Democrats use Trump trial to show sometimes symbolism is the point | Impeachment of Trump (2021)
Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin stood at the lectern, faced 100 senators and removed his black mask to begin the historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald John Trump.
Don’t worry, Raskin assured them with a disarming note of humor on Tuesday. He could have been a professor of constitutional law for three decades, but he wouldn’t lecture them on the Federalist Papers. “A teacher is someone who talks in someone else’s sleep,” he quoted the poet WH Auden.
Instead, Raskin promised “cold, hard facts” and he was as good as his word. He let the murderous mob do the talking. The congressman stood on the sidelines to play a brutal, raw and shocking video of the uprising at the US Capitol on January 6.
For the senators glued to their seats, forced to relive the nightmarish quality of that day, there was something particularly chilling about watching the crowds rage through the very building where they sat, smashing windows, crushing police in the doors, waving far-right badges and chanting “Fight for Trump!”
For the Republicans, it must have been particularly heartbreaking to see what their champion had unleashed – knowing that most of them will continue to defend them during this trial for fear of angering their “base”. Never will they have been so relieved to have worn masks that concealed their expressions in the press gallery.
The video ended with a tweet from Trump from that day insisting that this is what happens when an election is stolen (it wasn’t stolen). He told his fans, “Go home with love and peace! Remember this day forever!”
The montage was an early indication that while Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago – which sparked a phone call asking for political favors from Ukraine – looked like a white-collar criminal case, this time s more like a mob trial with Trump’s casting. as the instigator of violent thugs.
It was a dramatic and roaring start to the lawsuit that promises to plant a giant exclamation point at the end of the Trump presidency. Raskin and his eight other House impeachment officials want to ensure that Jan. 6 becomes the lyrical culmination of America’s four years of dangerous living.
They also want to send a message. They are aware that the world’s faith in America has been severely shaken by the election and presidency of a reality TV star who thrives on petty insults and rule breaking. And they are aware that the January 6 riot may have been a breaking point for some.
Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan told MSNBC on Tuesday: ‘I have spoken to many people in foreign affairs, including ambassadors and other representatives of other countries, and since the events that followed the November election and the president’s attempt to overturn that, they weren’t disappointed, they were anguished by that, by the feeling that America is dropping the ball and can’t function like the thing anymore what you are aiming for.
But Joe Biden likes to say betting against America is always a bad bet. His election and orderly inauguration last month sent a signal to the world that he should not abandon the young republic just yet.
Democrats are aware that the outcome of the trial is inescapable — another Trump acquittal, barring sensational new evidence — and that the stakes are lower because he has already left office. But sometimes the symbolism is the point. The impeachment trial is a test of accountability, stability and the rule of law before a global audience.
So in a Capitol building where some windows remain cracked, they observed solemn rituals and traditions, laying in the Senate Chamber under the busts of 20 former vice presidents watching from marble pedestals in alcoves. This time there were no members of the public in the gallery due to coronavirus precautions.
Just before 1 p.m., Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Minority Leader, walked in a little unsteadily and stood at his desk. He was approached by Susan Collins, who is expected to vote against Trump, and spoke to her animatedly. Then came Tom Cotton, who is expected to vote for Trump’s acquittal, for another deep conversation.
McConnell remains the central figure in the trial and for years to come. For a few days after the attack on Capitol Hill, he appeared ready to free Trump and persuade many colleagues to do the same, but then voted to support the idea that this lawsuit is unconstitutional. His future actions will offer clues as to whether the Republican Party can shake off Trumpism without having to learn the hard way at the polls.
Marco Rubio sat at his desk and wrote with a quill pen. Bernie Sanders had an iPad sitting on a folder. Some seats were empty for the Pledge of Allegiance and the Opening Prayer.
Acting Senate President Patrick Leahy, presiding over the proceedings, led the chamber in reciting the pledge and gave the Senate a hammer blow as the court of impeachment.
The prayer, by Chaplain Barry Black, included a pointed quote from poet James Russell Lowell: “Once for every man and every nation comes the time to decide, / In the conflict of truth with falsehood, for good or the wrong side.”
Then, after a procedural vote, Raskin began his argument that the lawsuit is indeed constitutional — a former president can be tried even after leaving office. To deny that, he said, would create a “whole new January exception,” meaning an incumbent president could act with impunity during his final weeks in the White House.
Like a criminal lawyer, Democrats seek to appeal not just to the head but also to the heart. They are not just prosecutors, but also survivors of the rampage, a point made with visceral force by Raskin in a closing argument that left the chamber silent and spellbound on Wednesday.
“And then there was a sound that I will never forget,” he recalls. “The sound of knocking on the door like a ram. The most haunting sound I have ever heard and I will never forget it.
Raskin’s 25-year-old son, Tommy, a Harvard law student who was battling depression, killed himself on New Year’s Eve. A day after Tommy’s funeral on Jan. 5, the congressman had brought his daughter and a son-in-law to the Capitol for ratification of Biden’s victory.
He had assured them it would be safe but, after the mob stormed the building, they were hiding under a desk in a barricaded congressional office sending what they believed to be the last text messages to loved ones. More than an hour later, they were rescued by Capitol Police.
Raskin, fighting back tears, said of his 24-year-old daughter, “I told her how sorry I was and promised her it wouldn’t be like this the next time she came back to the Capitol. with me. And you know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’ »
At this Raskin collapsed for a moment, putting his fingers over his eyes before regaining his composure. “Of all the terrible and brutal things I saw and heard that day and since then, that struck me the most. That and watching someone use an American flagpole with the flag still on it , to stab and strike one of our policemen – ruthlessly, ruthlessly tortured by a pole with a flag on it which he was defending with his own life.
Democrats were to pursue the case Thursday as a criminal trial with more compelling video and graphic descriptions of that day.
But they didn’t want to overdo it. Trump is gone and Biden faces the most daunting presidential legacy since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. As this trial unfolds, the new president is trying to drum up support for a $1.9 billion bailout and to tackle the crises of coronavirus, economic, racial justice and climate.
As Biden tries to turn those plates, the last thing he needs is a spiteful impeachment trial to bring it all down. But Democrats insist they can do it. If you had a dollar or a pound for every time a congressman insists he can “walk and chew gum at the same time,” you’d be very rich indeed.