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House Managers Present Video Evidence in Case Against Trump; House Managers, Trump Defense Debate Constitutionality of Trial; House Impeachment Managers Present Case to Convict Trump; Historic Trial for Trump's Second Impeachment Begins. Aired. 1:30-2p ET.
Aired February 9, 2021 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people.
We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil, I know how you feel.
But go home and go home in peace.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: The Senators, the president was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 13th for doing that. You asked what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution, that's a high crime and misdemeanor. If that's not an impeachable offense then there is no such thing.
And if the president's arguments for a January exception are upheld then even if everyone agrees that he's culpable for these events. Even if the evidence proves, as we think it definitely does, that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalize the Presidential Election he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it.
No trial, no facts. He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at that point. That can't be right. The transition of power is always the most dangerous moment for Democracies.
Every historian will tell you that. We just saw it in the most astonishing way, we lived through it. And you know what the framers of our Constitution knew it. That's why they created a Constitution with an oath written into it that binds the president from his very first day in office until his very last day in office and every day in between.
Under that Constitution and under that oath the President of the United States is forbidden to commit high crimes and misdemeanors against the people at any point that he's in office.
Indeed that's one specific reason the impeachment conviction and disqualification powers exist. To protect us against presidents who try to overrun the power of the people in their elections and replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs.
These powers must apply even if the president commits his offenses in his final weeks in office. In fact, that's precisely when we need them the most because that's when elections get attacked. Everything that we know about the language of the Constitution, the framers original understanding and intent, prior Senate practice and common sense confirms this rule.
Let's start with the text of the Constitution; which in Article 1, Section 2 give the House the sole power of impeachment when the president commits high crimes and misdemeanors.
We exercised that power on January 13. The president, it is undisputed, committed his offense while he was president. And it is undisputed that we impeached him while he was president. There can be no doubt that this is a valid and legitimate impeachment.
And there can be no doubt that the Senate has the power to try this impeachment. We know this because Article 1, Section 3 gives the Senate the sole power to try all impeachments.
The Senate has the power, the sole power to try all impeachments. All means all and there are no exceptions to the rule. Because the Senate has jurisdiction to try all impeachments, it most certainly has jurisdiction to try this one.
It's really that simple. The vast majority of Constitutional scholars who have studied the question and weighed in on the proposition being advanced by the president, this January exception here to for unknown, agree with us. And that includes the nation's most prominent conservative legal scholars including former 10th Circuit Judge, Michael McConnell.
The co-founder of the Federalist Society, Steven Calabresi; Ronald Reagan Solicitor General, Charles Fried; Luminary Washington lawyer, Charles Cooper; among hundreds of other Constitutional lawyers and professors. I commend the people I named their recent writings to you in the newspapers over the last several days.
And all the key precedents (ph) along with detailed explanation of the constitutional history and textural analysis appear in the trial brief we filed last week and the reply brief that we filed very early this morning.
I spare you a replay, but I want to highlight a few key points from Constitutional history that strike me as compelling in foreclosing President Trump's argument that there's a secret January exception hidden away in the Constitution. The first point comes from English history, which matters because as Hamilton wrote England provided the model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed.
And it would have been immediately obvious to anyone familiar with that history that former officials could be held accountable for their abuses while in office. Every single impeachment of a government official that occurred during the framers lifetime concerned a former official - a former official.
Indeed the most famous of these impeachments occurred while the framers gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution. It was the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the Former Governor General of the British Colony of Bengal and the corrupt guy.
The framers knew all about it and they strongly supported the impeachment. In fact the Hastings case was invoked by name at the convention. It was the only specific impeachment case that they discussed at the convention. It played a key role in their adoption of the high crimes and misdemeanors standard.
And even though everyone there surely knew that Hastings had left office two years before his impeachment trial began, not a single framer, not one raised a concerned when Virginian George Mason held up the Hastings impeachment as a model for us in the writing of our Constitution.
The early state Constitutions supported the idea too. Every single state Constitution in the 1780s either specifically said that former officials could be impeached where we're (ph) entirely consistent with the idea.
In contrast, not a single state Constitution prohibited trials of former officials. As a result there was an overwhelming presumption in favor of allowing legislatures to hold former officials accountable in this way.
