Donald Trump has avoided responsibility for his seedy business, financial misdeeds, and abuse of power for a lifetime. But Rep. Jamie Raskin will not let the defeated former president get away with the high crime of provoking the deadly attack on the US Capitol on January 6th.
RaskinThe former constitutional law professor whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had deliberately tapped as the chief manager of Trump’s second impeachment court upped the ante Thursday when he asked Trump to testify before or during the trial set to begin next week. And when he specifically signaled that the refusal to testify would likely be used against the defendant.
Outlined after the Maryland Democrat and its colleagues the charges against the former presidentTrump’s attorneys, approved by a non-partisan majority in the House of Representatives, issued a legal mandate in which irrefutable facts about inciting their client to insurrection were disputed. Raskin didn’t blink. He Sent the following letter to the defendant:
Dear President Trump,
As you know, the United States House of Representatives has impeached you for inciting insurrection. See H. Res. 24. The Senate trial for this impeachment article begins Tuesday, February 9, 2021. See p. Res. 16.
Two days ago you tabled a response denying many of the impeachment allegations. You have therefore tried to question critical facts despite the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense. In view of your dispute with these allegations of fact, I would like to invite you to give an affidavit of your conduct on January 6, 2021, before or during the impeachment proceedings against the Senate. We suggest that you give your testimony (including cross-examination, of course) on Monday, February 8th, 2021 and by Thursday, February 11th, 2021 at the latest. We would be happy to arrange such a testimony at a mutually convenient time and location.
Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton have both given their testimony in office – and the Supreme Court ruled just last year that you were not immune from trial during your tenure as president – so you have no doubt testifying in that trial. While a seated president might raise concerns about being distracted from his official duties, that concern is obviously not applicable here. We therefore expect your availability to testify.
If you decline this invitation, we reserve all rights, including the right to determine in court that your refusal to testify had a major negative impact on your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.
I would like to ask you to reply to this letter by 5 p.m. on Friday, February 5, 2021 at the latest. I look forward to your answer and your testimony.
With best regards,
Lead Impeachment Manager
As a constitutional scholar and accomplished legislative strategist, Raskin understands that impeachment managers can’t let Trump get away with his old tricks. So the chief impeachment manager flipped the script. Instead of letting the former president play the process by making false claims and trying to question the process, Raskin called Trump’s bluff.
Laurence Tribe, Professor of Harvard Law, describes Raskin as “the best constitutional attorney in all of Congress“Recognized the genius at this step immediately.” If Mr. Trump declines the opportunity to clear his name by showing up and under oath explaining why his January 6 behavior did not blame him for the deadly uprising that day It’s up to him, “remarked Tribe shortly after the agent sent his letter.” He can’t have it both ways.
Trump’s team was also aware of the danger. “The president is not going to testify in an unconstitutional trial,” said Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News. But, as Tribe noted, “This is a transparent copout. Trump could easily testify or agree to a deposit without sacrificing his claim that the Senate has no jurisdiction to bring him to justice. His cowardice is evident. ”
Trump’s legal team fought Thursday night. Calling Raskin’s letter a “publicity stunt”, they claimed, “Using our constitution to initiate an alleged impeachment is far too serious to try and play these games.”
But it was clear that Raskin had outmaneuvered the former president. By asking Trump to testify under oath and signaling that a refusal to testify against him could be used, the representative took control of the narrative. This is vital in any conflict with Trump, who has in the past used his social media platforms and bullying pulpit to draw circles around his accusers.
Raskin played his hand brilliantly on Thursday. First, the key member of the House Judiciary Committee showed his confidence in the event the impeachment managers move against Trump. Second, he made it clear that he and his team are ready to make this process a high-stakes clash that will involve every American – and that will put Republican senators in place.
Raskin’s understanding of impeachment, which he has studied for decades as an academic and lawmaker, is his strength in this regard. He knows that while the trial has many of the hallmarks of courtroom drama, it is actually a political battle.
Removal from office is the instrument with which the legislature of the federal government reviews and balances the executive. The high threshold for conviction in impeachment proceedings – 67 out of 100 votes in the Senate – means, however, that this review and weighing can only take place if partisans are forced to bring their own to account.
Most Senate Republicans have said they are unwilling to make their oath in defense of the US Constitution a higher priority than their loyalty to the party’s former president. Last week 45 of them, including minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Voted for a Kentucky Republican Rand Paul resolution claiming the impeachment of a former president was unconstitutional. Paul’s argument was absurd – the constitution in no way prohibits accountability to ex-presidents. But the vote provided a measure of Republicans’ resistance to holding Trump accountable.
A prudent and predictable approach is unlikely to lose the 17 Republican votes it takes to convict Trump in the Senate. The impeachment managers of the house need to raise the stakes. Calling Trump to testify does that. And it is certain that Raskin and his colleagues will continue to push the envelope.
Trump’s confident challenge puts this process into perspective not only for members of the Senate, but for all Americans.
The senators will serve as a jury, but since this is a political process, the people can influence the deliberations of these senators. The more clarity Raskin and his colleagues bring to the process – either by questioning Trump or by pointing out the negative conclusions that result from a refusal to testify – the better. When Americans are horrified enough by what they will see and hear next week, and when they share their indignation with reluctant Republican senators, accountability becomes an option.
Also for Donald John Trump.