Inside the Second Impeachment of Donald Trump With Stacey Plaskett
During an hourlong conversation with nearly 500 attendees, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) pulled back the curtain to reveal the behind-the-scenes details of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
The panel discussion was moderated by Jerry H. Goldfeder, special counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and Ava Ayers, director of the Government Law Center and an assistant professor at Albany Law School. Both were members of the NYSBA Task Force on the Presidential Election.
Plaskett explained the rationale for some of the decisions impeachment managers made on calling witnesses, limiting the scope of the impeachment inquiry to the events of Jan. 6 and eliminating the option of censuring the former president.
Plaskett, a native New Yorker who is in her fourth term representing the Virgin Islands, is no stranger to trial proceedings. She started her career as a district attorney in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and then went on to serve in the Department of Justice as senior counsel to Deputy Attorneys General Larry Thompson and James Comey.
Getting ‘The Call’
While doing district work on the island of St. Thomas in early January, Plaskett recalls helping her son with his homework when one of her staff members let her know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Ca.) needed to speak with her.
“I was astonished when I got the call from Speaker Pelosi,” Plaskett said. “Immediately, I thought about what I had said wrong this time, but instead she asked if I would be willing to be named as an impeachment manager. What attorney would say ‘no’ to such an opportunity, so I immediately said ‘yes,’ and my staff and I cleared our books to hunker down with the eight other impeachment managers to try the case against former President Trump.”
Plaskett and the other impeachment managers began looking at thousands of hours of videos and millions of pieces of evidence from Facebook posts to live-streamed videos posted to social media by individuals who breached the Capitol.
“We decided early on that being swift was the appropriate course of action because many of us believed that there still remained, before Inauguration Day, an imminent danger to our democracy,” she said.
“Oh, Hell Yeah!”
In order to convict former President Trump, Plaskett and her fellow impeachment managers needed votes from 67 senators. Ultimately, Trump was acquitted when the Senate voted 57-43, falling 10 votes short of the required 67 needed for a guilty vote.
Plaskett, a Republican until switching party affiliations in 2008, was asked by Goldfeder if President Trump would have been convicted if the vote was anonymous.
“Oh, hell yeah,” she replied. “Many of us felt that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to convict and disqualify Trump for future elections but being a masterful tactician when he realized he was going to need a majority of his caucus to convict, not just 17 or else he could not continue to be the leader of the Republican caucus, we could see his demeanor in the Senate chamber change from actively attentive to stone-faced attentive.”
Other Impeachable Offenses
Critics of the Democrats’ approach to the impeachment trial point out that managers devoted the vast majority of their time to Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. This took emphasis away from his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president asked Raffensperger to find votes to overturn the state’s election results. While the Raffensperger call was also included in the articles of impeachment, Plaskett believed that the impeachment managers needed to focus on the attack on the Capitol because of its seriousness.
“We felt that we needed to emphasize what was the most shocking to the conscience of not just Senators but to the American public,” Plaskett said. “We believed that much of Trump’s behavior of pressuring people had been normalized by many in the Senate, thus wouldn’t be seen as outside the normal course of business over the past four years.”
Plaskett went on to talk about how they team strategically used Trump’s pressure campaign not only in Georgia but in Pennsylvania to show there was a pattern to his efforts to overturn the election.
“Our theory was that he used the courts, the election system, the media and when all else failed, he resorted to violence, using the groups he cultivated over a period of time to execute that violence,” Plaskett said.
“Never, Never, Never”
Plaskett, who in her fourth term in Congress and has seen the tribalism in the House of Representatives explode in recent years, told the audience that nothing less than impeachment would be considered. When asked if a censure vote was ever considered Plaskett matter-of-factly stated it was not.
“Never, never, never,” Plaskett said when she was asked by Goldfeder about a censure vote.
“I have such a visceral reaction on a number of levels,” she said. “The notion that an individual could do the things Trump did and it be swept under the rug is unthinkable. It’s the height of privilege to think that you could attempt to overthrow our democracy and have no consequences.”