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House Judiciary Dem Explains Impeachment For Those Who Slept Through Civics

"What it means is we have a president who can operate with impunity and immunity. He is able to cover up his crimes. That's a very dangerous precedent to set," Raskin said.
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Former law professor and House Judiciary committee member Jamie Raskin led an impromptu civics class on All In With Chris Hayes last night.

Hayes started by saying Republican had a "ghost of a point" about how impeachment was being handled, and asked about the committee's role.

"We're going to look at what the Founders mean by having impeachment in the Constitution. We know the electoral college meets every four years. Why did they decide to have impeachment in there? They wanted the people to have a last instrument of constitutional self-defense against a president who acts like a king and tramples the rule of law," Raskin said.

"It is all about getting rid of the kings. it was all kings and queens and election and corruption and treachery and war by the kingdoms for power. Congress wanted to create on a different principle. It was the king, the queen and the clergy and on the bottom was the people. And our founders flipped it upside down and said 'We, the people.' We started it that it way. The Framers put in every conceivable safeguard to make sure the president would not become like a king."

"You're using this originalist framework. What about when someone says, i don't care what the Founders thought. Why does it matter to me? Why should I care when I'm a nurse or a real estate professional and I don't like Donald Trump. What is the bite of what he has done in the life of the Republic and my life as a citizen?" Hayes asked.

Raskin explained that the whole point is the common people, "not a money making operation for one guy and his royal family. It is not an opportunity for a president to expand his business empire and to work with tyrants and despots around the world. It is supposed to be an instrument for the common good. It is supposed to be to advance the common good. To provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare. The blessings of liberty. That's the preamble of our Constitution, and it flows into Article One which says the legislative power is vested in Congress. It is up to Congress to be the people. Commerce, war, naturalization, copyright. And then you get on Article Two and it is four short sections. One is about impeaching the president who forgets what his job is. What is his real job? To take care that the law is faithfully executed," Raskin said.

"The difference between presidency as a public trust for the general welfare, the joint Constitutional conception, versus using it as a private get-rich-quick operation. Or a private means of machine power that we've seen. like corrupt ward bosses," Hayes said. "Is that the case that you anticipate making? 'Cause that's broader than what I understand is coming down the pipe from intel about Ukraine."

Raskin said we needed a nation civics lesson into what our Constitution is about.

"The Congress was charged with the power of promoting the general welfare. It is Congress that passes the laws. The president's job to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Why do we have the power to impeach the president and he doesn't have the power to impeach us? The framers of the Constitution wanted to put the people and their representatives in charge. What we're about to embark on is not about crime and punishment. Donald Trump would not to go jail for one day under an impeachment. It is making sure that the government is working for the people and not for the private interests of the president, here or anywhere else."

Raskin explained how the impeachment hearings differ from the Mueller report, which was about the 2016 election.

"This was very different with the Ukraine shakedown," he said. "It was happening in real-time. The president wasn't delegating to it Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., he was doing it himself. He was the one on that July 25th phone call. He was the one who sent Rudy Giuliani and his team of operatives to shake down the Ukrainian government. So all of this happened in real-time. Attorney General Barr was not able to cover it up, and so this is the most vivid demonstration of how they're doing business in the Trump White House."

Hayes wondered if this was the only time Trump extorted another country.

"If it isn't, I would like to have the facts about what the back channel of Turkey is like and Saudi Arabia is like, and a variety of other foreign policy moves the president has made through the back channels. They've been incredibly friendly to states that have left people scratching their heads. John Bolton told a private group of people, he thinks financial interests are driving it. That's John Bolton. That's what he said in a private dinner," Hayes said.

"As a political observer who has watched for several years in Congress, as the one-man crime wave. He has more than 3,000 lawsuits that he's embroiled in. When he was in private business, he did not pay the contractors and he didn't pay the plumbers and he didn't pay the carpenters. He didn't pay anybody and there's lots of litigation there. With unions, and on and on. We're not gonna be able to do all of that here. But what we can do is determine whether there were high crimes and misdemeanors," Raskin said.

He concluded, "Whatever you think about the shakedown itself, whether you think it was bribery, extortion or something else. Those are offenses against the state. Whatever you think, everybody should be opposed to the president being able to obstruct. What it means is we have a president who can operate with impunity and immunity. He is able to cover up his crimes. That's a very dangerous precedent to set."

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