AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The House has voted to impeach President Trump. He is now the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Last time, no House Republicans voted to impeach the president. That was different today. Ten Republicans joined all House Democrats in voting yes. It's unclear when the Senate will begin a trial, but when it does, the Democrats will be led by Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin.
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
JAMIE RASKIN: Ailsa, thank you for having me.
CHANG: There are just seven days left in President Trump's term. So tell me, congressman, why should Congress pursue this?
RASKIN: Well, this was a powerful bipartisan statement. The vote was 232-197. We were voting in a room that came under attack just one week ago. The Congress of the United States experienced a full-blown violent assault on the Capitol. They ransacked the place. They occupied the Senate chamber. They tried to get into the House chamber. Gunfire had to be used to push the mob back. They...
CHANG: But may I ask, I mean, what is the main objective of this impeachment process? Is it punitive? Are you trying to prevent Trump from ever running for office again, strip him of his pension? What is the objective?
RASKIN: No, impeachment is not a punitive instrument. It is a protective instrument, and we need to protect our people. Right now, the same violent white supremacist mobs that attacked us last week have said they're coming back to Washington on the 17, the 18, the 19 and the 20. This is a clear and present danger. People who think that we should just, you know, let bygones be bygones are not dealing with the reality of what took place last Wednesday and the continuing violent threat to Republican government in the United States.
CHANG: But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that the Senate will not begin a trial until Biden is inaugurated. Are you concerned that trial will distract from other items in Biden's agenda?
RASKIN: Look. This president has obviously been severely derelict in dealing with all of the crises of the nation that he's let run rampant, including COVID-19, where now we lead the world, of course, in case count and death count and as well as propaganda about COVID-19. So justice and protection of the Congress, the government and the people are goals right along with the public health and environmental defense and getting the economy moving again as the...
CHANG: But how do you convince 17 Republicans in the Senate - which is what you would need to convict - how would you convince them? I mean, isn't that going to be harder in the future than it would be right now in this moment?
RASKIN: Well, the Senate itself was attacked by an armed, violent mob. Senator Lindsey Graham said on the day this happened that they could have had a bomb. They could have blown us all up. So I think that will concentrate the minds of the senators. I think that they will be jurors who are going to look very carefully at what took place in this absolutely unprecedented attack on their chamber and on the peaceful transfer of power. Remember, all of this took place on Wednesday, January 6, for a reason. This was a concentrated, determined attack on our form of government.
CHANG: Let me ask you, though - what if then former President Trump does not get convicted? What are the political consequences if he's vindicated like that?
RASKIN: Look. He has already been impeached. He has not been convicted and removed from office yet. But I see irresistible momentum towards that conclusion. So I really don't want to entertain your rather depressing hypothetical. He has been impeached today. And the moment that we can separate him from power over the government is the moment that we will begin to restore safety and progress to our people.
CHANG: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland - he will lead the Democrats in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
Thank you very much for your time today.
RASKIN: Thank you for having me, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.