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Rep. Raskin goes “8 Mile” at Impeachment Trial to head off potential First Amendment claims

02 / 11 / 2021

Today, addressing the free speech cloud that’s sort of hovering above this Impeachment Trial, Lead Manager Jamie Raskin brilliantly pulled off the legal equivalent of Eminem’s epic rap move from the movie “8 Mile.”

Today, addressing the free speech element of this trial, Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin brilliantly pulled off the legal equivalent of Eminem’s epic rap move from the movie “8 Mile.”

At the end of the flick, “Jimmy B-Rabbit” is in the finals of the live rap battle at The Shelter versus “Papa Doc.” Rabbit is about to go first in front of a massive crowd, but before he does, his dim friend “Cheddar Bob” asks him if he’s nervous that Doc is going to rip him on all the crappy parts of his life. Then Bob lists them.

While his other friends smack Cheddar, a look of enlightenment comes across Rabbit’s face — right then and there he’s forming lyrics in his head to get out in front of Doc’s criticisms.

When Rabbit starts his rap, he brilliantly rhymes all the things he expects Papa Doc will say about him. And he nails it. So much so that when Doc is given the mic, all he can say is: “Yo…yo…” Then he stops. Then he turns to Rabbit with a furious look of defeat, and then tosses the mic back to the host.

The place goes nuts.

You can’t go nuts on the Senate Floor during an impeachment trial. In fact, you are not allowed to speak, “on pain of imprisonment.” 

But if you could, Raskin would have deserved a boisterous and sustained standing ovation. For his entire performance, sure, but in particular for the preemptive First Amendment case he made today. 

The idea that any American — but especially America’s duly elected Commander-in-Chief — would be constitutionally protected from saying the things that this defendant consistently said for MONTHS leading up to this kind of violent insurrection, is, in a word, preposterous. 

Raskin was partly chosen to be Lead Impeachment Manager because he has been a brilliant constitutional law professor for years. It shined today as he headed off every single First Amendment argument he fully expects the defendant’s lawyers to make on his behalf. 

He shot ‘em all down. Comprehensively. I realize this is an oft-used legal maneuver, but this one was truly 8 Mile-worthy. 

He shot ‘em all down. Comprehensively. 

I so wish we all could see in real-time that presentation on the clear limits of free speech when it comes to what this defendant did — followed immediately by the defense argument. 

I’ll be listening closely when they finally make their presentation. They have no choice; they can’t throw the mic back. But I won’t be surprised if it’s the equivalent of a Papa Doc. 

Thank you, Professor Raskin. Congratulations on an astonishing job, under the most heart-crushing of personal circumstances. You have become one of my heroes.