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Raskin: No First Amendment defense to impeachment

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Lead House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin argues in the Senate trial of Donald Trump that there is no First Amendment defense against the impeachment charge. "The First Amendment does not create some superpower immunity," Raskin said. (Feb. 11)

Video Transcript

JAMIE RASKIN: There is no First Amendment defense to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea itself is absurd. And the whole First Amendment smokescreen is a completely irrelevant distraction from the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors governing a president who has violated his oath of office.

Yet, President Trump, we know, has a good way of treating up as down and wrong is right. He tried to pull off the biggest election fraud in American history by overturning the results of the 2020 election, even as he insisted that his own fraud was, in fact, an effort to stop the steal, to stop a fraud, a vast conspiracy that he blamed on local and state officials of both political parties, the media, election officials, the judiciary, federal, state, members of Congress, many others. Anybody who wouldn't go along with them was part of the conspiracy.

Now, he argues that the Congress is violating his free speech rights when it was Donald Trump who incited an insurrectionist attack against us that halted speech and debate on the floor of the House and the Senate during the peaceful transfer of power and that imperiled the very constitutional order that protects freedom of speech in the first place, along with all of our other fundamental rights. As a matter of law, it's a matter of logic. President Trump's brazen attempt to invoke the First Amendment now won't hold up in any way.

And there's no risk of jail time. Let's be clear about that. The president doesn't go to jail for one week, one day, one hour or one minute based on impeachment and conviction and disqualification from further office. Rather, I mention it to emphasize that absolutely nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.

Nobody made Donald Trump run for president and swear an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution on January 20, 2017. But when he did, by virtue of swearing that oath and entering this high office, he took upon himself a duty to affirmatively take care that our laws would be faithfully executed under his leadership.

First Amendment does not create some super power immunity from impeachment for a president who attacks the Constitution in word and deed while rejecting the outcome of an election he happened to lose.

There's no merit whatsoever to any of the free speech rhetoric, the empty free speech rhetoric you may hear from President Trump's lawyers. He attacked the First Amendment. He attacked the Constitution. He betrayed his oath of office. Presidents don't have any right to do that. It's forbidden, so that our republic may survive. The people are far more important than that.

The precedent he asked you to create, which would allow any future president to do precisely what he did, is self-evidently dangerous. And so there can be no doubt, none at all, the president lacks any First Amendment excuse or defense or immunity. He incited a violent insurrection against our government. He must be convicted.