Read Democrat Jamie Raskin's closing argument in impeachment trial of Donald Trump

The lead impeachment manager called Trump the "inciter in chief."

February 13, 2021, 4:26 PM

Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md., delivered a searing closing speech on Saturday as the House impeachment managers pushed to convict former President Donald Trump in the Senate.

Despite the speech, Trump was not convicted. As expected, only seven Republicans voted to convict and 17 would have been needed to flip sides to get the two-thirds needed for conviction.

Here is the full speech delivered by Raskin:

It was suggested by defense counsel that Donald Trump's conduct during the attack, as described in Congresswoman [Jaime Herrera] Beutler's statement, is somehow not part of the constitutional offense for which former President Trump has been charged. I want to reject that falsehood and that fallacy immediately. After he knew that violence was underway at the Capitol, President Trump took actions that further incited the insurgents to be more inflamed and to take even more extreme, selective and focused action against Vice President Mike Pence.

Former President Trump also, as described by Congresswoman Buetler's notes, refused requests to publicly, immediately and forcefully call off the riots. And when he was told that the insurgents inside the Capitol were Trump supporters the president said, "Well Kevin [McCarthy], I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

Think about that for a second. This uncontradicted statement that has just been stipulated as part of the evidentiary record. The president said, "Well Kevin, I guess these people" -- meaning the mobsters, the insurrectionists -- "are more upset about the election than you are." That conduct is obviously part and parcel of the constitutional offense that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection, that is continuing incitement to the insurrection.

The conduct described not only perpetuated his continuing offense, but also provides to us here today further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place.

When my opposing counsel says that you should ignore the president's actions after the insurrection began, that is plainly wrong and it, of course, reflects the fact that they have no defense to his outrageous, scandalous and unconstitutional conduct in the middle of a violent assault on the Capitol that he incited. Senators, think about it for a second.

Say you light a fire. And you're charged with arson. And the defense counsel says everything that I did after the fire started is irrelevant and the court would reject that immediately and say that's not true at all. It's extremely relevant to whether or not you committed the crime. If you run over and try to put out the flames, if you get lots of water and say, "Help, help, there's a fire." If you call for help, a court will infer that -- could infer that -- you didn't intend for the fire to be lit in the first place. They would accept your defense, perhaps, that it was all an accident, accidents happen with fire. But if, on the other hand, when the fire erupts, you go and you pour more fuel on it, you stand by and you watch it, gleefully, any reasonable person will infer that you not only intended the fire to start, but that once it got started and began to spread, you intended to continue to keep the fire going.

PHOTO: House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 13, 2021.
House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 13, 2021.

That's exactly where we are, my friends. Of course your conduct, while a crime is ongoing, is relevant to your culpability.

Both to the situation of the offense, but also directly relevant, directly illuminating to what your purpose was originally, what was your intent? And any court in the land would laugh out of court any criminal defendant who said, "What I did after I allegedly killed that person is irrelevant." To whether or not I intended to kill them. I mean, come on. Donald Trump's refusal not only to send help, but also to continue to further incite the insurgence against his own vice president, his own vice president, provides further decisive evidence of both his intent to start this violent insurrection and his continued incitement once the attack had begun to override the Capitol. All right. Senators, that was in response to this new evidence evidentiary article that came in.

But I, in my closing, I want to thank you for your remarkable attention and your seriousness of purpose befitting your office. We have offered you overwhelming and irrefutable and certainly unrefuted evidence that former President Trump incited this insurrection against us.

To quote the statement Rep. Liz Cheney made in January, "On January 6th 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our republic." She continued, Rep. Cheney continued, "Much more will become clear in coming days and week, but what we know now is enough. The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled this mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.

None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by the president of the United States of his office, and of his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the president.

Rep. Cheney was right; she based her vote on the facts, on the evidence, and on the Constitution. In evidence, the video, documentary, eyewitnesses only grown stronger and stronger and more detailed, right up till today, right up to 10 minutes ago over the course of this Senate trial and I have no doubt that you all noticed that despite the various propaganda reels and so on, President Trump's lawyers have said almost nothing to contest or overcome the actual evidence of the former President Trump's conduct that we presented -- much less have they brought their client forward to tell us his side of the story.

We sent him a letter last week, which they rejected out of hand. The former president of the United States refused to come and tell us. And I ask any of you, if you were charged with inciting violent insurrection against our country and you were falsely accused, would you come and testify? I know I would. I'd be there at 7 in the morning waiting for the doors to open. I'm sure that's true of 100 senators in this room. I hope it's true of 100 senators in this room. The Senate was lectured several times yesterday about cancel culture. Well, not even two weeks ago the president's most reliable supporters in the house -- I'm sorry, not the president, the former president's most reliable supporters in the House tried to cancel out Rep. Cheney because of her courageous and patriotic defense of the republic and the truth and the Constitution.

