By Michael Steele, MSNBC Opinion Columnist
The Democrats’ lead impeachment manager avoided the obvious partisan traps that caused Republicans to shy away from conviction during Trump’s first trial.
The impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump has begun, and America once again finds itself grappling with the ugly truth that Republican senators are likely to kneel in fealty to Trump, rather than save our democracy (and their legacy) and vote to convict.
The true strength of the prosecutors’ case, however, rests on one especially important fact: These 100 senators are not just jurors; they were also the victims of the violence that befell the Capitol. They were the targets. They were the victims of personal assault. For as much as some members of the GOP caucus want to dismiss this trial as a constitutional exercise, it isn’t one. They know the fear they felt as they saw Capitol Police draw their guns and as barricades of furniture were erected against the Senate Chamber and their own office doors to keep the raging crowd from attacking them. Republican senators know what they felt when they learned that some of their own colleagues had given encouragement to insurrectionists chanting, “Take the Capitol!”
So far, House prosecutors seem to realize this. The trial kicked off Tuesday with a video montage of the Capitol riot. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, forced senators of both parties to watch as Trump-praising Americans kicked and punched their way through police officers and into the Capitol.
Raskin’s approach is a smart one, because it avoids the obvious partisan traps that caused Republican senators to shy away from conviction during the first impeachment trial. Raskin and his House colleagues need to convince 17 Republican senators that this time it’s personal, not political, and that their vote to convict is a defense of democracy rather than just punishment of Donald Trump.
To underscore this truth, Raskin shared how his 24-year-old daughter, who had joined him at the Capitol that day, feared for her life as she and her husband cowered under a desk. “I told her how sorry I was,” Raskin recalled. “And I promised her it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol. And you know what she said?” he asked, choking back tears. “She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.'”
Michael Steele is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.