Prepare to be ‘mesmerized’: An interview with Jan. 6 probe investigator Jamie Raskin

I last interviewed Rep. Jamie Raskin in October 2020, before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Our conversation was about the guardrails that the Constitution has in place to stop a tyrant from taking power.

There was no mystery about then-President Donald Trump’s position in public. He had spent months vowing fraud would be overwhelming in the impending election. When he took the stage for the very first night of presidential debates with now President Joe Biden, Trump told the world he would not accept any outcome he believed was rigged.

In the days since then, the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol was formed and it has unearthed staggering evidence that Donald Trump, the nation’s 45th president, not only incited a mob to a bloody insurrection but perpetrated a fraud on the American public so that he could pull off a coup that would install him into the White House against the will of millions of voters and the Electoral College. 

Recently, I interviewed Rep. Raskin again. He now serves as a member of the Jan. 6 committee, a role that was arguably an unmatched fit not just because of his experience as a constitutional and legal scholar, but because of his direct experience with Trump. Raskin was the lead impeachment manager when Trump was impeached—for the second time.

Telling the story of Jan. 6 is a formidable task and the passing months have revealed increasingly critical nuances and contours emerging from that day’s chaos.

There is evidence of a crime. A federal judge has agreed with the select committee on that count and over the course of a contentious battle for key documents, a judge determined that, at the very least, the “illegality of the plan” orchestrated by Trump and his attorney John Eastman—the architect of a strategy pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to certify bunk electors—was “obvious.” 

Trump and his attorneys stoked claims of bogus election fraud for months and with Eastman, Trump engaged in a “coup in search of legal theory,” Judge David Carter wrote just a month ago. 

Judge David Carter Ruling_Trump Eastman by Daily Kos on Scribd

And yet there is still so much more to come.

There are questions that must be aired out about this attempted coup and its abettors.

When the committee finally resumes its public hearings, which it says will be in May, Rep. Raskin told Daily Kos they will be hearings unlike anything Americans have seen come out of Congress. 

“We believe every American has the right to observe and participate in this. I believe based on what I have seen over the last several months, these hearings will be not just important but mesmerizing to the public,” Raskin said. “Everybody needs to be equipped with the means of intellectual self defense against the authoritarian and fascistic policies that have been unleashed in this country.”

So far, the probe has released limited information about its findings and it has navigated the course of its investigation with deft yet disciplined transparency, despite regular attacks and goading from those perched atop some of the highest branches of power in Congress like House Minority Leader and Trump ally Kevin McCarthy. 

Listen Jennifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win explain what how Democrats must message to win on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

The panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans has largely established its intent and findings on the public record through its court filings and subpoenas and from House meetings on Capitol Hill, where they have forwarded criminal contempt of Congress referrals for members of the Trump White House who have obstructed their investigation.

Those referrals for officials like former chief of staff Mark Meadows, ex-adviser Steve Bannon, and others now live with the Department of Justice, a body ensconced in an entirely separate yet similarly painstaking investigation of the Capitol attack, its catalysts, and alleged conspirators. 

“The events of Jan. 6 were breathtaking,” Raskin said by phone, taking a moment to gather his thoughts before considering the scope of what lies ahead. 

A daunting amount of information will be parsed, prioritized, and presented from the 800-plus interviews the panel has conducted and the thousands of pages of records it has secured from a wide array of players spanning the Trump White House to the Trump reelection campaign to extremist right-wing activists and others.

That doesn’t even mention everything that was also sourced from the National Archives following Biden’s waiver of executive privilege over presidential records Trump sought to hide.

That bid by Trump, taken all the way to the Supreme Court, ultimately failed to keep documents like White House call logs hidden and more of Trump’s presidential records continue to flood the committee now. 

RELATED STORY: Let’s talk about the White House call logs from Jan. 6

But until the hearings play out, the public is left to grapple with important information in bits and pieces as investigators occasionally and, likely strategically, highlight portions of their findings at a schedule of their choosing.

Speculation swirls around the committee’s work on a fact-based narrative it is crafting for hearings and that is to be expected.

There are inherent difficulties in this unprecedented undertaking.

“Well, people still have not yet fully understood the distinction between the violent insurrection and the attempted coup. Even with the insurrection, even within the insurrectionary violence, a lot of people think that this was just a rowdy demonstration that got out of hand,” Raskin told Daily Kos. 