They tried to strip her of her leading role as chair of the House Republican Conference. But you know what? I hope everybody takes a second to reflect on this. The conference rejected this plainly retaliatory and cowardly attempt to punish her for telling the truth to her constituents -- to her constituents and her country -- in voting for impeachment. Who says you can't stand up against bullies? Who says?

In my mind, Liz Cheney is a hero for standing up for the truth, and resisting this retaliatory cancel culture that she was subjected to. But she beat them on a vote of 145-61. More than 2-to-1 vote.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., heads to the House floor to vote at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., heads to the House floor to vote at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

You know, Ben Franklin, a great champion in the enlightenment, an enemy of political fanaticism and cowardice, once wrote this: "I have observed that wrong is always growing more wrong until there is no bearing it anymore. And that right, however opposed, comes right at last." Comes right at last. Think about that. This is America. Home of the brave. Land of the free. The America of Ben Franklin who said if you make yourself a sheep the wolves will eat you. Don't make yourself a sheep. The wolves will eat you. The America of Thomas Jefferson, who said it at another difficult moment, "A little patience and we shall see the rain of witches pass over their spirits dissolve and the people recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles."

The America of Tom Payne who said, "The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark." Now we showed you hour after hour of real time evidence demonstrating every step of Donald Trump's constitutional crime. We showed you how he indoctrinated the mob, how the election he lost by more than 7 million votes, in 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, which he had described as a landslide when he won by the exact same margin in 2016, actually a landslide victory for him being stolen away by a bipartisan conspiracy and fraud and corruption.

We showed you how 61 courts and 88 judges, federal, state, local, trial, appellate, from the lowest courts in the land to the United States Supreme Court across the street and eight federal judges he himself named to the bench, all found no basis in fact or law for his outlandish and deranged inventions and concoctions about the election.

In the meantime, President Trump tried to bully state level officials to commit a fraud on the public by trying to find votes. We examined the case study of Georgia, where he called to threaten to find him 11,780 votes. That's all he wanted, he said, 11,780 votes. Don't we all? 11,780 votes, that's all he wanted to nullify [Joe] Biden's victory and to win the election. [Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger] ended up with savage death threats against his family, telling him he deserved a firing squad.

Another election urged Trump to cut it out or people would get hurt and killed -- a prescient warning indeed. He supported Donald Trump, gave him money and now Trump threw us under the bus. We saw what happened in Lansing, Michigan, with the extremist mob he cultivated that led to two shocking Capitol sieges and a criminal conspiracy by extremists to kidnap and likely assassinate Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer, trying to get state legislatures to disavow and overthrow their popular election results and replace them with Trump electors, the process of summoning the mob, reaching out, urging people to come to Washington for a wild time.

As we celebrate Presidents Day on Monday, think, imagine, is there another president in our history who would urge supporters time to Washington for a wild time? You saw how he embraced violent extremist elements like the Proud Boys who were told in a nationally televised presidential candidate debate to "stand back and stand by," which became their official slogan as they converged on Washington with other extremist and seditionist groups and competed to be the stormtroopers of the attack on this building.

PHOTO: House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin speaks on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the Capitol, Feb. 13, 2021.
House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin speaks on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the Capitol, Feb. 13, 2021. via Getty Images

You saw the assembly of the mob on Jan. 6. And how beautiful that angry mob must have looked to Donald Trump as he peered down from the lectern with the seal of the president of the United States of America emblazoned on it. That crowd was filled with extremists in tactical gear, armed to the teeth, and ready to fight, and other brawling MAGA supporters, all of them saying "stop the steal right now." And he said he was going to march with them to the Capitol, even though the permit for the rally specifically forbade a march. But he said he would march with them -- giving them more comfort that what they were doing was legitimate. It was OK. But of course he stayed back as he presumably didn't want to be too close to the action at the Capitol as the lawyers called it, not an insurrection, they urged us yet, it's an action.

He didn't want to be too close to the action when all hell was about to break loose. Now, incitement, as we have discussed, requires an inherently fact-based evidentiary inquiry and this is what we did. We gave you many hours of specific factual details about -- to use Congresswoman Cheney's words, how the president sued the mob, assembled the mob, incited it, lit the match, sending them off to the Capitol where they thought, as they yelled out, that they'd been invited by the president of the United States. And then of course they unleashed unparalleled violence against our overwhelmed and besieged but heroic police officers who you thoughtfully honored yesterday when the officers got in their way as they entered the Capitol at the behest of the president of the United States to stop the steal.

