Representative Jamie Raskin: ‘It Was a Scene of Absolute Terror and Mayhem’

Representative Jamie Raskin: ‘It Was a Scene of Absolute Terror and Mayhem’

Representative Jamie Raskin: ‘It Was a Scene of Absolute Terror and Mayhem’

It’s time for Congress to reassert itself as the government’s most powerful branch, the lead impeachment manager told The Nation

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Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a constitutional law professor who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, knew immediately that Donald Trump’s incitement to insurrection on January 6 necessitated a second impeachment. That clarity led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to name him as the lead manager for Trump’s impeachment for “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” On Monday night, Raskin delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate, where Trump’s trial is set to begin on February 9. 

Raskin, who is grieving the December 31 suicide of his 25-year-old son, Tommy, and had family members with him at the Capitol when it was attacked, has been a profile in courage and grace in the first jarring first weeks of 2021. We spoke on the day the House of Representatives voted, 232-197, to impeach Trump.

—John Nichols

JN: Why, in your view, did the January 6 attack on the Capitol necessitate a second impeachment?

JR: We came dangerously close to the overthrow of the US government by an armed insurrectionary mob hell-bent on stopping us from counting the Electoral College votes, as was our constitutional duty. The vote-counting process was delayed by more than six hours as members and staff and family members were evacuated and people were hiding under desks. We heard people trying to bash in the doors 20 feet away from where we were. We were forced to don gas masks, and it was a scene of absolute terror and mayhem.

I’ve got to say, of all of the attempts to synthesize responsibility for this, it’s still Liz Cheney, the head of the Republican Conference, who put it best. She said, “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the 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 a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

JN: Congress had to act.

JR: Of course. The framers inscribed impeachment into the Constitution because they wanted it to be the people’s final and decisive instrument of constitutional self-defense against a president who runs roughshod over the Constitution and acts like a mad king. We have one of those now, and oddly, Republicans keep talking about how we tried to impeach him before—as if that’s somehow a sharp criticism against us. On the contrary, we have been warning about this from the beginning. We have a president who is completely lawless and ungovernable in his conduct.

JN: Do you think there’s a greater recognition of the need to assert the role of the legislative branch as a check and balance on the executive?

JR: Absolutely…. There’s a reason that the people’s branch is in Article I of the Constitution. We have the power to impeach a lawless president. He does not have the power to impeach us. Now is the moment for us to stand up and to strongly reassert Congress as the dominant branch of the US government.

JN: Will strengthening the 25th Amendment be a part of that?

JR: I hope so. That also relates to the separation of powers and the continuity of government. As you know, John, I first introduced a bill to create a 25th Amendment body back in 2017, when I first entered Congress. That body could have acted in this crisis without simply asking Vice President Pence to go to the cabinet. So that is something I think we absolutely need to do. Obviously, it’s irrelevant to the resolution of the current crisis, but at least people’s minds have been concentrated on the necessity of treating it seriously.

JN: How have you managed to grieve, openly and warmly, for your son while taking up vital work for the republic?

JR: I am carrying the spirit and compassion of Tommy Raskin with me in my heart every day, along with the love of my family and friends and colleagues and the hopes and dreams of my constituents. I am fortified in this struggle against fascism.

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