Any departure from that norm would have been a big deal and yet there's no sign anywhere that that every happened. Some states, including Delaware, even confined impeachment only to officials who had already left office.
This confirms that removal was never seen as the exclusive purpose of impeachment in America. The goal was always about accountability, protecting society and deterring official corruption.
Delaware matters for another reason; writing about impeachment in the Federalist Papers, Hamilton explained that the President of America would stand upon no better ground than the Governor of New York and upon worse ground than the Governors of Maryland and Delaware.
He thus emphasized that the president is even more accountable than officials in Delaware where, as I noted, the Constitution clearly allowed impeachment of former officials.
And nobody involved in the convention ever said that the framers meant to reject this widely accepted, deeply rooted understanding of the word impeachment when they wrote it into our Constitution.
The convention debates, instead confirm this interpretation. There while discussing impeachment the framers repeatedly returned to the threat of presidential corruption aimed directly at elections, the heart of self government.
Almost perfectly anticipating President Trump, William Davie of North Carolina explained impeach was for a president who spared quote, "no effort or means whatever to get himself re-elected."
Hamilton and Federalist 1 said the greatest danger to republics and the liberties of the people comes from political opportunist who begin as demagogues and end as tyrants and the people who are encouraged to follow them.
President Trump may not know a lot about the framers but they certainly knew a lot about him. Given the framers intense focus on danger to elections and the peaceful transfer of power, it is inconceivable that they designed impeachment to be a dead letter in the president's final days in office when opportunities to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power would be most tempting and most dangerous as we just saw.
Thus is a matter of history and a regional understanding. There's no merit to President Trump's claim that he can incite insurrection and then insist weeks later that the Senate lacks the power to even hear evidence at a trial to even hold a trial.
The true rule was stated by former President John Quincy Adams when he categorically declared, "I hold myself, so long as I have the breath of life in my body, amenable to impeachment to by the House for everything I did during the time I held any public office."
When he comes up in a minute my colleague, Mr. Neguse of Colorado, will further pursue the relevant Senate precedence and explain why this body's practice has been supported by the text of the Constitution and Mr. Cicilline of Rhode Island will then respond to the fallacies presented by the president's counsel.
And after these gentlemen speak, I will return to discuss the importance -- the fundamental importance of the Senate rejecting President Trump's argument for the preservation of Democratic self government and the rule of law in the United States of America.
I now will turn it over to my colleague, Mr. Neguse of Colorado.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: Do I have to recognize him. No, OK.
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO), IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Mr. President, distinguished senators; my name is Joe Neguse and I represent Colorado's second congressional district in United States Congress. Like many of you I'm an attorney. I practiced law before I came to Congress, tried a lot of different cases, some more unique than others.
Certainly never a case is as important as this one. Nor a case with such a heavy and weighty constitutional question for you all to decide. Thankfully as Lead Manager Raskin so thoroughly explained, the framers have answered that question for you -- for us.
And you don't need to be a constitutional scholar to know that the argument President Trump asks you to adopt is not just wrong, it's dangerous. And you don't have to take my word for it.
This body, the world's greatest deliberative body, the United States Senate, has reached that same conclusion in one form or another of the past 200 years in multiple occasions that we'll go through.
Over 150 constitutional scholars, experts, judges, conservative, liberal, you name it; they overwhelmingly have reached the same conclusion that of course you can try, convict, and disqualify a former president.
And that makes sense because the text of the constitution makes clear there is no January exception to the impeachment power that presidents can't commit grave offenses in their final days and escape any congressional response. That's now how our Constitution works.
Let's start with the president with what has happened in this very chamber.
I'd like to focus on just two cases. I'll go through them quickly. One of them is the nation's very first impeachment case, which actually was of a former official.
In 1797, about a decade after our country had ratified our Constitution there was a senator from Tennessee by the name of William Blount who was caught conspiring with the British to try to sell Florida and Louisiana.
Ultimately President Adams caught him. He turned over the evidence to Congress. Four days later the House of Representatives impeached him. A day after that, this body, the United States Senate expelled him from office. So he was very much a former official.
Despite that, the House went forward with its impeachment proceeding in order to disqualify him from ever again holding federal office. And so the Senate proceeded with the trial with none other than Thomas Jefferson preceding.
Now Blount argued that the Senate couldn't proceed because he had already been expelled. But here's the interesting thing. He expressly disavowed any claim that former officials can't ever be impeached.
