Emotions at the Impeachment

Lawyer Bruce Castor in a screenshot from ABC News coverage of the trial.


The genuine emotion on the first day of the impeachment trial, today, came from US Representative Jamie Raskin, of Maryland’s 8th District, who is the lead manager for the second impeachment of Donald Trump.

Raskin’s opening statement was calm, succinct, and plainly-worded. “Because I’ve been a professor of constitutional law for three decades, I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist Papers here,” he said at the start. “Please breathe easy. Okay? I remember well W. H. Auden’s line that a professor is someone who speaks while other people are sleeping.”

He spoke directly, using facts, for about 14 minutes, to the point that “as a matter of history and original understanding, there is no merit to President Trump’s claim that he can incite an insurrection and then insist weeks later that the Senate lacks the power to even hear evidence at a trial, to even hold a trial.”

When he finished, Rep. Joe Neguse and Rep. David Cicilline, impeachment managers, spoke. Then Raskin returned to the podium and explained, for nine emotional minutes, that he, his daughter, and his son-in-law were in the Capitol when the mob breached the building.

“…I invited them…to come with me to witness this historic event, the peaceful transfer of power in America,” he said. Raskin had buried his son, a second-year student at Harvard Law, the day before, and now found himself listening to rioters use a battering ram against the door of chambers, as his children were locked in a colleague’s office elsewhere.

“The kids [were] hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes. They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said, his voice breaking with a parent’s outrage, grief, and helplessness at events. It was powerful.

Contrast that with the 33-minute ramble of Trump lawyer Bruce Castor that followed. (“The other day when I was down here in Washington, I came down earlier in the week to try to figure out how to find my way around, I worked in this building 40 years ago. I got lost then and I still do, but in studying the Constitution in all the years I was a prosecutor where so many things depend on interpretations of phrases in the Constitution, I learned that this body, which one of my worthy colleagues said is the greatest deliberative body in the entire world and I agree, that was … That particular aspect of our government was intentionally created if you read the Federalist Papers.”)

Castor’s suit did not fit well, and he looked nervous, used archaic metaphors (“horse trading”) and asked if we remembered record albums played with a needle, and made at least five odd jokes. (“[I]f we go down the road that my very worthy adversary here, Mr. Raskin, asks you to go down, the flood gates will open. I was going to say it will, instead of flood gates, I was going to say originally it will release the whirlwind, which is a Biblical reference. But I subsequently learned since I got here that that particular phrase has already been taken, so I figured I’d better change it to flood gates,” Castor said and looked for his laugh.) He called women in Congress “a sign of the times.”

He introduced himself as the lead prosecutor, not counsel for Trump, and referred to the opening video by the prosecution as an “outstanding presentation by our opponents.” He said, as if in defeat, “I’ll be quite frank with you. We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the house manager’s presentation was well done….”

It was reported Trump was livid at Castor’s performance in particular.

Co-counsel David Schoen followed. He yelled in an angry rasp, grinned repeatedly at someone off-camera, cried at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, drummed his fingers into the mic unconsciously, rocked back and forth, went to put his hand in his pocket and missed, and waved a four-color brochure version of the constitution.

Both Castor’s and Schoen’s mouths were so dry they made sticky noises, and their tongues escaped their mouths and roamed for relief. Together they gulped more water, more desperately, than Marco Rubio in 2013.

They are, of course, not the first choices; Trump and his previous lawyers parted ways a little more than a week before this Senate trial, supposedly mutually, but perhaps because the lawyers would not push his baseless claims that he won the election. One can imagine the real emotions of Castor and Schoen this evening as their boss passes judgement.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.