Jamie Raskin understands the gravity of the situation in which he's been placed.
On Monday, the House of Representatives forwarded one article of impeachment against former president Donald Trump to the Senate.
When a Senate trial begins on Feb. 9, Raskin, the congressman from Maryland's eighth congressional district, will be in the spotlight as the lead manager presenting the House's case to the assembled senators.
The evening before the House's impeachment vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Raskin – a constitutional law professor at American University's Washington College of Law – to ask if he was prepared to accept the solemn responsibility of leading the impeachment team in the Senate.
In a recent phone interview, the exhaustion in Raskin's voice was palpable.
The national attention of the impeachment comes as Raskin also wrestles with personal tragedy.
On Dec. 31, his son Tommy, 25, died from suicide, leaving his family a note that read in part, “Please forgive me. My illness won today.”
Raskin said Tommy's memory has helped give him strength as he and the other managers prepare their case.
“I'd be letting him down if I did not live up to this responsibility,” he said.
Their case will focus on what they see as Trump's role in attacking and undermining the results of the 2020 election, including filing dozens of lawsuits challenging the results, pressuring and coercing officials involved in tabulating those results and threatening Congress by helping inspire followers to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 while Raskin and his colleagues were inside certifying the Electoral College results.
As for those who argue that the impeachment is pointless now that Trump has already left office, Raskin said the timing of events makes it even worse.
“We don't give presidents a free pass for their last three or four weeks in office,” he said.
A Monmouth University poll released Monday showed that 56 percent of people who answered favored impeachment, while 44 percent were opposed, according to the political newspaper The Hill.
Meanwhile, mounting Republican opposition to the proceedings indicates that many GOP senators would eventually vote to acquit Trump. Democrats would need the support of 17 Republicans — a high bar — to convict him, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he doesn’t believe the Senate has the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he has left office.
“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said.
Raskin and the other managers will be describing a narrative of what happened leading up to the election and the events at the Capitol, said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law scholar and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School, who first met Raskin when the congressman was a “star” student at Harvard Law in the 1980s.
Along with helping set Raskin on his path as a constitutional expert, Tribe noted that his class was also where Raskin met his wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve and a deputy treasury secretary in the Obama administration.
Along with being a legal scholar, Raskin is also a “tremendous human being,” Tribe said.
Raskin, Tribe said, understands the role that impeachment plays in the constitutional system and is good at articulating a broad range of ideas and emotions.
While Trump's lawyers will argue that the Senate has no jurisdiction to try the case, Tribe, like Raskin, believes the House managers will have little trouble disproving that point.
The thing the founders most feared was a “charismatic demagogue” who could stir up the emotions of the people, he said.
“Donald Trump is exactly what they were afraid of,” he said.
As he and his fellow managers prepare their case, Raskin said he realizes how much work the country has to do to heal and unite the political divisions that have arisen within it.
That will be the next step once they get through holding people accountable, he said, and he hopes to be able to play a small part in the process.
While he's respected across the political spectrum – former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy once described Raskin to the News-Post as one of his favorite colleagues – and has been able to develop friendships with some Republicans in Congress, Raskin said he misses the closer relationship between Democrats and Republicans that marked his tenure in the Maryland Senate from 2007 to 2016.
Everyone needs to do a better job with that, he said.
But for now, he prepares for his role at the center of the storm with his son's memory in his heart, facing trauma on both a personal and national level.
“Destiny sends us all to places we would not have expected to go,” Raskin said.