In an emotional speech before the Senate on Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) recalled becoming separated from his family during last month’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and them fearing they were going to die as he made a case for taking the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump seriously.
Raskin, who is serving as a House impeachment manager during the trial, said his daughter and son-in-law had accompanied him to the Capitol that Wednesday as an act of comfort after they buried his son, Tommy, one day earlier. Instead of finding comfort together, they became separated in the chaos and left fearing they may never see one another again.
“By the time we learned about it, about what was going on, it was too late,” he said of his inability to rejoin his family amid the violence.
His daughter and son-in-law locked themselves in an office and hid under a desk where they placed whispered phone calls and sent what they thought may be their final text messages, he said.
“They thought they were going to die,” he said, with a pointed pause.
Around him, Raskin said people were calling their loved ones to say their goodbyes. The chaplain stood up and said a prayer for them all, and they were instructed to put on their gas masks.
“Then there was the sound that I will never forget: the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram. The most haunting sound I ever heard and I will never forget it,” he said.
Once he was reunited with his family, he said he apologized to them and promised his daughter that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with him.
“You know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol,’” Raskin said, before pausing amid a brief sob. “Of all the terrible, brutal things I saw and heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest. That and watching someone use an American flagpole, the flag still on it, to spear and pummel one of our police officers ruthlessly, mercilessly. Tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life,” he said, describing one of the acts of violence committed by a rioter.
“People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives.”
“People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives. Senators, this cannot be our future,” he said. “We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.”
Raskin went on to make a case for not dismissing the trial simply because Trump left office in January. Republicans have argued that because Trump is no longer a sitting president, it’s unconstitutional to hold a trial against him, even if the article of impeachment was filed against him before he left the White House.
Raskin likened this to creating a “January exception” that will allow “corrupt presidents ... several weeks to get away with whatever it is they want to do” before leaving office.
“History does not accept a January exception in any way, so why would we invent one for the future?” he asked.