Raskin defends no witnesses deal: ‘I made the call’
The lead prosecutor in the impeachment case against former President Trump is defending the decision to agree to a deal that resulted in no witnesses being called for the trial just after a Senate vote that allowed them.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager and a constitutional expert, said he alone made the decision not to press for new witness testimony in the case, even after the impeachment managers had forced the Senate to vote to allow that very thing.
But Raskin said he had no contact with President Biden, Vice President Harris or anyone else in the White House before the impeachment managers agreed to a deal with Trump’s defense allowing a new statement to be entered into the record, but no new witness depositions.
“I made the call,” he said. “So you want to blame somebody [it’s me].”
The prosecutors’ decision not to follow through on their initial effort to secure new witnesses in the trial sparked a firestorm among liberal activists on Saturday.
But Raskin, who has received rave reviews from Democrats and compliments from Republicans for his work in the trial, argued just after the acquittal that no number of witnesses would have convinced Trump’s Republican defenders in the Senate to hold him responsible for last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump in a 57-43 vote, 10 votes shy of the necessary two-thirds majority for a conviction.
Still, Democrats won seven GOP votes, a higher number than expected. Raskin and others repeatedly noted it was the most bipartisan vote for a conviction in the history of a presidential impeachment trial.
“We could have had 500 witnesses and it would have not have overcome the kinds of arguments being made by Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who were hanging their hats on the claim that it was somehow unconstitutional,” Raskin told reporters in the Capitol.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had signed off on the initial strategy of calling new witnesses after new details emerged surrounding Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Raskin said Democrats got exactly what they wanted out of the parley with Trump’s defense Saturday morning: namely, Democrats were able to enter into the trial record a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), one of 10 House Republicans who had supported Trump’s impeachment, calling on more Republicans to come public with information about Trump’s actions while the Capitol was under siege on Jan. 6.
“We tried this case as aggressively as we could on the law and on the facts,” he said. “We got from the president’s lawyers exactly what we wanted.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), while critical of Trump’s actions on and leading up to Jan. 6, adopted the defense’s argument that Congress simply lacks the authority to impeach a president who is no longer in office.
Democrats had rejected that premise. And Pelosi was quick to point out that House Democrats had tried to conclude the impeachment process while Trump was still in the White House, but McConnell had refused to bring the recessed Senate back to Washington in time to do so.
“You chose not to receive it,” she said. “It was not the reason that he voted the way that he did; it was the excuse that he used.”
Pelosi also rejected the idea, floated by certain senators of both parties, that Congress could censure Trump, which requires only a simple majority in the Senate. She said it was a punishment so lenient that it would represent “a slap in the face of the Constitution.”
“It lets everybody off the hook,” she said. All these cowardly senators who couldn’t face up to what the president did, and what was at stake for our country are now going to have a chance to give a little slap on the wrist.”
Pelosi gave herself a little slap on the wrist.
“We censure people for using stationary for the wrong purpose,” she added, referring to an episode that led Republicans to censure former Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). “We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol.”
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