The lead House impeachment manager for the Democrats, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, used his opening remarks Tuesday to frame the case against former president Donald Trump in starkly personal terms.
In an emotional address during which he broke down in tears at one point, Raskin spoke about the officials and their loved ones who were present at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — from lawmakers to police officers to reporters to janitors — before the violent mob arrived.
“I hope this trial reminds America how personal democracy is,” he said, “and how personal is the loss of democracy, too.”
Raskin recounted how he had brought his daughter, Tabitha, and her sister’s husband, Hank, with him that day to watch Congress meet to officially certify Joe Biden’s victory as president. Just a day earlier, on Jan. 5, the family had buried Raskin’s son, Tommy, who died by suicide on Dec. 31, 2020. “They wanted to be together with me in the middle of a devastating week for our family,” Raskin told the gathered senators.
The member of Congress described how his daughter had concerns about the “Stop the Steal” rally Trump had encouraged his supporters to attend, but said he assured her not to worry. “I told them, of course it should be safe,” he recounted. “This is the Capitol.”
After his children watched Raskin’s speech, they were ushered back to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office. But when the mob invaded the building, Raskin said it was too late for him to safely get to them.
“All around me, people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones to say goodbye,” he recounted. “Members of Congress in the House were removing their congressional pins so they wouldn’t be identified by the mob as they tried to escape the violence.”
Raskin recounted the “haunting sound” of people banging on the doors of the House chamber as his children and his chief of staff texted loved ones, thinking they could die.
It took an hour for them to be rescued and reunited with Raskin.
“I told [Tabitha] how sorry I was, and I promised her it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me,” said Raskin. “You know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.'”
“Of all of the terrible, brutal things that I saw and that I heard on that day and since then, that one hit me the hardest,” he said, wiping away tears.
Tuesday is the first day that senators are meeting to hear evidence in the impeachment case against Trump for inciting the insurrection. The trial is expected to last about a week.
Democrats opened their case against the former president with a 13-minute video compiling shocking scenes from that day as well as clips of the former president encouraging the mob to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
Raskin also railed against what he said were arguments from Trump’s attorneys and their Republican supporters that the impeachment trial was moot because the former president has now left office.
He said this would in essence create a “January exception” where outgoing presidents could commit any high crimes and misdemeanors and not be held accountable.
“As a matter of history and original understanding,” Raskin said, “there is no merit to President Trump’s claim that he can incite an insurrection and then insist weeks later that the Senate lacks power to even hear evidence at a trial, to even hold a trial.”