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Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin discusses impeachment strategy, memories of his late son during CNN appearance

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) speak to each other at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.
Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) speak to each other at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who will lead the prosecution of President Donald Trump during an eventual second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, appeared on CNN Sunday morning to explain some of the strategy behind the latest impeachment of the 45th president, who is set to leave office Wednesday.

Asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper on his “State of the Union” show Sunday morning why Congressional leaders should even bother to hold a trial for the president after he leaves office, Raskin called Trump’s actions the “most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America.”

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“I don’t think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent where every president on the way out the door has two weeks or three weeks or four weeks to try to incite an armed insurrection against the Union or organize a coup against the Union, and if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator, and if it fails, he’s not subject to impeachment or conviction because we just want to let bygones be bygones,” said Raskin, a Democrat who represents parts of Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties.

With the trial, Democratic congressional leaders also aim to prevent Trump from holding future public office. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump alongside their Democratic colleagues.

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The president has been charged with inciting insurrection against the U.S. government after his supporters raided the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6, threatening members of Congress as they attempted to certify the presidential election results in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.

Five people died in the insurrection — one Trump supporter who was shot by law enforcement after breaching an area near the House of Representatives chamber, one police officer and three others who suffered medical emergencies during the chaos.

The articles of impeachment cite Trump’s conduct in the hours before the riot, when he gave a speech to the crowd, urging them to march up to the Capitol and “fight like hell” against fraudulent results.

House leaders haven’t yet brought the impeachment charges to the Senate, where a trial would be held. That’s partially because the Senate won’t come back into session until Tuesday, the day before Biden’s inauguration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring the Senate back earlier for an emergency session to consider the charges.

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“The Senate has not been in session and so the speaker is organizing the formal transfer of the articles,” said Raskin, referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “It should be coming up soon. I know the speaker also considers the president a clear and present danger to the republic.”

After the inauguration, though, Democrats will take control of the Senate, with new Vice President Kamala Harris presiding over the chamber. That will allow them to exert more control over the proceedings. In last year’s impeachment trial, for instance, Republican leadership didn’t allow witnesses to be called.

“Obviously, we’re not going to be able to tell everyone’s story, but we’re going to be able to tell the story of this attack on America and all of the events that led up to it,” Raskin said.

That story will include mention of Trump’s repeated attempts to cast doubt on the election results before the January riot. The president’s legal team pursued numerous challenges to the election but failed to prove any fraud altered the results. Meanwhile, Trump took bemoaned a “stolen” election on social media and encourages his followers to flock to D.C. on Jan. 6.

Trump also attempted to pressure officials in key states in hopes of overturning Biden’s victory. In a Jan. 2 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for instance, Trump urged him to “find” enough votes to award him the state’s Electoral College votes.

“The fact that it was deliberated and planned and premeditated underscores the leadership and the complicity of Donald Trump in all of these events,” Raskin said. “He was out propagandizing his followers, as you say, for months — first to prepare them that his loss would have to be a fraud.”

A White House spokesman could not be reached Sunday for reaction to Raskin’s remarks.

No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. But a conviction is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.

In an emotional second half of the 20-minute interview, Raskin discussed his late son Tommy Raskin, who died by suicide in December after battling depression.

Memories of the younger Raskin, a passionate animal and human rights advocate, a poet and a 25-year-old law student at Harvard University, have motivated the congressman’s impeachment fight.

“I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country, my republic, in 2021,” Raskin said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Raskin said he agreed to lead the impeachment effort despite his immense grief because of his devotion to constitutional law, and with his son’s memory in mind.

“I’ve devoted my life to the Constitution, and to the republic,” Raskin said. “I’m a professor of constitutional law. But I did it, really, with my son in my heart, and helping lead the way. I feel him in my chest. When we went to count the electoral college votes and it came under that ludicrous attack, I felt my son with me.”

Raskin spoke about watching his son endure depression, encouraging those who are in crisis to seek help, like the national suicide prevention lifeline: 800-273-8255.

“We can get people through this,” Raskin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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