And of course, Trump. Raskin added, is “out there telling people his mob greeted officers with hugs and kisses.” 

“So there’s a lot of confusion about what took place. And I think people will come to understand that this was a premeditated and coordinated violent attack on Congress and the vice president in order to thwart the counting of electoral votes,” Raskin said.

But the insurrection is only comprehensible when you understand that it was unleashed as a way to assist this political coup, this inside political coup. Donald Trump and his entourage had been looking for ways to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results for months,” Raskin said. 

What the public hearings will do is tell the story of “every step in that process,” he explained.  

“And it is a harrowing and gripping and utterly sobering story rooted in the events of the day and the weeks before it,” he added.

RELATED STORY: Tick-tock: A timeline of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

Millions of Americans have seen footage of rioters beating police, scaling the walls of the nation’s Capitol building, and doing so in everything from homemade to high-grade tactical gear and with makeshift or professional-grade weapons in tow.

Millions of Americans have heard the calls of people shouting for the execution of Pence or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the melee erupted. Many people saw the gallows erected by Trump’s supporters on the Capitol lawn. 

But a disconnect seems to persist somehow around how severe and significant Jan. 6 was and remains.

The Pew Research Center, for example, noted this February that more than a year after the attack, fewer Americans believed Trump was responsible for the events of Jan. 6. It was a nearly 10% drop from the year before.

The study found too that people are still largely divided a year later on whether the Jan. 6 probe is even given the “right amount” of attention.

“The difficult thing is that people have a very hard time assimilating something so extreme taking place right at the heart of the Capitol. We saw a violent mob led by insurrectionary violent extremists set upon federal officers and injure and wound and hospitalize more than 150 of them,” Raskin said. 

It was the first time in American history that a violent insurrection interfered with the peaceful transfer of power and counting of electoral votes.

“It nearly toppled our system of government,” Raskin added.

The idea of a coup is “radically unfamiliar” to the bulk of the American population, he noted. 

“We’re just not—we just don’t have a lot of experience with coups in our own society. We think of a coup as something that takes place against a president. Well, this was a coup that was orchestrated by the president against the vice president and against the Congress,” Raskin said. “It’s what political scientists call a self-coup, not the military trying to overthrow a president but a president trying to defeat and vanquish the constitutional process in order to perpetuate his stay in office and power. Donald Trump was trying to seize the presidency for four more years.”

When Judge Carter issued his ruling about Trump and Eastman on March 28, it was a deeply important finding but it did not shift or change the committee’s trajectory, he said. 

It only “solidified” the path they were on.

“It was a powerful warning to the American people about what took place,” he said.

If they missed that warning bell, however, the committee will keep ringing it.

The committee will produce its final report after the hearings are over. Raskin told Daily Kos he hopes it will be a “multimedia report” that will be both easily accessible and digestible. 

It will be composed of the committee’s findings as well as recommendations for legislation that would strengthen many of the weak points in the democratic system that the Trump White House undermined or exploited.

“There’s no reason this report has to be a 500-page document written by a computer somewhere. We can write the report in such a way that it really does wake the country up to the nature of the threats that we’ve just dodged and the threats that remain,” Raskin said. 

To wit, when the committee holds its public hearings, the Justice Department's prosecution of those who stormed the Capitol will keep rolling.

At the top of April, the DOJ announced it had arrested nearly 800 defendants and charged over 250 people so far with serious crimes including assaulting police and using a deadly weapon to injure an officer.  

More than 248 people have entered guilty pleas, copping to misdemeanors and felony charges alike.

The most serious charges— like seditious conspiracy—have been leveled at some of the president’s most ardent supporters, namely the ringleaders and members of domestic extremist networks like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Trump told the latter group in September 2020 to “stand back and stand by” when asked on a presidential debate stage if he would condemn white supremacy and militia groups.

“Who would you like me to condemn? The Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem,” Trump said.

The dog-whistle was well received by Proud Boys and their leader Henry Tarrio. 

“Standing by,” Tarrio responded on Parler. “So proud of my guys right now.”

Others, like Proud Boy Joe Biggs, took it as a direct cue to attack those opposed to Trump.

