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Joe Neguse: A National Political Star Is Born at Impeachment Hearings

Representative Joe Neguse making his presentation at the U.S. Capitol on February 9.
Representative Joe Neguse making his presentation at the U.S. Capitol on February 9.
PBS News Hour via YouTube
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The February 9 kickoff to Donald Trump Impeachment 2.0 at the U.S. Capitol — the site of the deadly January 6 insurrection that prompted the current action against the former president — was a blend of the profound and the embarrassing. Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin's heartbreakingly personal account of the attack, which took place the day after he buried his late son Tommy, was immensely moving, while the performance by Bruce Castor and David Schoen, Trump's legal team, was a clown-car crash.

But the appearance of Joe Neguse, the representative for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, was particularly striking. As one of lead impeachment manager Raskin's chief lieutenants and an attorney by training, Neguse was tasked with presenting a rebuttal to utterly specious claims that Trump couldn't be put on trial by the U.S. Senate because he'd already left office. And at the end of Neguse's presentation, one thing was abundantly clear: A new national political star had been born.

Neguse's story, which he laid out for us in an extended interview before his 2018 election to the House, is undeniably compelling. His East African parents came to America as refugees and worked tirelessly to give their son a shot at a better life — and he seized it. At the University of Colorado Boulder, where he earned his law degree, he served as co-student body president under the school's tri-executive system (the organization is a breeding ground for future politicians, including Colorado Representative Leslie Herod and Senator Steve Fenberg) and later served as a regent for the institution. He also co-founded New Era Colorado, an advocacy organization for young voters — and while he fell short in his 2014 bid to become Colorado's secretary of state, he was ready, willing and able when Jared Polis, his predecessor in the 2nd District, decided to run for governor. Neguse's 2018 win made him the first African-American member of Congress from Colorado since the establishment of the state in 1876.

Upon his arrival in Washington, D.C., Neguse quickly established himself as a lawmaker to watch, as this April 2019 account of his first 100 days in office makes clear. But yesterday's hearing was his coming-out party on a national level. Here's a clip showing what he did with it:

Rather than cheap dramatic posturing or histrionics, Neguse opted for a more measured tone, but one that he modulated like a maestro. He explained with stunning clarity the legal precedents that made it clear the founders of the republic saw impeachment as a tool to be used against individuals whether they were still in office or had resigned in an attempt to avoid further sanctions. Much of the material was complex, but he didn't dumb it down. Instead, he cut to its essence, laying it out in terms that were simple to understand without the slightest hint of condescension.

His efforts went well beyond a lecture. Indeed, he was able to move seamlessly from the professorial to the passionate, all the while demonstrating a fierce intelligence and a deeply felt motivating spirit that went well beyond mere partisanship.

In his minutes at the microphone, Neguse turned heads on both sides of the aisle — and with the trial now moving forward in earnest, he'll have further opportunities to establish his brand.

Granted, the odds of enough Republicans voting to convict Trump are slim, but Neguse won't be hurt should the ex-president escape a lifetime ban against running for federal office. By the end of the process, he's bound to be recognized as one of the freshest new faces of the Democratic Party not just in Colorado, but nationwide. And it all began on February 9, 2021.

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