Raskin brings his knowledge of extremism on the right to the Jan. 6 investigation.
When Representative Jamie Raskin goes into a Capitol Hill hearing room on Tuesday to talk about what the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has found about the role of domestic extremists in the riot, it will be the latest and possibly most important step in his five-year effort to stop a dangerous movement.
Mr. Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, had been working hard to stop the rise of white nationalism and domestic extremism in America long before the attack on January 6, 2021. After the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, five years ago, he turned his attention to the issue. Since then, he has held teach-ins, led a multi-part House investigation that showed how little the government was doing to deal with the threat, released intelligence reports showing that white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement, and planned ways to crack down on paramilitary groups.
Now, with millions of people expected to watch, Mr. Raskin and Representative Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, will lead a hearing that will look into how far-right groups helped plan and carry out the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and how President Donald J. Trump brought them together, incited them, and gave them power.
“Charlottesville was a rude awakening for the country,” Mr. Raskin, 59, said in an interview, listing a number of deadly hate crimes that had happened in the years before the siege on the Capitol. “There is a real pattern of young white men getting riled up by racist provocation and incitement.”
Tuesday’s session, which starts at 1 p.m., is supposed to show how, after Mr. Trump’s many attempts to overturn the 2020 election failed, he and his allies turned to violent far-right extremist groups whose support Mr. Trump had long cultivated. These groups, in turn, started gathering a mob to pressure Congress to ignore what the voters wanted.
“There were Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, the QAnon network, Boogaloo Boys, militia men, and other extremist and religious cults that came together under the banner of ‘Stop The Steal,'” Mr. Raskin said, referring to the movement that spread Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election had been stolen from him. “This was a big party for a lot of extremist, antigovernment, and white nationalist groups that had never worked together before.”
It has been known for a long time that Mr. Trump’s tweet on Dec. 19, 2020, calling for his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a “wild” rally got the mob going. Mr. Raskin and Ms. Murphy want to show that the president and his most extreme supporters have a clear “call and response.”
Mr. Raskin said, “There’s no doubt that Donald Trump’s tweet telling everyone to go to Washington on January 6 for a crazy protest galvanized and brought together the most dangerous extremists in the country.”
Mr. Raskin has said that he might show proof of more direct ties between Mr. Trump and far-right groups, but he hasn’t shown any yet. The panel plans to explain the known connections between Mr. Trump’s longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone, the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and extremist groups.
For example, Mr. Stone has used security from both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. At least six security guards for Mr. Stone went into the Capitol on January 6, and two of them have been charged with federal crimes.
Also, Mr. Stone was in a chat group called “Friends of Stone” with at least three people who are now being charged in connection with the riot. Owen Shroyer, who is one of Alex Jones’s top lieutenants, Enrique Tarrio, who was once the leader of the Proud Boys, and Stewart Rhodes, who is the leader of the Oath Keepers, are among them.
A witness has also told federal investigators that Mr. Rhodes tried to get in touch with Mr. Trump through an unnamed third party on Jan. 6, when protesters were storming the Capitol. The Oath Keepers leader was trying to stop the change of power from one president to the next. The name of that middleman has never been made public.
Mr. Flynn is connected to the paramilitary group 1st Amendment Praetorian, which gave him security when he spoke at a pro-Trump march in Washington in December 2020. Members of the Oath Keepers, like Mr. Rhodes, joined the group to help with security at the event.
The New York Times got audio recordings that show that a few members of the group 1st Amendment Praetorian were also protecting Mr. Flynn on January 6. Around the same time, court papers filed in a recent defamation case say that Philip Luelsdorff, a member of the group, was briefly in the so-called “war room” at the Willard Hotel, where pro-Trump lawyers had set up shop to plan their objections to Congress’s official count of Electoral College votes to confirm Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election.
Mr. Raskin is a third-term congressman, a Harvard-educated former constitutional law professor, and one of the few members of Congress who is best suited to lead such a hearing. He has spent many nights studying the cultural and ideological roots of extremist groups. He has tracked their interest in racist and antisemitic writings in books like “The Turner Diaries.” He has looked at how the Ku Klux Klan came to be, how right-wing militias grew in the 1990s, and how people working to build democratic institutions, from the leaders of ancient Greece to Alexander Hamilton, have warned of the danger of mob violence.
As a Jew, Mr. Raskin has a personal interest in learning more about the growing threat of white nationalist extremism in the United States.
Shortly after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, where Mr. Trump called white supremacists “very fine people,” Mr. Raskin went hiking with Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. The talk turned to how they could stop the growing danger they could see around them.
Rabbi Pesner said that Mr. Raskin thought he could get the Justice Department to pay more attention to the issue by using his position as chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s panel on civil rights and civil liberties.
“We are both Jewish, and here are these extremists holding tiki torches and chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us,'” Rabbi Pesner remembered. “We were really thinking about what it would take to stop this white supremacist and white nationalist movement and take back democracy.”
Mr. Raskin started a series of hearings and soon found that, under the Trump administration, law enforcement was not paying much attention to the problem of violent white supremacist movements and was greatly undercounting hate crimes in the United States even as the problem got worse.
Things didn’t change until Mr. Trump left office. It wasn’t until last fall that the Biden administration came up with a plan to fight white nationalism.
Laurence H. Tribe, who taught Mr. Raskin at Harvard Law School and has stayed in touch with him, said that Mr. Raskin’s work on the issue shows the values of his family.
His father, Marcus Raskin, helped start the liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies. He also worked with Daniel Ellsberg to get the documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers published in The New York Times. His mother was a journalist and novelist. Her name was Barbara Raskin. Mr. Raskin said that his son Tommy, who killed himself just days before the attack on the Capitol on January 6, had shared their “remarkable political values” and worked as an intern at the institute that his grandfather had started.
Mr. Tribe said of Mr. Raskin, “His parents worked hard to protect minorities and people who were being mistreated.” “I think Tommy was an important part of his work. Jamie thought he was a very inspiring kid, and the fact that he worked hard for good causes meant a lot to him.
Shortly after Tommy Raskin died, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Mr. Raskin to lead the second impeachment trial against Mr. Trump. This brought him out of what he called “impenetrable darkness” and gave him something to do while he was grieving.
As Mr. Raskin has studied the rise of right-wing extremism, he has seen a pattern in the countries that are able to stop creeping authoritarianism: liberals and the center-right must work together.
A lot of the work of the Jan. 6 committee has been aimed at reaching this kind of agreement. For example, the committee has put a lot of attention on the testimony of Republicans who stood up to Mr. Trump and the effort to change the 2020 election.
“If you look at history, liberal and progressive parties don’t usually stop authoritarian and fascist attacks on democracy by themselves,” Mr. Raskin said. “Where democracy does well, the center-right and center-left work together to protect it.”