Now I'm convinced most senators must be convinced by this overwhelming and specific detail, because most Americans are, but say you still have your doubts, you think the president really thought that he was sending his followers to participate in a peaceful, non-violent rally? The kind that might have been organized by Julian Bond, who my distinguished opposing counsel brought up, Ella Baker, Bob Moses, our late beloved colleague John [Lewis], for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Maybe the president really thought this was going to be like the March on Washington, organized by Bayard Rustin and Dr. Martin Luther King, saying nonviolence the answer to the moral questions of our time.

So let's say you're still flirting with the idea that Donald Trump's conduct was totally appropriate, as he proclaimed right off the bat, and he's the innocent victim of a mass accident or a catastrophe, like a fire or flood, as we were invited to frame it on our opening day by distinguished co-counsel or opposing counsel. And you think, "Maybe we're just looking for somebody to blame for this nightmare and catastrophe that has befallen the republic, we're just looking for someone to blame."

Well, here's the key question then in resolving your doubts, if you’re in that category: How did Donald Trump react when he learned of the violent storming of the Capitol, and the threats to senators, members of the House, and his own vice president as well as the images he saw on TV of the pummeling and beating and harassment of our police officers? Did he spring into action to stop the violence, and save us?

Did he even wonder about his own security, since an out-of-control anti-government mob could come after him, too?

Did he quickly try to get in touch with, or denounce the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the rally organizers, the save America rally organizers, and everyone on the extreme right to tell them that this was not what he had in mind -- it's a big mistake, call it off, call it off, call it off as Rep. Gallagher begged him to do on national television? No. He delighted in it. He revelled in it. He exulted in it. He could not understand why the people around him did not share his delight.

And then a long period of silence ensued while the mob beat the daylights out of police officers and invaded this building as you saw on security footage and proceeded to hunt down Vice President Mike Pence as a traitor, and denounced and cursed Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi -- both of whom you heard mob members say they wanted to kill. They were both in real danger. And our government could have been thrown into absolute turmoil without the heroism of our officers and the bravery and courage of a lot of people in this room.

PHOTO: House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, speaks after the Senate reached a deal to skip witness testimony during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate.
House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, speaks after the Senate reached a deal to skip witness testimony during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate.
Senate Television via AP

Here's what Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio said, a former pro football player, "We are imploring the president to help, to stand up, to help defend the United States Capitol, the United States Congress, which is under attack, we are begging essentially," and he was nowhere to be found, nowhere to be found. And as I've emphasized this morning, that dereliction of duty, that desertion of duty, was central to his incitement of insurrection, and inextricable from it, inextricable. Bound together. It reveals his state of mind that day. What he was thinking as he provoked the mob to violence. And further violence, it shows how he perpetuated his continuing offense on Jan. 6.

His course of conduct charged in the article of impeachment -- impeachment, as he further incited the mob during the attack, aiming it at Vice President Mike Pence himself, while failing to quell it in either of his roles as commander in chief or his real role that day, inciter in chief.

And it powerfully demonstrates that the ex-president knew, of course, that violence was foreseeable, that it was predictable, and predicted that day, since he was not surprised and not horrified, no, he was delighted. And through his acts of omission and commission that day, he abused his office by siding with the insurrectionists at almost every point, rather than with the Congress of the United States, rather than with the Constitution.

In just a moment my colleague Mr. [David] Cicilline will address President Trump's conduct, his actions and inactions, his culpable state of mind during the attack, as he will establish yesterday's explosive revelations about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's desperate call to Trump, and Trump's truly astounding reaction confirm, that Trump was doing nothing to help the people in this room or this building, it's now clear beyond doubt that Trump supported the actions of the mob.

And so he must be convicted. It's that simple. When he took the stage on Jan. 6 he knew exactly how combustible the situation was. He knew there were many people in the crowd who were ready to jump into action to engage in violence at any signal that he needed them to fight like hell, to stop the steal and that's exactly what he told them to do and then he aimed them straight here, right down Pennsylvania [Avenue] to the Capitol, where he told them the steal was occurring, the counting of the Electoral College votes and we all know what happened next.

They attacked this building, they disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, they injured and killed people, convinced that they were acting on his instructions, and with his approval, and protection. And while that happened, he further incited them, while failing to defend us.

If that's not ground for conviction, if that's not a high crime and misdemeanor against the republic in the United States of America, then nothing is. President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people.

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