Plea for Senate Winter Patriots
“What is impeachable conduct, if not this?" asked Rep. Jamie Raskin (right) yesterday. (Art by NBC News)
Whether the United States Senate convicts or acquits former President Donald J. Trump of incitement of insurrection, the impeachment trial documents the take-over of the Capitol through the meticulous efforts of the prosecution who rested their case yesterday.
At a time, when a shared reality is a notion from the past for Americans, the historical importance cannot be underestimated of the prosecutors’ compilation of videos, audio, security camera footage, police body camera film, and Trump tweets and addresses.
After the initial shock on January 6, there had been rumblings from some Republican lawmakers that the riot was not that bad. The two days of arguments by the prosecution showed us that not only was it that bad, it was unimaginably worse.
The four-hour siege took the lives of five people, wounded 140 officers and endangered the lives of hundreds of legislators who ran and hid for their lives. Two police officers committed suicide later that month. In the trial evidence, the mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after they made a gallows and searched for him shortly after Trump tweeted his displeasure with the then-vice president for not invalidating the votes in the election, which Trump lost in November. The terrorists also looked for “crazy Nancy” Pelosi, the House Speaker. They seemed keyed up to harm other lawmakers and the officers themselves, who frantically called for backup.
The prosecution showed chronological links between Trump’s words, action and inaction with the events of the insurrection. In addition, prosecutors revisited past events that paved the way, such as Trump’s approval of his supporters trying to run off the road in Texas a vehicle of Biden supporters and the siege at Michigan’s capital with plans to kidnap the governor.
Representative Jamie Raskin (Democrat-Maryland), lead impeachment manager, said:
“What greater offense could one commit than to incite a violent insurrection of government during the peaceful transfer of power, to provoke a mob to attack us with weapons, with sticks, with poles; bludgeon and beat our law enforcement officers, deface these sacred walls and to trash the place . . . keeping us from our rights and sit back in delight.”
Foreseeing a key defense argument on February 12, one which had been presented on opening day, the prosecution argued against Trump’s right to free speech in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“They are offering an erratically different version of what happened that day,” said Raskin. “An alternative reality. But you are here to adjudicate real events.”
He said that there would be smokescreens and that with Trump, “up is down and wrong is right.”
“Now he argues that the Congress is violating his free speech rights when it was Donald Trump who incited an insurrection attack against us that halted speech and debate on the floor of the House and the Senate during the peaceful transfer of power and that imperiled the very constitutional order that protects freedom of speech in the first place along with all of our other fundamental rights.
“It’s a matter of law: it’s a matter of logic. … It should be common sense.”
Public servants, such as teachers, cops and firefighters, can be fired if they advocate totalitarianism, Raskin said. Trump, himself, fired people in government jobs because he did not like what they said.
“Justice Scalia said: ’You can’t ride with the cops but root with the robbers.’
“Our president must choose the side of the Constitution and not the side of the insurrection. There is nothing in the Constitution that can excuse (his) betrayal of office.”
Not only can Trump not use free speech as a defense, Raskin said that even if he were “just
another guy at the rally, “nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did what Donald Trump did”.
He pointed out that the seditious mob accounted for less than 1 percent of the population. Most Americans reject the violence of that day. He added that this was not a criminal trial. If convicted, Trump would not face prison. He would be disqualified from holding public office. Raskin said that he was not afraid of Trump running again but of him running again and losing.
“Voltaire said, famously: ‘I may disagree with everything you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.’ President Trump says because I disagree with everything you say, I will overturn your popular election and incite insurrection against the government.”
Raskin said a fellow student asked his teacher when the Enlightenment began. His teacher answered that it was when Voltaire said, “One who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Trump’s defense also had cited on Tuesday the unjust swiftness of the impeachment on January 13, one week after the Capitol siege. Representative Ted Lieu (Democrat-California), impeachment manager, responded:
As for the delayed article of impeachment, Lieu said that the House was ready to begin trial, but the Senate was not in session. And the House was told that if the clerk tried to deliver the article when Senate was not in session, the clerk would be turned away.
“We expect process objections,” said Lieu. “The House has the power to decide its own rules. . . . When you see a crime committed in plain view, prosecutors don’t have to take months. . . . The Senate has sole power to try impeachment. President Trump has received due process.”
Representative Joe Neguse (Democrat-Colorado), impeachment manager, said that in order to show that Trump incited insurrection, he would show that violence was foreseeable, that the 45th president encouraged violence, and that he acted willfully.
“When Donald Trump stood up to that podium on January 6, he knew that many were armed. Violence on that day was entirely foreseeable. We’ve shown you how President Trump spread that lie (of a stolen election) and inflamed part of his base. After he lost the election, the president was willing to do just about anything to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”
Trump called Georgia election officials "enemies of the state" when they would not find him votes, said Neguse, “not to mention his own Attorney General who said that a stolen election is bs, not my words, his. We recounted how President Trump inflamed his supporters with lies. . . . Nothing is more sacred in this country than our right to vote. Our voice. And here you have the president telling his supporters that (their votes had been discounted). We showed you the rallies, the tweets:
"´You must fight to win it back. You must never surrender.’
“Each time that his supporters showed violence, he endorsed it, he encouraged it.”
After the Texas highway incident of campaigners, Trump made a joke of it. Also, he praised a violent Maga rally and spent $50 million on ads to promote his three core messages: The Big Lie: The Election Was Stolen; Stop the Steal, and Fight Like Hell to Stop the Steal.
“Was violence predictable on January 6?” said Neguse. “Absolutely. It was widely recognized at the time. There were dozens, hundreds of signs. People at the (Capitol) rally took it as a serious call to arms.”
Neguse said that Trump acted willfully in that he never condemned the attack, he never condemned the attackers, and he never said he would send help.
“He cared more about pressing his efforts to overturn the election than he did about saving lives. Our lives,” said Neguse. “Instead, he issued messages that sided with the insurrectionists.”
Raskin asked, “What is impeachable conduct, if not this?
“I hope we can all agree that that is an impeachable crime. If you don’t find this to be high crimes and misdemeanors (allegations of misconduct by officials), you have set a new terrible standard for misconduct of the president of the United States. We believe that we have shown you overwhelming evidence in this case for anyone using common sense that this was incitement. It is dangerous for us to ignore this.
“Senators, the evidence is clear. We proved that President Trump incited an insurrection, an insurrection that he alone had the power to stop. The fact that he did not stop it, that he further inflamed the mob, more than requires conviction and disqualification. If you don’t, if we pretend that this didn’t happen, who’s to say it won’t happen again”.
Raskin added: “We put constitutionality to bed on Tuesday. I hope that the defense will focus like a laser beam on the facts and not return to the constitutionality argument, not because it’s frivolous and wrong but because it is not relevant to the case.”
“We need to exercise our common sense. Let’s not get caught up in outlandish lawyers’ theories.”
Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlet, Common Sense, which inspired the American Revolution, said Raskin. It was a tough time for our country when we did not know whether we would win against a king at a time when most rulers were monarchs and tyrants.
Raskin ended his presentation with a Thomas Paine quote from The Crisis edited for a modern audience at the suggestion of Nancy Pelosi:
“These are the times that try men’s and women’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their cause and their country; but everyone who stands with us now will win the love and favor and affection of every man and every woman for all time. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, but we have this consolation: the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory.
“Thank you. Good luck in your deliberations.”