“Trump basically said to go fuck them up!” Biggs wrote.

The Proud Boys are ecstatic tonight about getting mentioned in the debate tonight. "Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy," writes one prominent Proud Boy.

— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) September 30, 2020

Tarrio was indicted on March 8 for conspiracy to obstruct congressional proceedings on Jan. 6 as well as several other charges. Biggs—and many other Proud Boys—were indicted alongside him and separately.

Oath Keeper leader Elmer Rhodes's seditious conspiracy trial is currently slated for September. One of the key members in the group charged alongside Rhodes, Alabama Oath Keeper chapter leader Joshua James, has already flipped.

James admitted he was dispatched to the Capitol on Jan. 6 by Rhodes as part of an organized conspiracy to stop proceedings. James told prosecutors he was prepared to use force to keep Trump in power. 

While the committee’s work and the DOJ’s work operate on entirely different tracks and timetables, Raskin said when the committee makes its case to the public, the panel won’t shy away from presenting any of the relevant details shaken loose by the DOJ. 

“To the extent there are factual findings related to these cases, yes, we will be able to use those,” he said. 

Juries will decide the fates of those charged with seditious conspiracy. The Justice Department will decide the fate of those the committee has referred for criminal contempt of Congress. 

These are the facts. 

For those cynical or skeptical about what the committee’s hearings will achieve or accomplish, Raskin offered a message for those feeling faint of heart.

Before speaking, the congressman paused for just a moment.

“Look,” he said, “For the greater part—for the duration of the human species—people have lived under tyrants and dictators and bullies and kings like Vladimir Putin and all of his sycophants around the world. Democracy, democratic self-governance is still a very fragile experiment. And democracy thrives on truth. The people need to be armed with the power that truth will give us.”

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who endured racial slurs and assault for hours while defending the Capitol to the brink of exhaustion told Daily Kos in a recent interview when it comes to Jan. 6: “The truth is the truth.” 

If people will believe the truth when they hear it, well, he knows it is not for him to decide. 

But he did have one question. 

“How the hell is anyone against finding out the full truth?” Dunn said.

Ayanna Pressley sums up why impeaching Donald Trump is about more than just symbolism

It’s been just over one month since pro-Trump insurgents rioted at the U.S. Capitol, creating both physical and emotional damages. Many who survived the riots have spoken out about their personal experiences, including, as Daily Kos covered, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has done two live videos detailing her trauma. For those of us who followed the insurgency from home, we know that after a group of countless white people invaded the Capitol, custodial workers—including many people of color—were left to clean their mess. 

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley spoke to CNN host Jake Tapper about just that subject on Sunday morning, appearing on State of the Union. Her response is smart, moving, and emotional, and absolutely worth a watch. Let’s delve into it below.

Tapper referenced the one-month anniversary of the insurgency, as well as Donald Trump’s impeachment trial beginning this coming Tuesday. “You lived through the events of January sixth,” Tapper stated. “What do you say to people who say, ‘Come on, just move on’?”

“If we really believe that this is a moment of reckoning in every way, then we must act accordingly,” Pressley replied. “And that means that Donald J. Trump must be held accountable because he is culpable for having incited this insurrection by perpetuating this big lie. This House has twice done its job. He will forever be the twice impeached president by this Democratic-majority led House.

Now, the Senate must honor their oath and impeach Donald J. Trump to hold him accountable,” Pressley continued. “But also, to bar him from running for public office ever again. And then, we know that he had accomplices. Who told on themselves. In broad daylight. They aided and abetted this insurrection by perpetuating this big lie. And they must be expelled. And then we must continue to investigate, Jake, so that any individuals or agencies that enabled this insurrection are taken to account.

But let me just say this, for those that continue to feign great surprise about what happened on January 6th. As a Black woman, to be barricaded in my office, using office furniture and water bottles… On the ground, in the dark. That terror, those moments of terror, is familiar in a deep and ancestral way for me. And, I want us to do everything to ensure that a breach like this never occurs at the Capitol. But I want us to address the evil incurred that is white supremacy in this nation. This is not only about securing the Capitol to ensure that members, and our staffs, and custodial staff, and food services workers, are safe in the Capitol… It is that we are safe in America.