I mean unlike President Trump, he was very clear that he respected and understood that he could not even try to argue that ridiculous position. Even impeached Senator Blount recognized the inherent absurdity of that view. Here's what he said, "I certainly never shall contend that an officer may first commit an offense and afterwards avoid by resigning his office." That's the point. And there was no doubt because the founders were around to confirm that that was their intent and the obvious meaning of what is in the Constitution.
Fast forward 80 years later, arguably the most important precedent that this body has to consider, the trial of former secretary of war, William Belknap. I'm not going to go in all the details but just in short, in 1876 the House discovered that he was involved in a massive kickback scheme.
Hours before the House Committee had discovered this conduct, released its report documenting the scheme, Belknap literally rushed to the White House to resign. Tender his resignation of President Ulysses Grant to avoid any further inquiry into his misconduct and of course, to avoid being disqualified from holding federal office in the future.
Well, later that day, aware of the resignation, what did the House do? The house moved forward and unanimously impeached him, making clear its power to impeach a former official.
And when his case reached the Senate, this body, Belknap made the exact same argument that President Trump is making today. That you all lack jurisdiction, any power to try him because he's a former official.
Now many Senators at that time when they heard that argument, literally they were sitting in the same chairs you all are sitting in today. They were outraged by that argument, outraged. You can read their comments in the record.
They knew it was a dangerous, dangerous argument with dangerous implications. It would literally mean that a president could betray their country, leave office, and avoid impeachment and disqualification entirely.
And that's why in the end the United States Senate decisively voted that the Constitution required them to proceed with the trial. The Belknap case is clear precedent that the Senate must proceed with this trial since it rejected pre-trial dismissal affirmed its jurisdiction and moved to a full consideration of the merits.
Now Belknap ultimately was not convicted but only after a through public inquiry into his misconduct, which created a record of his wrong doing. It insured his accountability and deterred anyone else from considering such corruption, by making clear that it was intolerable.
The trial served important constitutional purposes. Now, given that precedent that I've described to you, given all that that president imparts, you could imagine my surprise, Lead Manager Raskin's surprise when we reviewing a trial brief filed by the president in which his council insists that the Senate actually didn't decide anything in the Belknap case.
They say, it's not my words, I'll quote from their trial brief, it cannot be read as foreclosing an argument that they never dealt with. Never dealt with?
The Senate didn't debate this question for two hours, the Senate debated this very question for two weeks. The Senate spent an additional two weeks deliberating on the jurisdictional question and at the end of those deliberations they decided decisively that the Senate has jurisdiction and that it could proceed, that it must proceed to a full trial.
And by the way, unlike Belknap, as we know, President Trump was not impeached for run-of-the-mill corruption, misconduct. He was impeached for inciting a violent insurrection.
An insurrection where people died, in this building. An insurrection that desecrated our seat of government. And if Congress were just to stand completely aside in the face of such an extraordinary crime against the Republic, it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability.
And none of us -- I know this, none of us, no matter our party or our politics wants that.
Now, we've gone through the highlights of the precedent and I think it's important that you know as Lead Manager Raskin mentioned that scholars overwhelmingly who have reviewed this same precedent have all come to the same conclusion, that the Senate must hear this case.
Let's go through just a few short examples. To start, all of us, I know, are familiar with the Federalist Society. Some of you may know Steven Calabresi personally. He's the co-founder of the Federalist Society. He actually was the chairman of the board in 2019. He was the first president of the Yale Federalist Society chapter board, a position that I understand Senator Hawley later held.
Here is what Mr. Calabresi has to say. On January 21st, he issued a public later -- a public letter, excuse me, stating, "Our carefully considered views of the law lead all of us to agree that the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction and disqualification of former officers including presidents." And by the way, he's not the only one, as Lead Manager Raskin said.
President Reagan's former solicitor general among many others.
Another prominent conservative scholar known to many of you, again, personally is former 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, my circuit, Judge Michael McConnell. He was nominated by President George W. Bush. He was confirmed by this body unanimously.
