As Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment commenced in the Senate on Tuesday, lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin delivered a powerful opening argument combining poignant personal testimony with damning evidence of the former president’s incitement of the deadly January 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives.”
—Rep. Jamie Raskin
Raskin (D-Md.) began the Senate trial by screening a harrowing 13-minute video showing footage of the January 6 attack interspersed with clips of the former president’s lie-filled incitement of the insurrectionists.
“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” said Raskin. “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.”
Raskin then recounted how his daughter and son-in-law had accompanied him to the Capitol on January 6 so that their family could remain close as they grieved the loss the congressman’s 25-year-old son Tommy, who took his own life on New Year’s Eve and was buried the previous day.
In emotional recounting, Rep. Jamie Raskin says members of his family hid under a desk during the Capitol siege, “placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes. They thought they were going to die.” https://t.co/Lau7kmD368 pic.twitter.com/oVkxJmttgm
— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2021
As the pro-Trump mob closed on the Congress floor and lawmakers heard “the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram”—which Raskin called the “most haunting sound I ever heard”—the Maryland Democrat said he was unable to reach his relatives, who were barricaded in a nearby office “hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes.”
“They thought they were going to die,” he said.
After being reunited with his relatives, Raskin said he apologized. “I hugged them and I told my daughter Tabitha, who’s 24… how sorry I was… and I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me.” He choked up as he recalled her heartbreaking reply.
“Dad,” she said, “I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.”
This is heartbreaking. Rep. Raskin’s daughter told him she didn’t want to come to the Capitol again after she was caught in the insurrection.
Raskin had buried his son Tommy the day prior. pic.twitter.com/w4uBGrHBe1
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) February 9, 2021
“Of all the terrible things I saw and heard on that day and since then, that one hit me the hardest,” a tearful Raskin said. “That, and watching someone use an American flag pole, the flag still on it, to spear and pummel one of our police officers, ruthlessly, mercilessly, tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life.”
“People died that day,” Raskin continued. “Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives.”
“Senators, this cannot be our future,” he asserted. “This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.”
Raskin’s remarks moved many observers—including Trump defense attorney Bruce Castor.
“I’ll be quite frank with you,” Castor said in his opening argument, “we changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done.”