Transcript for Jamie Raskin makes opening arguments
Thank you very much Mr. President. Distinguished members of the senate. Good afternoon. My name is Jamie raskin it's my honor to represent people Maryland's eight congressional district in the house and also to serve as lead house manager. And Mr. President we will indeed reserve time for rebuttal thank you. Because I don't have professor of constitutional law for three decades I know there are a lot of people who are. Dreading endless lectures about the Federalist papers here please breathe easy OK I remember well. WH autumn's line that a professor is someone who speaks well other people are sleeping. You will not be hearing extended lecture is for me. Because our case. Is based. On hold it hard. Facts. It's a poll about the facts. The president trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop this and that from hearing the facts. Of this case. They want to called the trial over. Before any evidence is even and introduces. There argument is that if you committed impeachable offense. In your last few weeks in office you do it with constitutional all. Impunity. You get away with it. In other words. Conduct there would be a high crime and misdemeanor. In your first year as president. And your second year as president. And your third year as president. And for the vast majority of your fourth here as president you can suddenly too in your last few weeks in office. Without facing any constitutional accountability at all. This would create a brand new January exception. To the constitution. Of the United States. Of America. I January exception. And everyone can see immediately why this is so dangerous. It's an invitation to the president to take his best shot. It anything he may want to do on his way out the door including. Using violent means to lock that door. To hang on to the Oval Office at all costs. And to block. The peaceful transfer. Of power in other words the January exception. He's an invitation. To our founders' worst nightmare. If we buy this radical argument. The president Trump's lawyers advance. We risk allowing January 6. To become our future. And what will that mean for America. Think about it. What will the January exception mean to future generations if you granted if the president's arguments for a January exception Arab hell. And even if everyone agrees. That he's culpable for these events. Even if evidence proves. As we think it definitively does. That the president incited a violent insurrection. On the day congress met. To finalize the presidential election. He would have you believe there is absolutely nothing this and it can do about it no trial. No facts he wants you to decide that the senate is powerless. Picked up points. The campy writer. The transition of power is always the most dangerous moment for democracies every historian would tell you that. We just thought the most astonishing way we lived through it and you know what the framers of our constitution new age. That's why they created a constitution within both ridden he insurance dead behind the president from his very first day in office. Until his very last day in office and every day in between. Under that constitution. And under that. The Fred the president United States is forbidding to commit high crimes and misdemeanors against the people that any points. That he's in office. Indeed. That's one specific reason the impeachment conviction and disqualification powers exist. To protect us against presidents who tried to overrun. The power of the people in their elections. And replace the rule of law. With the ruled mobs. These powers must applied even if the president commit his offenses in his final weeks in office. In fact that's precisely when we need them the most. Because that's mine elections. Get a tax. Everything that we know about the language of the constitution. The framers original understanding intense. Prior senate practice. In common sense. Confirms that this rule. Let's start with the text of the constitution. Which an article one section two gives the house. The sole power of impeachment. When the president commits high crimes and misdemeanors. We exercise that power on January 13. The president it is undisputed. Committed his offense while he was president. And it is undisputed that we impeached him why oh he was president. There can be no doubts that this is a valid and legitimate impeachment. And there can be no doubt that the senate has the power to try this impeachment BNP impeachment. We know this because article one section three gives the senate the sole power to try. All. Impeach its. The senate has the power the sole power to try. All impeachment it's all means all in there no exceptions to the rule. Because the senate is jurisdiction to try all impeachment it most certainly has jurisdiction to try this one. It's really that simple. The vast majority of constitutional scholars who study the question. In waiting on the proposition being advanced by the president this January exception. Heretofore unknown. Agree with us in that includes the nation's most prominent conservative. Legal scholars. Including two former tenth circuit judge Michael McConnell. The co-founder of the Federalist society Stephen Keller breezing. Ronald Reagan solicitor general Charles freed. Culinary Washington lawyer. Charles Cooper. Among hundreds of other constitutional lawyers and professors. I commend did that the people I named to there read their recent writings to