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Rep. Jamie Raskin On Impeachment


Here is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday announcing the start of formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump.


NANCY PELOSI: Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.

KING: As she said, the next step is the articles of impeachment. They will define the scope of the charges against the president. On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear presentations of evidence from House Judiciary and Intelligence Committee lawyers. But the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, is already raising a big concern.


DOUG COLLINS: Whether we agree with the end result or not, that's the one thing that I think if I was looking at it from an outsider to the Democrats, say - you may have your case and you might want to impeach, but at the end of the day, if people don't believe what you're doing is fair, then it doesn't matter.

KING: Representative Collins was talking to my colleague Mary Louise Kelly on All Things Considered yesterday. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland is a Democrat. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee. He's with us now. Good morning, sir.

JAMIE RASKIN: Good morning.

KING: So your colleague Doug Collins is saying, the American people need to believe that you have gone about this process fairly, or the outcome is going to be tainted; people will be shaken. What do you say to that?

RASKIN: Well, it has been fair. You know, I was in those closed-door depositions, and I saw the majority lawyer get an hour for questioning and the minority lawyer get an hour for questioning. And then our members got time to question, and their members got time to question. So it's been scrupulously, meticulously fair from the beginning.

And, you know, unfortunately, our colleagues don't like the hand they've been dealt by the president's outrageous misconduct, and so they don't want people focusing on what Donald Trump actually did in shaking down the Ukrainian government to come and get involved in this presidential election in America. So they keep whining about the process, but the process has really been fair from Day 1.

KING: Let's talk a bit more about process. Constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley was one of the scholars who testified before the Judiciary Committee this week. Here's what he told my co-host Rachel Martin yesterday.


JONATHAN TURLEY: They should have subpoenaed and gone to court over people like John Bolton and gotten a court order. That would make it a stronger case.

KING: I mean, he's saying, you're moving too fast. Why not go to court? Why not get the testimony of people like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and give Congress the opportunity to make that stronger case?

RASKIN: Look - we have demonstrated heroic patience in the face of the most extraordinary and wholesale obstructionism by the White House that Americans have seen in our entire history. We have never before had a president who has committed such obstruction, withholding of evidence, blockading of witnesses in an impeachment or in oversight activity, generally. So I know that the other side would like to tie us up for the next several months and the next several years or decades in court, but we're simply not going to play on that schedule.

KING: Let me follow up on that because Mr. Turley also said something very simply - he said, no one has said why this needs to be done by December. Can you answer that simple question simply? Why does it need to be done by the end of December?

RASKIN: Well, look - as a fellow professor of constitutional law - this is what I did for a quarter century before I ran for Congress - I was quite amazed by the performance of Mr. Turley, who was a witness in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, for impeaching Bill Clinton, which was done in record time. At this point in the proceedings during the Clinton impeachment, they'd already impeached him for telling one lie about sex.

We've got a president who engaged in the absolutely unprecedented activity of going to a foreign country and withholding foreign aid to a democratic ally desperate for the aid in order to get them to come and get involved in this presidential election, to assist the president in his reelection prospects. So the idea that somehow we're in a rush to judgment is just completely off base.

KING: One of the arguments, also, that Republicans are making is that some of you just haven't liked this president from the beginning; you've wanted him out. Immediately after President Trump won the election, you raised objections in Congress, you and a small handful of others, about the Electoral College process. Do they have a point here?

RASKIN: Well, of course they have a point. I mean, when they, you know, impeached Bill Clinton, we knew that they didn't like him. In fact, the people who voted to impeach Richard Nixon didn't like him. But that's not the...

KING: You're admitting you don't like the president.

RASKIN: Well, but - actually, as a person, I feel pity for Donald Trump. I can't even say I don't like him. I mean, I am having problems with my Republican colleagues who continue to enable a president who engages in such criminal and corrupt conduct, but all of that is the wrong conceptual question. The question is whether or not he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the people of the United States.

So it's not a policy difference. Of course I differ with him about whether or not parents and children should be separated at the border, and I differ with him about pulling out of the Paris climate accord and so on. But that's not why he's being impeached; he's being impeached because he totally violated his oath of office by betraying the national security of the country and our election by trying to entice a foreign government to get involved in our campaign.

KING: Just very briefly - what do you say to an American voter who voted for President Trump and feels that their vote is at risk of being reversed by this process?

RASKIN: Well, the reason that the founders of the Constitution put impeachment in the Constitution is because they wanted us to have government of the people, and this is an exercise in popular self-government. We can't wait for an election to happen to debate the constitutionality of the president's actions when the president's actions undermine the integrity of the election itself.

KING: Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Thank you so much for being with us.

RASKIN: Delighted to be with you.

KING: And I want to briefly bring in NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Claudia, I wonder - what are you hearing from inside the Democratic caucus about their strategy on impeachment? Do they all agree on the way to move forward?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Well, they're not all exactly on the same page. Overall, Democrats do want to move through this process, wrap it up by year's end. They don't want it to run into the 2020 election year. And so there could be a couple Democrats that do not support the idea of wrapping it up this quickly or will vote for articles of impeachment when that vote comes, we're expecting, by the end of the year. But overall, they're looking at moving through this expeditiously and focused on the timeline of Judiciary Committee wrapping this up next week and taking this historic vote the week of the 16, before the holidays.

KING: And when Congress goes home for holiday recess, do we know what kind of reception they could face?

GRISALES: Yeah, so Democrats like Jamie Raskin will probably get a positive reception in Maryland and other bluer districts, but those from more moderate districts could have more of an uphill battle in terms of convincing their constituents this was the right thing to do.

KING: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.