The emotional high point of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial probably came in its first hours.
Closing out the opening presentation from the Democratic House managers, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland offered a powerful speech in which he choked back tears as he recalled the attempted coup of January 6. The speech was poignant for personal reasons—as members of Congress know, and as my colleague John Hendrickson wrote last month, Raskin’s son, Tommy, had died by suicide just days before the insurrection—and because, no matter how heartfelt it was, it is unlikely to have much effect on Trump’s expected acquittal. (Indeed, later in the afternoon, the Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with the trial—only one Republican having been swayed by the day’s argument to reverse his vote from an earlier procedural motion.)
But Raskin’s speech framed the attack on the Capitol fomented by Trump not just as a technical matter or a violation of law, but as a violation of something the nation holds sacred.
Raskin recalled the horror of January 6. “All around me people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones, to say goodbye,” he said. But his focus was not on the fear he and others felt but on what was left after the riot. Raskin described two low points from that day. One was his daughter’s reaction. She had come to the Capitol and taken shelter under a table, fearing for her life. After the rioters were expelled, Raskin apologized and told her it wouldn’t be like this the next time she visited the Capitol.