulted law enforcement, he watched it on TV like a reality show. He reveled in it and he did nothing to help us as commander in chief. Instead, he served as the inciter in chief, sending tweets that only further incited the rampaging mob. He made statements, lauding and sympathizing with the insurrectionists. At 4:17 PM, over three hours after the beginning of the siege, for the very first time he spoke out loud, not on Twitter, spoke out loud to the American people. Here’s what he said.
Donald Trump: (10:05)
I know your pain. I know you’re hurt.
Jamie Raskin: (10:10)
So you might be saying, all right, the president is going to console us now. He’s going to reassure America. He knows our pain. He knows we’re hurt. We’ve just seen these horrific images of officers being impaled and smashed over the head. We’ve just been under attack for three hours, but here’s what he actually goes on to say.
Donald Trump: (10:32)
I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.
Jamie Raskin: (10:47)
So you think he’s about to decry the mayhem and violence, the unprecedented spectacle of this mob attack on the US Capitol, but he’s still promoting the big lie that was responsible for inflaming and inciting the mob in the first place.
Jamie Raskin: (11:04)
If anyone ever had a doubt as to his focus that day, it was not to defend us. It was not to console us. It was to praise and sympathize and commiserate with the rampaging mob. It was to continue to act as inciter in chief, not commander in chief, by telling the mob that their election had been stolen from them. Even then after that vicious attack, he continued to spread the big lie. And as everyone here knows Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes, and 306 to 232 in the electoral college. But Donald Trump refused to accept his loss, even after this attack. And he celebrated the people who violently interfered with the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in American history, in that at his urging. And when he did in this video finally tell them to go home in peace, he added this message. “We love you. You’re very special.”
Jamie Raskin: (12:10)
Distinguished members of the Senate. This is a day that will live in disgrace in American history. That is unless you ask Donald Trump, because this is what he treated before he went to bed that night, at 6:01 PM.
Jamie Raskin: (12:33)
And consoling the nation, not reassuring everyone that the government was secure, not a single word that entire day condemning the violent insurrection. That’s what he says. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever. These are the things and events that happened when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots.”
Jamie Raskin: (13:12)
In other words, this was all perfectly natural and foreseeable to Donald Trump. At the beginning of the day, he told you it was coming. At the end of the day, he basically says, “I told you this would happen.” And then he adds, “Remember this day forever,” but not as a day of disgrace, a day of horror and trauma as the rest of us remember it, but as a day of celebration, a day of commemoration. And if we let it be, it will be a day of continuation, a call to action, and a rallying cry for the next rounds of insurrectionary justice, because all of this was totally appropriate.
Jamie Raskin: (13:53)
Senators, the stakes of this trial could not be more serious. Every American, young and old and in-between, is invited to participate with us in this essential journey to find the facts and share the truth. Trials are public events in a democracy and no trial is more public or significant than an impeachment trial, because the insurrection brought shocking violence, bloodshed, and pain in the nation’s Capitol. And we will be showing relevant clips of the mobs’ attack on police officers and other innocent people. We do urge parents and teachers to exercise close review of what young people are watching here. And please watch along with them if you’re allowing them to watch. The impeachment managers will try to give warnings before the most graphic and disturbing violence that took place is shown.
Jamie Raskin: (14:46)
We believe that the manager’s comprehensive and meticulous presentation will lead to one powerful and irresistible conclusion, Donald Trump committed a massive crime against our constitution and our people and the worst violation of the presidential oath of office in the history of the United States of America. For this, he was impeached by the House of Representatives and he must be convicted by the United States Senate.
Jamie Raskin: (15:14)
Before I close, I want to address a constitutional issue still lingering from yesterday’s argument. The president obviously is still exploring ways to change the subject and talk about anything other than his responsibility for inciting the attack. We heard a lot yesterday about his claim that this incitement of the insurrection was perfectly appropriate because it’s somehow protected by the First Amendment. And this little diversion caught my eye because I’ve been a professor of constitutional law in the First Amendment for decades. And as we’ll demonstrate over the course of the trial, the factual premise and the legal underpinnings of that claim are all wrong. They present President Trump as merely like a guy at a rally expressing a political opinion that we disagree with. And now, we’re trying to put him in jail for it. That has nothing to do with the reality of these charges, or his constitutional offense.
Jamie Raskin: (16:07)
The particular political opinions being expressed are not why we impeached the president and have nothing to do with it. It makes no difference what the ideological content of the mob was. And if we license and forgive incitement to violent insurrection by militant Trump followers this week, you can be sure there will be a whole bunch of new ideological flavors coming soon.
