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Home Business Feature Jamie Raskin Brings Expertise on Right-Wing Extremism to Jan. 6 Inquiry

Jamie Raskin Brings Expertise on Right-Wing Extremism to Jan. 6 Inquiry

The Democrat from Maryland has been delving into the rising threat of white nationalism and white supremacy for five years. He will lead the inquiry’s hearing on the subject on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — When Representative Jamie Raskin enters a Capitol Hill hearing room on Tuesday to lay out what the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has uncovered about the role of domestic extremists in the riot, it will be his latest — and potentially most important — step in a five-year effort to crush a dangerous movement.

Long before the Jan. 6, 2021, assault, Mr. Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, had thrown himself into stamping out the rise of white nationalism and domestic extremism in America. He trained his focus on the issue after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., five years ago. Since then, he has held teach-ins, led a multipart House investigation that exposed the lackluster federal effort to confront the threat, released intelligence assessments indicating that white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement and strategized about ways to crack down on paramilitary groups.

Now, with millions of Americans 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 deeply into how far-right groups helped to orchestrate and carry out the Jan. 6 assault at the Capitol — and how they were brought together, incited and empowered by President Donald J. Trump.

“Charlottesville was a rude awakening for the country,” Mr. Raskin, 59, said in an interview, rattling off a list of deadly hate crimes that had taken place in the years before the siege on the Capitol. “There is a real pattern of young, white men getting hyped up on racist provocation and incitement.”

Tuesday’s session, set for 1 p.m., is expected to document how, after Mr. Trump’s many efforts to overturn the 2020 election had failed, he and his allies turned to violent far-right extremist groups whose support Mr. Trump had long cultivated, who in turn began assembling a mob to pressure Congress to reject the will of the voters.

Jason Andrew for The New York Times

“There were Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, the QAnon network, Boogaloo Boys, militia men and other assorted extremist and religious cults that assembled 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 quite a coming-out party for a lot of extremist, antigovernment groups and white nationalist groups that had never worked together before.”

It has long been known that the mob was energized by Mr. Trump’s Twitter post on Dec. 19, 2020, in which he called for his supporters to come to Washington for a rally on Jan. 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’s no doubt that Donald Trump’s tweet urging everyone to descend upon Washington for a wild protest on Jan. 6 succeeded in galvanizing and unifying the dangerous extremists of the country,” Mr. Raskin said.

Mr. Raskin has hinted at disclosing evidence of more direct ties between Mr. Trump and far-right groups, though he has declined to preview any. The panel plans to detail known links between the political operative Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Mr. Trump’s, the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and the extremist groups.

Mr. Stone, for instance, has used members of both 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 have been charged with federal crimes.

Additionally, Mr. Stone was in a chat group called “Friends of Stone” with at least three members who are now facing charges in connection with the riot. They include Owen Shroyer, one of the top lieutenants of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Enrique Tarrio, the onetime chairman of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers.

A witness has also told federal investigators that Mr. Rhodes attempted to reach Mr. Trump on Jan. 6 as rioters were storming the Capitol through an unidentified intermediary, as the Oath Keepers leader pressed to stop the transition of presidential power. That intermediary’s name has never been revealed.

Mr. Flynn has ties to the 1st Amendment Praetorian 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 Oath Keepers, including Mr. Rhodes.

A few members of 1st Amendment Praetorian were also protecting Mr. Flynn on Jan. 6, according to audio recordings obtained by The New York Times. Around the same time, according to court papers filed in a recent defamation case, a member of the group, Philip Luelsdorff, was briefly present in the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel where pro-Trump lawyers had set up shop to plan the objections to Congress’s official count of Electoral College votes to confirm Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election.

Ash Adams for The New York Times

There are few members of Congress better equipped to lead such a hearing than Mr. Raskin, a third-term congressman and Harvard-educated former constitutional law professor who has spent many nights immersed in the cultural and ideological underpinnings of the extremist groups. He has tracked their interest in racist and antisemitic 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 the ways various people working to build democratic institutions — from the leaders of ancient Greece to Alexander Hamilton — have warned of the threat of mob violence.

For Mr. Raskin, who is Jewish, the drive to better understand the rising threat of white nationalist extremism in the United States is personal.

Shortly after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally by white supremacists whom Mr. Trump described as “very fine people,” Mr. Raskin went for a hike in Washington’s Rock Creek Park with Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The conversation turned to how they might combat the rising threat they saw around them.

Mr. Raskin, Rabbi Pesner said, felt he could use his perch as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s panel on civil rights and civil liberties to force the Justice Department to pay more attention to the issue.

“We’re both Jewish, and here you have these tiki torch-waving extremists chanting ‘Jews will not replace us,’ ” Rabbi Pesner recalled. “We were really reflecting on what it would take to reclaim democracy from this white supremacist, white nationalist movement.”

Mr. Raskin began a series of hearings, and soon found that under the Trump administration, law enforcement was hardly paying attention to the problem of violent white supremacist movements, vastly undercounting hate crimes in the United States even as the problem worsened.

It was only after Mr. Trump left office that things changed; the Biden administration finally presented a strategy to combat white nationalism last fall.

Mr. Raskin’s work on the issue reflects the values of his family, said Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who once taught him and has stayed in touch with his former student.

His father, Marcus Raskin, was the founder of the liberal think tank the Institute for Policy Studies, and worked with Daniel Ellsberg to ensure that 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 died by suicide just days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, had shared their “remarkable political values” and interned at the institute founded by his grandfather, Mr. Raskin said.

“His parents were very active in the protection of beleaguered minorities and subjugated people,” Mr. Tribe said of Mr. Raskin. “I think Tommy played a considerable role in his work. He was an incredibly inspiring kid, 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 take the lead role in the second impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, pulling him out of what he called “impenetrable darkness,” and providing him with a sense of purpose as he grieved.

As he has studied the rise of right-wing extremism, Mr. Raskin has noticed a pattern in the countries that are able to stamp out creeping authoritarianism: Liberals must unite with the center-right.

Much of the Jan. 6 committee’s work has been geared toward creating such a consensus, by highlighting the testimony of Republicans who stood up to Mr. Trump and the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

“When you look at it historically, liberal and progressive parties generally don’t defeat authoritarian and fascist assaults on democracy by themselves,” Mr. Raskin said. “Where democracy survives, it’s because the center-right and the center-left come together to defend it.”

Inside the Jan. 6 Inquiry with Jamie Raskin

Julie Hirschfeld Davis📍Reporting from Washington, D.C.

Inside the Jan. 6 Inquiry with Jamie Raskin

Julie Hirschfeld Davis📍Reporting from Washington, D.C.

I chatted with Representative Jamie Raskin about what has happened so far during the Jan. 6 hearings and what is yet to come.

Here are his responses, edited and condensed for clarity →

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