Congressman Jamie Raskin: ‘I’ll never forget the terrible sound of them trying to barrel into the chamber’ | US Capitol attack

He spent 5 January at a graveside service for his son, Tommy, who had taken his personal life after years shadowed by melancholy. He spent 6 January underneath siege at the US Capitol as a mob of Donald Trump supporters staged a lethal riot. Practically a 12 months on, Jamie Raskin wonders whether or not he might have prevented both tragedy.

Simply as I’ve blamed myself for lacking cues that I might need picked up with Tommy, I blame myself for cues I missed relating to the violence as nicely,” says Raskin, fastidiously measuring every phrase. “I spent many, many sleepless nights in self-blame and self-prosecution over all the pieces that had occurred with Tommy and with the riot.”

Raskin, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, took workplace in January 2017. 4 years later, and a day after burying his 25-year-old son, he was at the US Capitol underneath coronavirus restrictions to assist certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. He witnessed the citadel of American democracy come underneath attack from a frenzied mob satisfied by Trump’s “large lie” about vote rigging.

“I heard this terrible sound that I’ll never forget of some folks trying to barrel into the Home chamber,” the 58-year-old remembers in a telephone interview from his house in Takoma Park, Maryland. “I don’t know to this present day precisely what form of bodily objects they had been carrying, however they saved slamming up towards the central door to the Home of Representatives and so heaps of folks started to transfer over there to attempt to reinforce it.


“However then Capitol cops got here working in with their weapons drawn, telling all of us to get again, they usually went up and guarded that door. There have been folks screaming and it was very chaotic. You possibly can hear folks yelling, ‘We would like Trump!’ and ‘Dangle Mike Pence!’” – a reference to the vice-president who ignored Trump’s pleas to overturn the election.

Members of Congress had been evacuated by way of the speaker’s foyer, tunnels and stairwells. “We’d see members of the mob working by in several instructions. It was like a zombie film. Each time we noticed them, all people would speed up efforts to get away. An riot is a fairly intimate factor. These folks had been throughout the place. It’s exceptional extra folks didn’t die.”

Lastly, they reached the security of a committee room in a Home workplace constructing. However Raskin’s daughter Tabitha, 23, and son-in-law, Hank, who had accompanied him to the Capitol that day, had been trapped in the workplace of Steny Hoyer, the Home majority chief. They barricaded themselves in with furnishings and hid underneath Hoyer’s desk.

“I used to be clearly very involved,” says Raskin. “I used to be an emotional wreck anyway however I felt now intensely chargeable for having introduced them with me and put them in hurt’s method. It had never occurred to me that the Capitol of the United States wouldn’t be safe.”

Ultimately the constructing was cleared by safety forces and the household was reunited. “I hugged them and kissed them and I advised Tabitha how sorry I used to be and I stated it could not be like this the subsequent time she got here to the Capitol. That’s when she stated, ‘I don’t need to come again to the Capitol once more’. The immensity of these occasions simply hit me at that time. That they had basically modified all the pieces by unleashing this violence to assist their political coup.

That evening Congress returned to the constructing to full the electoral faculty counts and make sure Biden as the subsequent president. In a shocked nation, there have been calls for for Trump to face a reckoning over his function in inciting the riot. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the Home, requested Raskin to change into lead prosecutor.

He says: “For me the trial was a sort of salvation as a result of I used to be so deeply in shock and trauma about Tommy and what had simply taken place in the Capitol. It was a time of nice confusion.

Supporters of Donald J Trump outside the door to the House chamber after breaching Capitol security on 6 January.
Supporters of Donald J Trump outdoors the door to the Home chamber after breaching Capitol safety on 6 January. {Photograph}: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

“In the event you keep in mind again to 9/11 and what that was like, everybody strolling round buffeted and dumbfounded, there was that feeling. However by turning into the lead impeachment supervisor, I shortly had to develop a give attention to what wanted to be achieved.

Beforehand a constitutional legislation professor, Raskin made a compelling case and was not afraid to show his anger, grief and vulnerability. A majority of senators voted to convict Trump however fell 10 votes brief of the two-thirds majority required by the structure. The ex-president was acquitted. However Raskin was not achieved.

He’s now a member of the Home of Representatives choose committee investigating the occasions of that day. It has been gathering paperwork and telephone data and subpoenaing witnesses in an effort to produce the definitive account of an occasion that Raskin says was “as shut to fascism as any of us needs to are available our lifetime”.


The congressman, who has written a guide to attempt to make sense of the 50 days that upended his life, says: “I would really like to say that 6 January was the finish of one thing but it surely feels rather more to me like the starting of one thing.

“In the end, that’s up to us. We’re undoubtedly in a wrestle over the future of democracy. Joe Biden is the proper president to attempt to lead us out of this era of emotional devastation however at this level Donald Trump’s ‘large lie’ lives and his management over the Republican social gathering is absolute. So we’re nonetheless very a lot in the combat of our lives.”

Unthinkable: Trauma, Fact, and the Trials of American Democracy by Jamie Raskin will likely be printed by HarperCollins on 4 January

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