One of the images that I am haunted by,” Pressley continued, “is the Black custodial staff cleaning up the mess left by that violent white supremacist mob. That is a metaphor for America. We have been cleaning up after violent white supremacist mobs for generations. And it must end. So, impeach, expel, investigate.”

Tapper mentioned that some Congresspeople have expressed fear for their safety following the insurgency, and noted that they are not sharing Pressley’s location during the interview because of her “significant” security concerns and that many House colleagues blame rhetoric coming from some House Republicans. Surprising no one, Tapper mentioned Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

“Simply put,” he asked. “Do you feel safe going to work?”

“Look, I feel safe,” Pressley said. “Living with threats and living with bigots, who are as vile in their rhetoric as they are in the policies that they seek and enact, and the harm that they seek to cause the most marginalized communities, Black Americans in particular, is not new. Again, this is familiar in an ancestral sort of way. So, it is not going to deter or obstruct me from doing my job for the American people.” Then Pressley discussed the importance of a COVID-19 response that leaves no one behind.

Here’s that clip.

“One of the images that I’m haunted by is the black custodial staff cleaning up the mess left by that violent white supremacist mob. That is a metaphor for America.” Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley discusses the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and impeachment. #CNNSOTU

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 7, 2021

On a related note, New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim tweeted about his personal experience cleaning up after the riots. The thread is quickly going viral and is well worth checking out, too.

It was a month ago when I found this broken eagle while cleaning the Capitol after the insurrection. I kept it as a tender reminder of the enormous work ahead to heal. This is one of several symbols I want to share with you as we think what comes next for our nation (THREAD)

— Andy Kim (@AndyKimNJ) February 6, 2021

Every minute of AOC’s hour-long Instagram video about the pro-Trump insurgency is worth watching

On Tuesday night, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hopped onto an Instagram live video and shared her experience during the pro-Trump insurgency at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. In a moving address straight to followers (of which more than 100,000 people joined in to listen and watch), the progressive lawmaker said she had a “very close encounter” with the rioters and  “I thought I was going to die.” She repeated the chilling sentiment later in the hour-long video, saying, “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.” She did not give more details on the encounter, citing security reasons.

What did she give more details on? Her concerns about sheltering with some Republican lawmakers. Why? Because she was afraid some of them might give up her location or enable chances for her to be hurt or kidnapped by insurgents. Let’s dive more into that horrifying possibility, as well as the lawmaker’s discussion of trauma and political nihilism, below.

“I didn’t even feel safe going to that extraction point because there were QAnon and white supremacist members of Congress who I felt would disclose my location and create opportunities to allow me to be hurt,” Ocasio-Cortez stated. She did not explicitly name the colleagues she thought might expose her to danger. 

"Let me give you a sneak peek,” she stated in an address to Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. “You will never be president. You will never command the respect of this country, never. Never. And you should resign.”

Ocasio-Cortez also stressed that the two conservatives essentially cast their votes in an effort to overturn election votes “not out of genuine belief” but instead out of “political ambition.” She also described Donald Trump as a “traitor to our country,” which, of course, he is.

“I don't want to see the Republican Party talk about blue lives ever again,” Ocasio-Cortez said in reference to a Capitol police officer losing their life during the riot. “This was never about safety for them. It was always a slogan. … Because if they actually care about the rule of law, they would speak up when people break the law."

Ocasio-Cortez also spoke intimately about trauma, saying, “You have all of those thoughts where, at the end of your life, these thoughts come rushing to you. That’s what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday. I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive. And not just in a general sense, but in a very specific sense." She also brought up that in addition to members of Congress, staffers, and even the children of lawmakers, were at the Capitol that day. 

On a personal level, Ocasio-Cortez said she found herself sleeping more in the days after the riot, and that, “to me is telling me that my body is going through something and my brain is trying to heal."

People, as usual, were impressed by the progressive’s ability to connect with people—even at 11 PM on a weeknight.

.@AOC just gave an impassioned speech about impeachment to more than 100,000 people on Instagram at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday night. Her natural political skills, spontaneous eloquence and fluency with social media are so striking, especially at a national moment like this.

— Liam Stack (@liamstack) January 13, 2021

AOC is giving a Gettysburg Address level oration over Instagram live right now "White supremacy is doomed to fail... supremacy is a myth, so they resort to violence"

— Prerna Jagadeesh (@PrernaJagadeesh) January 13, 2021

Watching @AOC’s Instagram live and knowing as it happens that it’ll be featured in history books one day as a piece of important oratory of the moment is really something.