you. In the newspapers over the last several days. And only keep precedence along with detailed explanation of the constitutional history and textual analysis. Appear in the trial brief we filed last week. And the reply brief that we filed very early this morning. I'll spare you a replay. But I want to highlight a few key points from constitutional history that strictly is compelling. In for closing president Tom's argument that there's a secret January exception hidden away in the constitution. The first point comes from English history. Which matters because it's a Hamilton road England provided the model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed. And would have been immediately obvious to anyone familiar with that history. That former officials could be held accountable for their abuses while in office. Every single impeachment. Of a government official did occurred during the framers lifetime concerned a former. Official. A former official. Indeed the most famous of these impeachment occurred while the fame framers gathered in Philadelphia. To write the constitution. It was the impeachment of warning Hastings. The former governor general of the British colony of Bengal. And that corrupt guy. The framers knew all about it. And they strongly supported the impeachment in fact Hastings case was invoked buying name at the convention. It was the only specific impeachment case that they discussed at the convention. He played a key role in their adoption of the high crimes and misdemeanors standard. And even though everyone they are surely do. Hastings had left office two years before is impeachment trial began not a single framer. Not only one raised a concern. When Virginian George Mason held the Hastings impeachment as a model for us in the writing of our constitution. The early state constitutions supported the idea to. Every single state constitution in the 1780s either specifically said that former officials could be impeached. We're were entirely consistent. With the idea. In contrast not a single state constitution. Prohibited. Trials. Of former officials as a result. There was an overwhelming presumption in favor of allowing legislatures to hold former officials accountable. In this way any departure from that. Norm would have been a big deal. And yet there's no sign anywhere that that ever happened some states including Delaware. Even confined impeachment. Only two officials who hardy left office. This confirms that removal was never seen as the exclusive purpose of impeachment in America. The goal was always. About accountability. Protecting society. And deterring official corruption. Delaware matters for another reason writing about. Impeachment in Federalist papers Hamilton explained that president. Of America would stand upon no better ground than a governor of new York and empire worst ground. Then the governors of Maryland and Delaware he does emphasize that the president. Is even more accountable that officials in Delaware where as I noted the constitution clearly allowed impeachment of former officials. And nobody involved in the convention ever said that the framers meant to reject this widely accepted. Deeply rooted understanding. Of the word impeachment. When they wrote it into our constitution. The convention debates instead confirm this interpretation. They are while discussing impeachment the framers repeatedly returned to the threat of presidential corruption is aimed directly at elections. The heart of self government. Almost perfectly anticipating. President from William Davey of North Carolina explained impeachment was for president whose spirit quote. No effort or means what ever. To get himself reelected Hamilton in Federalist one said the greatest danger to republics in the liberties. But the people comes from political opportunist who begin his demagogues. And and as tyrants. And the people. Who are encouraged to follow them. President trump may not know a lot about the framers. But they certainly knew a lot about him. Given the framers intense focus on danger to elections. And the peaceful transfer of power it is inconceivable. That they design impeachment to be a dead letter. In the president's final days in office. When opportunities to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. Would be most attempting and most dangerous as we just saw. Just as a matter of history and original understanding there is no merit. To that president Trump's claim that he can incite insurrection in and insist weeks later that the senate lacks the power. T even here evidence at a trial to even hold a trial. They're true rule we stated by former president John Quincy Adams. When he categorically declared. Our whole myself so long as I had the breath of life in my body. Amenable to impeachment by the house for everything I did during the time. I held. Any public office. When he comes up in a minute my colleague mr. makers of Colorado who further pursue the relevant senate precedents. In explain why. This bodies practice has been supported by the text of the constitution and mr. Sicily near Rhode island's would then respond to the fallacies. Presented by the president's council. In after these gentlemen speak I will return to discuss. The importance. The fundamental importance of the senate rejecting president Trump's argument. For the preservation. Of democratic self government. And the rule of law in the United States of America.
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