WASHINGTON — In the days leading up to Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial earlier this month, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, heard the same question a lot: Could he convince enough Democratic and Republican senators convict the former president? Doing so required a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which meant all 50 Democrats and at least 17 Republicans voting yes. Raskin said he believed the case against Trump was so strong he could do better than 67 votes.
“‘I think we can get to 100,'” he recalls telling people. “I think that we can make a proof that’s so overwhelming that they just give up.”
In the end, seven Republican senators voted yes. The final 57-43 tally was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in U.S. history but still 10 votes shy of a conviction. “I clearly had underestimated the absolute cowardice of these 43 Republican senators and their willingness to behave like members of a religious cult,” Raskin tells Rolling Stone.
With the trial still fresh in his mind, Raskin sat down on Thursday for an extended interview with Rolling Stone. A constitutional expert now in his third term in Congress representing the Maryland suburbs just outside Washington, D.C., Raskin talked about why he believes the impeachment trial was necessary and even a “decisive victory.” He also talked about taking charge of impeachment prosecution while still grieving the death of his son Tommy, and what it was like being at the Capitol during the violent January 6th insurrection.
Raskin says he knew going into the trial that this would be a legal proceeding like no other. The senators-turned-jurors who would decide Trump’s fate were witnesses to, and victims of, the crime, and a handful of Republican senators could be considered collaborators in that alleged crime. The courthouse was the crime scene. And the president’s alleged incitement happened in broad daylight, in real time, for all the world to see; to see the evidence, you only had to open your eyes.
At one point in the trial, the defense lawyers argued that Raskin, in seeking to convict Trump, was trying to create a new and unconstitutional legal standard. To which Raskin replied: No president in history has unleashed a mob on his own government. “Having exhausted every non-violent means of trying to stay in power, he decided to turn to a violent insurrection,” Raskin says. “Nothing like it has every happened in American history, from George Washington through Barack Obama.” Trump, he adds, is “a traitor and he’s a coward, and the country’s never lived with a figure like him before.”
Raskin says he was disappointed by the failure to convict Trump, but he believes the case made by him and the House impeachment managers resonated with the Republican senators, even the ones that voted no. “I could tell that McConnell was profoundly moved by the case that we put forward and was shocked by what the president had done.” He adds that he sees the trial and the outcome as a victory if not in the court of the U.S. Senate then “in the court of public opinion and in the court of history.” He tells Rolling Stone, “This will be the one event he is best known for throughout history, and he will be known as a liar, a traitor, and a coward for what he did to America.”