Jamie Raskin: (16:29)
As we’ll demonstrate with overwhelming evidence, portraying Trump is a guy on the street being punished for his ideas is a false description of his actions, his intent, and the role that he played on January 6th, when he willfully incited an insurrectionary mob to riot at the Capitol. Last week, 144 constitutional scholars, including Floyd Abrams, a ferocious defender of free speech. Charles Freed, President Reagan’s solicitor general. Stephen [Kalibrasi 00:17:03], the co-founder of the Federalist Society, released a statement calling the president’s First Amendment arguments, “legally frivolous,” adding, “We all agree that the First Amendment does not prevent the Senate from convicting President Trump and disqualifying him from holding future office.”
Jamie Raskin: (17:24)
They went on to say, “No reasonable scholar or jurist could conclude that President Trump had a First Amendment right to incite a violent attack on the seat of the legislative branch, or then to sit back and watch on television as Congress was terrorized and the Capitol sacked.”
Jamie Raskin: (17:41)
The incitement to violence is of course not protected by the First Amendment. That’s why most Americans have dismissed Donald Trump’s First Amendment rhetoric simply by referring to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ handy phrase, “You can’t shout fire in a crowded theater.” But even that time honored principle doesn’t begin to capture how off base the argument is. This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theater. It’s more like a case where the town fire chief who’s paid to put out fires sends a mob. Not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire. And who then, when the fire alarms go off and the calls start flooding into the fire department asking for help, does nothing, but sit back, encourage the mob to continue its rampage, and watch the fire spread on TV with glee and delight.
Jamie Raskin: (18:43)
So then we say this fire chief should never be allowed to hold this public job again. And you’re fired and you’re permanently disqualified. And he objects. And he says we’re violating his free speech rights just because he’s pro-mob or pro-fire or whatever it might be. Come on. I mean, you really don’t need to go to law school to figure out what’s wrong with that argument. Here’s the key. Undoubtedly, a private person can run around on the street expressing his or her support for the enemies of the United States and advocating the overthrow of the United States government. You’ve got a right to do that under the First Amendment.
Jamie Raskin: (19:22)
But if the president spent all of his days doing that, uttering the exact same words, expressing support for the enemies of the United States and for overthrowing the government, is there anyone here who doubts that this would be a violation of his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and that he or she could be impeached for doing that?
Jamie Raskin: (19:44)
Look, if you’re President of the United States, you’ve chosen a side with your oath of office. And if you break it, we can impeach, convict, remove, and disqualify you permanently from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. As Justice Scalia once said, memorably, “You can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers.” And if you become inciter in chief to the insurrection, you can expect to be on the payroll as commander chief for the union.
Jamie Raskin: (20:18)
Trump was the President of United States and he swore to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution. He had an affirmative binding duty, one that set him apart from everyone else in the country, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, including all the laws against assaulting federal officers, destroying federal property, violently threatening members of Congress and the Vice President, interfering with federal elections and dozens of federal laws that are well known to all of you. When he incited insurrection on January 6th, he broke that oath. He violated that duty, and that’s why we’re here today. And that’s why he has no credible constitutional defense.
Jamie Raskin: (21:05)
I’ll tell you a final, sad story in this kaleidoscope of sadness and terror and violence. One of our capital officers who defended us that day was a long time veteran of our force, a brave and honorable public servant who spent several hours battling the mob as part of one of those blue lines defending the Capitol in our democracy. For several hours straight as the marauders punched and kicked and mauled and spit upon and hit officers with baseball bats and fire extinguishers, cursed the cops and stormed our Capitol, he defended us and he lived every minute of his oath of office.
Jamie Raskin: (21:49)
And afterwards, overwhelmed by emotion, he broke down in the rotunda and he cried for 15 minutes. And he shouted out, “I got called an N-word 15 times today.” And then he reported, “I sat down with one of my buddies, another black guy, and tears just started streaming down my face.” And I said, “What the F, man? Is this America?”
Jamie Raskin: (22:25)
That’s the question before all of you in this trial, is this America? Can our country and our democracy ever be the same if we don’t hold accountable the person responsible for inciting the violent attack against our country, our capital, and our democracy, and all of those who serve us so faithfully and honorably? Is this America? Mr. Nagoose will now provide a roadmap, a roadmap of our evidentiary case.