Senator Hatch, many of you served with, he had this to say about Judge McConnell, that he's an honest man, he calls it as he sees it and he's behold to no one and no group. Well, what does Judge McConnell have to say about the question that you're debating this afternoon? He said the following, given the impeachment of Mr. Trump was legitimate, the text makes clear that the Senate has power to try the impeachment. You heard Lead Manager Raskin mention another lawyer, Chuck Cooper, he's a prominent conservative lawyer here in Washington.
Has represented former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he issued an editorial just two days ago. Very power, observing that scholarship and this question has matured substantially and that ultimately the arguments that President Trump is championing are beset by serious weaknesses.
Finally, I -- we've gone through a lot scholars, I'll just -- I'll finish on this one. There's another scholar that I know some of you know and some of you have actually spoken with recently.
Up until just a few weeks ago he was a recognized champion -- champion of the view that the Constitution authorizes the impeachment of former officials, and that is Professor Jonathan Turley. Let me show you what I mean.
These are his words. First, in a very detailed study, thorough study he explained that, quote, "The resignation from office does not prevent trial on articles of impeachment." That's Professor Turley's words.
Same piece he celebrated (ph) the Belknap trial, he described it as corrective measure that helped the system regain legitimacy. He wrote another article, he's written several on this topic, this one is actually -- it's 146-page study, very detailed.
And in that study he said, quote, "That the decision in Belknap was correct in its view that impeachment historically had extended to former officials, such as Warren Hastings," who you heard Lead Manager Raskin describe.
In fact, as you can see, Professor Turley argued that the House could have impeached and the Senate could have tried Richard Nixon after he resigned. His quote on this, very telling, quote, "Future presidents could not assume that mere resignation would avoid a trial of their conduct in the United States Senate."
Finally, last quote from Professor Turley, that no man in no circumstance can escape the account, which he owes to the laws of his country.
Not my words. Not Lead Manager Raskin's words, Professor Jonathan Turley's words. I agree with him, because he's exactly right. Now, a question one might reasonably ask after going through all those quotes from -- from such noted jurists and scholars, why is there such agreement on this topic?
Well the reason's pretty simple. Because it's what the Constitution says. I want to walk you through three provisions of the Constitution that make clear that the Senate must try this case. First, let's start with what the Constitution says about Congress' power in Article I. You heard Lead Manager Raskin make this point, but it's worth underscoring, Article I, Section 2 gives the House sole power of impeachment. Article I, Section 3 gives the Senate the sole power to try all impeachments.
Now, based on President Trump's argument one would think that language includes caveats, exceptions, but it doesn't. It doesn't say impeachment of current civil officers, it doesn't say impeachment of those still in office.
The framers didn't mince words, they provided express absolute unqualified grants of jurisdictional power to the House to impeach and to the Senate to try all impeachments, not some, all.
Former Judge McConnell, the judge that we talked about earlier, he provides very effective textual analysis of this provision. You can see up here on the slide and I'll just give you the highlight. He says, and I'll quote, this is Judge McConnell, "Given that the impeachment of Mr. Trump was legitimate, the text makes clear that the Senate has power to try that impeachment."
Now again, here is what -- it's pretty interesting, to me at least, I -- when we presented this argument in our trial brief, which we filed over a week ago, but we laid it out, again, step-by-step so that you could consider it and so that opposing counsel could consider it as well.
We received President Trump's response yesterday and the trial brief offers no rebuttal to this point, none. And in fairness I can't think of any convincing response. I mean the Constitution is just exceptionally clear on this point.
Now perhaps they will have something to say today about it, but they did not yesterday. There is another provision worth mentioning here, because there's been a lot confusion about it, and I'm going to try to clear this up. It's the provision on removal and disqualification.
Now we all know the Senate imposes a judgment only when it convicts. Up on the screen you'll see Article I, Section 3, Clause 7. So, with that in mind, the language says that the Senate convicts the judgment shall not extend further than removal and disqualification. That's it.
The meaning is clear, the Senate has the power to impose removal, which only applies to current officials, and separately it has the power to impose disqualification, which obviously applies to both current and former officers, but it doesn't have the power to go any further than that.
Now as I understand President Trump's argument, they believe that this language somehow says that disqualification can only follow removal of a current officer. But it doesn't. That interpretation essentially rewrites the Constitution; it adds words that aren't there.
I mean, after all, the Constitution does not say removal from office and then disqualification. It doesn't say removal from office followed by disqualification. It simply says the Senate can't do more than two possible sentences - removal and disqualification.