Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment supervisor, eviscerated ex-President Donald Trump’s protection that First Amendment free speech rights defend him from punishment for inciting a mob to assault the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“They present President Trump as merely like a guy at a rally expressing a political opinion we disagree with, and now we’re trying to put him in jail for it,” Raskin stated of Trump’s authorized crew. “That has nothing to do with the reality of these charges or his constitutional offense.”
“The factual premise and legal underpinnings of that argument are all wrong,” he added.
The president of the United States, Raskin emphasised, isn’t “merely like a guy at a rally.” Instead, he’s a public official who occupies essentially the most highly effective elected federal workplace within the nation. In accepting this workplace, he’s required underneath the Constitution to take the oath of office to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“Undoubtedly, a private person can run around on the street expressing his or her support for the enemies of the United States and advocating the overthrow of the United States government,” Raskin argued. “You’ve got a right to do that under the First Amendment.”
He continued: “But if the president of the United States [is] doing that ― uttering the exact same words, expressing support for the enemies of the United States and for overthrowing the government ― is there anyone here who doubts that this would be a violation of his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?”
“If you’re president of the United States, you’ve chosen a side with your oath of office,” Raskin added. “And if you break it, we can impeach, convict, remove and disqualify you permanently from holding any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”
In closing his argument, Raskin quoted the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who, in a dissent in Rankin v. McPherson, stated, “you can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers.”
Raskin famous that over 150 constitutional students dismissed Trump’s First Amendment protection as “legally frivolous” in a public letter. Among the signatories of the letter are conservative luminaries like Federal Society co-founder Steven Calabresi and President Ronald Reagan’s solicitor common Charles Fried.
In their letter, these constitutional students argued that the First Amendment has no utility in an impeachment trial, which isn’t a legal trial — and that even when it did, the president could be tried for violating his oath of workplace. They additionally argued that Trump’s incitement to violence on Jan. 6 isn’t even protected speech to start with.
Raskin additionally famous that many Americans might even see Trump’s assertion by way of the lens of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ oft-quoted (and misquoted) choice in U.S. v. Schenck, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” (Holmes’ choice in Schenck was overturned 40 years later and is no longer applicable.) But Raskin stated that the favored Holmes quote didn’t come near describing what Trump did on Jan. 6.
“This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. It’s more like a case where the town fire chief, who’s paid to put out fires, sends a mob not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire,” Raskin stated.
This “fire chief” ought to face punishment, he argued — however confronted with removing from workplace, Trump “says we’re violating his free speech rights just because he’s pro-mob or pro-fire or whatever it might be.”
“Come on,” Raskin stated with a smirk. “You don’t really need to go to law school to get what’s wrong with that argument.”
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