Key House Dem Raskin urges Pelosi to stand her ground against a 'farce' Senate trial


Jamie Raskin

A House Democrat who played a key role in the impeachment of President Trump says the House should not “roll over” and quickly present the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial that would amount to a “farce.” 

“We’re not going to participate in a process that makes a mockery out of the Constitution,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, who presented the panel’s case for impeachment to the House Rules Committee. Raskin has been widely mentioned as a candidate to be one of the House managers to prosecute the case in an impeachment trial in the Senate. “We are not gonna roll over and say, yeah, you can give us some drive-through justice with one afternoon where everything is dealt with on a motion to dismiss and no evidence is heard.

“My position is that, so long as they do not make the most minimal provisions for a fair trial, then we should not participate in a farce.” 

Although Raskin emphasized he was speaking for himself, his comments on the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast illustrate the competing pressures House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under from her own caucus in the aftermath of the historic vote to impeach the president, which was supported by virtually all House Democrats — and not a single Republican. Public opinion among registered voters shows a narrow (50-45) plurality favoring impeachment, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

After the passage of the two articles of impeachment on Wednesday evening — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — Pelosi has held off presenting them to the Senate, citing doubts that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will permit a “fair” trial. McConnell has said he will coordinate his efforts with the White House and has made up his mind not to vote for conviction. Removal of the president requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which Republicans control by a 53-47 margin.

Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are seeking testimony from key witnesses with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president to conduct investigations that could help him politically. Former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are among those he has said he would like to call. 

Pelosi’s move — as the House adjourned for a two-week holiday break on Thursday — has created a new layer of uncertainty over when, or even if, the Senate will actually try the president. Republicans have already jumped over Pelosi’s tactics, accusing her of political gamesmanship that undermines the solemnity with which Democrats presented the case against the president. 

But Raskin, one of the House’s more progressive members, says it is McConnell’s own comments — vowing to work with White House lawyers to ensure the acquittal of the president — that have made a mockery of impeachment.

“To say that you’re not going to look at the evidence or the facts would get you disqualified from every jury pool in the United States of America,” Raskin said. “If you were in a voir dire and the judge said to you, ‘Will you pay attention to the facts? Will you pay attention to the evidence? Will you pay attention to the law?’ and you say, ‘No. I’ve already made up my mind,’ you would be dismissed immediately.”

Bolton, Mulvaney and Pompeo were blocked from appearing before the House during its impeachment hearings by a White House claim that any conversations they had with the president were shielded by executive privilege. Trump’s defenders say the House could have tried to compel their testimony by subpoena. But the certainty that White House lawyers would have fought those subpoenas all the way up to the Supreme Court would have put off action until well into next year, Raskin said.

“It just takes a very long time.”

Raskin acknowledged that impeachment by its nature is both a judicial and political process — and that Pelosi’s maneuvering is intended at least in part to put public heat on McConnell to accede to the demand for witnesses. 

“We want the country to put serious pressure on the Senate to conduct the trial with seriousness,” Raskin said. “And the polls show, for example, on the question of witnesses, that even though I think only 51 percent or 52 percent of the people are declaring themselves right now in favor of impeachment and removal, like 70 percent of the people are saying, ‘Yes, the president should make all witnesses available.’”

Removing Trump from office (a step beyond impeachment) had the support of just under half (49 percent) of registered voters in the Yahoo News/YouGov poll. On the factual basis for the two articles of impeachment, 53 percent of registered voters said Trump abused his power in demanding help from Ukraine; only 40 percent said he did not. Fifty-one percent said the president obstructed Congress; again, only 40 percent said he did not.

How effective Pelosi’s strategy will be is far from clear. While President Trump is seeking a quick Senate trial in January so he can proclaim vindication as he runs for reelection, McConnell has suggested he is happy to forget the whole thing. “Do you think this is leverage, to not send us something we’d rather not do?” he said to reporters this week. And with those words, noted New York Times reporter Carl Hulse, the Senate majority leader “cracked a broad smile outside the Senate chamber in a departure from his usual dour expression.”

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