— Amanda Litman (@amandalitman) January 13, 2021

And her transparency was, as ever, moving and important.

Turns out the first moment of real human solidarity I've felt in the past 6 traumatizing days is watching @AOC's unbelievably moving instagram live with a bunch of friends and strangers who feel the same way on twitter at 11PM

— Helen Brosnan (@HelenBrosnan) January 13, 2021

Watching @AOC's instagram live helped me finally recognize all of the anger and grief and fear that's become so commonplace that I don't even notice I'm feeling it anymore. I'm really grateful for that.

— Taylor (@taylorjeanjn) January 13, 2021

AOC almost died the other day and got on Instagram Live to talk to us about trauma and what’s actually happening behind closed doors. Her transparency is a gift and will hopefully save lives

— ilana kaplan (@lanikaps) January 13, 2021

In speaking about nihilism in politics, Ocasio-Cortez really hit home with an emotional address, saying, “What claim will you have? That you rule over a destroyed society? That the ashes belong to you?" Those are questions every member of the Trump administration should answer. 

You can also watch snippets of the live stream on YouTube below.

Update: This statement from fellow progressive Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh about realizing panic buttons had reportedly been “torn out” of the Congresswoman's office adds another unsettling and chilling element.

According to Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh, the panic buttons in the Congresswoman’s office were all “torn out—the whole unit.” They don’t know why or who did it.

— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) January 13, 2021

GOP lawmaker’s tweet about Nancy Pelosi during riot at U.S. Capitol sparks calls for her resignation

Just over one week ago, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert went viral because of a video she sent out to Twitter in which she appeared to be strutting around Washington, D.C., with a Glock handgun. (A spokesperson for Boebert later clarified that the lawmaker was not actually carrying the gun throughout the video shoot.) Since then, the pro-Trump Colorado representative has gone viral for an even more nefarious reason. In fact, this isn’t even just a head-scratching digital ad. Many of her colleagues are calling for Boebert’s resignation over her behavior both before, and during, the pro-Trump insurgency against the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

Now, as a quick review, Congress was set to vote to certify the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Boebert, who has fully leaned into efforts to overturn the presidential election results, formally objected. That morning, before the insurgency, she tweeted: “Today is 1776.” What she tweeted while rioters were actually at the Capitol is what’s really chilling.

Here is the 1776 tweet.

Today is 1776.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 6, 2021

While pro-Trump insurgents were descending upon the Capitol, many lawmakers did take to Twitter. Boebert joined them … and decided to tweet out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been removed from the House Chambers. Though she did not specify where Pelosi had been moved to, obviously this tweet stunned countless people. After all, the viral photo of a man with his foot up on Pelosi’s desk is not quick to leave any of our minds soon. Nor is the report of a man who traveled from Colorado to Washington, D.C. who was arrested for allegedly making threats against Pelosi. There are reports that some who invaded the Capitol were searching for not only Pelosi but also Vice President Mike Pence and Schumer. 

So it’s safe to say Boebert’s tweets were both chilling and concerning.

The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 6, 2021

Boebert, however, only doubled down in releasing a statement on the calls for her resignation, saying in part, “We should take Democrats at their word when they say never let a crisis go to waste. Their hypocrisy is on full display with talks of impeachment, censure and other ways to punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past.”

In terms of her choice to tweet about Pelosi, Boebert argued, “They accuse me of live-tweeting the Speaker’s presence after she had been safely removed from the Capitol, as if I was revealing some big secret, when in fact this removal was also being broadcast on TV.”

She suggested that “leading Democrats” have encouraged “mob violence,” including former President Barack Obama and President-elect Joe Biden. She also accused a number of celebrities of doing the same, for who knows what reason, including Madonna and Johnny Depp.

And earlier Tuesday, she’s back with a pseudo unity call on Twitter.

Calling 75,000,000 Americans domestic terrorists is not unity.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 12, 2021

There are currently 211 House members, and 28 senators who are on record supporting impeachment & removal, and over 200 House members have cosponsored the impeachment resolution. Regardless of where your members of Congress stand, please send them a letter.