WASHINGTON — When Rep. Jamie Raskin enters a Capitol Hill courtroom on Tuesday to lay out what the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack found about the role of domestic extremists in the riot , it will be his last – and potentially the most important – step in a five-year effort to crush a dangerous movement.
Long before the Jan. 6, 2021 assault, Mr. Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, had embarked on rooting out rising white nationalism and domestic extremism in America. He focused on the issue after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., five years ago. Since then, he’s held seminars, conducted a multi-part House investigation that exposed the federal government’s lackluster efforts to deal with the threat, released intelligence assessments indicating white supremacists have infiltrated US forces. order and strategized on ways to repress paramilitary groups.
Now, when millions of Americans are expected to tune in, Mr. Raskin – along with Representative Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida – is set to take a leading role in a hearing that promises to dig deeper into how Far-right groups helped orchestrate and lead the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — and how they were brought together, instigated, and empowered by President Donald J. Trump.
“Charlottesville was a wake-up call for the country,” Mr. Raskin, 59, said in an interview, rattling off a list of deadly hate crimes that took place in the years before the Capitol siege. “There is a real tendency for young white men to get turned on by racist provocation and incitement.”
Tuesday’s session, scheduled for 1 p.m., is expected to document how, after Mr. Trump’s numerous efforts to nullify the 2020 election failed, he and his allies turned to violent far-right extremist groups including Mr. Trump had long cultivated support, which in turn, began gathering a crowd to pressure Congress into rejecting the voters’ will.
“There were Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, the QAnon Network, Boogaloo Boys, vigilantes and other diverse extremist and religious cults who came together under the banner of ‘Stop The Steal,'” Mr. Raskin, referring to movement. who spread Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. “It was a hell of a party for a lot of extremist, anti-government and white nationalist groups that had never worked together before.”
The crowd has long been known to have been energized by Mr Trump’s Twitter post on December 19, 2020, in which he called on his supporters to come to Washington for a rally on January 6 that would be “wild”. Mr Raskin and Ms Murphy plan to detail a clear ‘call and response’ between the President and his extreme supporters.
“There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s tweet urging everyone to descend on Washington for a wild protest on January 6 has succeeded in galvanizing and unifying the country’s dangerous extremists,” Raskin said.
Mr. Raskin alluded to leaking evidence of more direct links between Mr. Trump and far-right groups, though he declined to preview any. The panel plans to detail known links between political operative Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Mr. Trump, former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and extremist groups.
Key revelations from the January 6 hearings
Mr Stone, for example, used members of the Oath Keepers militia and the Proud Boys for security. At least six people who had provided security for Mr. Stone entered the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, and two were charged with federal crimes.
Additionally, Mr. Stone was part of a chat group called “Friends of Stone” with at least three members who now face charges in connection with the riot. They include Owen Shroyer, one of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ top lieutenants; Enrique Tarrio, former president of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers.
A witness also told federal investigators that Mr. Rhodes tried to reach Mr. Trump on January 6 as rioters stormed the Capitol through an unidentified intermediary, as the head of the Oath Keepers pressed to stop the transition of presidential power. The name of this intermediary has never been revealed.
Mr. Flynn has ties to the praetorian 1st Amendment paramilitary group, which provided him with security when he appeared as a speaker at a pro-Trump march in Washington in December 2020. Joining the group in a Security role at the event were members of the Guardians of the Oath, including Mr. Rhodes.
A few members of the Praetorian 1st Amendment were also protecting Mr. Flynn on January 6, according to audio recordings obtained by The New York Times. Around the same time, according to court documents filed in a recent defamation case, a member of the group, Philip Luelsdorff, was briefly present in the so-called War Room of the Willard Hotel where pro-Trump lawyers s were set up to plan objections to the official Congressional tally of Electoral College votes to confirm the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr.
There are few congressmen better equipped to lead such a hearing than Mr. Raskin, a third-term congressman and former Harvard-educated professor of constitutional law, who spent many nights immersed in the cultural and ideological underpinnings extremist groups. He followed their interest in racist and anti-Semitic writings, in works such as the novel “The Turner Diaries”. He has studied the creation of the Ku Klux Klan, the growth of right-wing militias in the 1990s, and how various people working to build democratic institutions – from leaders of ancient Greece to Alexander Hamilton – warned against the threat of mob violence. .
For Mr. Raskin, who is Jewish, the desire to better understand the growing threat of white nationalist extremism in the United States is personal.
Shortly after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally organized by white supremacists whom Mr Trump described as “very nice people”, Mr Raskin went for a hike in Washington’s Rock Creek Park with Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform. Judaism. The conversation turned to how they could combat the growing threat they saw around them.
Mr. Raskin, Rabbi Pesner said, felt he could use his perch as chairman of the House Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Oversight Committee to force the Justice Department to grant more pay attention to the question.
“We’re both Jews, and here you have these extremists brandishing tiki torches chanting, ‘Jews won’t replace us,’” Rabbi Pesner recalled. “We were really thinking about what it would take to reclaim democracy from this white supremacist, white nationalist movement.”
Mr. Raskin began a series of hearings and quickly discovered that under the Trump administration, law enforcement barely paid attention to the problem of violent white supremacist movements, vastly underestimating hate crimes in the United States. United even as the problem worsened.
Mr. Raskin’s work on the issue reflects his family’s values, said Laurence H. Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School who once taught him and kept in touch with his former student.
His father, Marcus Raskin, was co-founder of the liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies and worked with Daniel Ellsberg to ensure the New York Times published the documents that would become known as the Pentagon Papers. His mother, Barbara Raskin, was a journalist and novelist. Mr. Raskin’s son, Tommy, who killed himself days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, shared their “remarkable political values” and was interned at the institute founded by his grandfather, Mr. Raskin said.
“His parents were very active in protecting beleaguered minorities and subjugated people,” Mr. Tribe said of Mr. Raskin. “I think Tommy played a huge role in his work. He was an incredibly inspiring child and his commitment to humanitarian causes meant a lot to Jamie.
Shortly after Tommy Raskin’s death, Speaker Nancy Pelosi approached Mr. Raskin and asked him to play the lead role in Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, bailing him out of what he called “the ‘impenetrable darkness’ and giving him a sense of purpose as he wept.
Studying the rise of right-wing extremism, Mr. Raskin noticed a trend in countries able to eradicate creeping authoritarianism: liberals must unite with the center-right.
Much of the Jan. 6 committee’s work focused on building such a consensus, highlighting the testimony of Republicans who stood up to Mr. Trump and efforts to void the 2020 election.
“When you look at it historically, liberal and progressive parties don’t usually defeat authoritarian and fascist assaults on democracy alone,” Raskin said. “Where democracy survives is because the center-right and center-left come together to defend it.”