After his son’s suicide and the January 6 attack, Rep Jamie Raskin isn’t giving up

A year ago, Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Suffered two unimaginable traumas in the span of a single week.

On New Years Eve 2020, her 25-year-old son Tommy committed suicide after succumbing to mental illness. Then, on January 6, 2021, just a day after Tommy’s funeral, Raskin was at work at the United States Capitol with his daughter and son-in-law when a violent mob stormed the building in an attempt to cancel the claims. presidential results. election.

In his new memories, Unthinkable, Raskin reflects on his continued efforts to understand these two traumatic events.

There was a time, he says, when “I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to do anything again.”

Next, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Asked him to serve as senior official in President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. Looking back, Raskin sees Pelosi’s request as a lifeline.

“I was forced to galvanize all of my love for Tommy and my daughters, Hannah and Tabitha, and my wife, Sarah, and our family and our country, and go to court to argue that Donald Trump instigated this violent insurgency with the aim of overthrowing the 2020 presidential election, ”Raskin said.

Raskin knew that the conduct of the impeachment trial would likely result in death threats, but he continued.

“Personally, I didn’t feel any fear, because the worst thing that could have happened to me had already happened to me,” he says. “And so my feeling towards the people who want to tear down our democracy is that they’re not going to scare me into doing my job.”

Trump’s second impeachment trial ended in an acquittal in February 2021. Raskin now sits on the House select committee to investigate the January 6 insurgency, the events leading up to it, and the people behind it. ‘argued.

“I have never been part of such an effective and serious bipartite committee as [this] select committee, ”he said. “We don’t spend all of our time in partisan polemics and fights for food. … We’re going to come up with the answers and I’m going to report them this year to the American people, because the people deserve it. It is about the future of our country. ”


Interview highlights

About how the last year changed him

This has all been such an episode of cognitive dissonance for me, because people will tell you that before you lost Tommy, before January 6, I was the happiest, funniest congressman you could ever meet. I have a colleague, Abigail Spanberger from Virginia, who has been asked on C-SPAN before, “Who is the funniest member of Congress?” And it was my biggest achievement that she ever said, “Oh definitely: Jamie Raskin.” And that’s who I was. And suddenly I was plunged into a world of complete tragedy and pain, and [then] the insurgency of the insurgency and the attack on our system of government.

On the heightened sensitivity and empathy of her son Tommy

From an early age he was an extremely sensitive person. He felt the pain of others and animals in a way that I had certainly never seen before, and [which] people describe it as unique. He was reading an article in the newspaper about the civil war in Yemen and the hunger of the children there, or the displaced children in Iraq, and that would follow him all day and he would think about it, and then he would get in touch with the groups. who worked there. He felt these things as if these people were members of our family. So he was an amazing empath and had this overwhelming sense of responsibility to the world. And so these episodes of war and civil war and famine and hunger and violence, it really hit him. It was just in his nature. … [The pandemic] was intensely isolating and demoralizing for a lot of young people and for someone who already suffers from depression or some other type of mental or emotional illness, it can get unbearable, and it became unbearable in Tommy’s case.

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On why he and his wife keep Tommy’s suicide note for them to see every day

It’s definitely the first thing I look at every morning, and to me it’s like “how-to” instructions for how to live. [It reads:] “Take care of each other and the animals. Don’t forget the animals and the poor of the world.” … Tommy never stopped looking at this level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He understood that there were people who couldn’t focus on anything other than where their next meal came from. Or how are they going to be safe from violence? Or how do they get out of a war zone? And so before we think about it, OK, how are we going to get people to travel to Mars and stuff like that? We have to think about the people who are just struggling to survive, even at a subsistence level.

On what he thinks of the events of January 6

The way I see what happened on January 6 is that there were three circles of activity. In a ring was a mass demonstration … a “savage” demonstration [called for] by Donald Trump which turned into a riot. And it was the outer ring that included tens of thousands of people. The middle ring was the ring of the insurgency itself, and it was the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Aryan Nations, militia groups, QAnon networks, political extremist groups. organized activists who showed up, many having trained for weeks for this event. [These were] the first people to break our windows, attack our officers, injure people and help turn the demonstration into a riot.

But the very inner ring, the inner core of it, was the realm of the blow. And that’s a weird word to use in American political parlance, because we have no experience with coups and we believe coups are things undertaken against presidents, but it was a coup. state perpetrated by the President, against the Vice President and against Congress. And it was essentially an attempt to steal the results of the presidential election and hold on to power for another four years.

On the use of the term “coup”

It’s what political scientists call a “coup,” where you have an incumbent president or office holder who thwarts the electoral process and circumvents general constitutional rules in order to entrench himself in power. It would therefore have been a classic example of a self-coup by a president who fears being ousted in an election like Donald Trump was and then tries to galvanize the various levers of power to maintain himself. .

What documents show Trump is watching the insurgency happen and doing nothing

We have now had several reports of people begging Donald Trump to recall the dogs, but refusing to do so. And that is obviously positive proof of his incitement and of what his aim was to incite. But it also demonstrates its role in helping to spread violence. So this is a very serious matter. We are really talking about the most serious offense ever committed by a President of the United States against his own government and his own people.

On Trump’s guilt for the January 6 insurgency

Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for the serious crime and misdemeanor of inciting a violent insurgency against the union, and [the impeachment officers] has taken the position, which we continue to defend, that if it is not a serious crime and a misdemeanor against the government, then nothing is. If you can genuinely instigate a violent attack on your own government and it’s not attackable, then you fundamentally don’t believe in impeachment. You just canceled the whole process. And 57 out of 43 senators agreed that he had engaged in this conduct. So I think he was condemned by the court of public opinion, and I think he was condemned in the eyes of history and in the eyes of the world.

As for criminal actions, of course, it is not up to us, but there are a number of criminal offenses that could apply in a situation like this, including interference in a proceeding. federal, the conspiracy to do so, the seditious conspiracy. So, you know, there are probably a dozen different offenses. I mean the violent insurgency destroyed federal property, costing us millions and millions of dollars. Was there a plot to make this happen? Again, not all of these things are within the purview of the January 6 special committee, but it would be appropriate to be considered by the Department of Justice.

Sam Briger and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper, and Heidi Glenn adapted it for the web.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To find out more, visit Fresh Air.
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