Last February, Americans saw Congressman Jamie Raskin preside over former President Trump’s impeachment trial. “This trial is about who we are,” he said.
And they now perceive him as a member of the Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol assault: “We have a duty to collect all of the evidence we need to report back to Congress and to the American people.”
However, many viewers may be unaware that Raskin has performed these tasks in conditions that most of us could not possibly contemplate.
Raskin, after all, seems to have had a lucky life, serving a Maryland Congressional District that shares his pragmatic-progressive principles since 2017.
“This is a community of activists and dreamers and visionaries, and it always has been,” he told correspondent Rita Braver.
When they were both students at Harvard Law School, he met his wife, law professor Sarah Bloom Raskin (a former Deputy Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve Board member).
Braver asked Sarah, “So, why did you marry him?”
“Well, I knew life would really, really deep and beautiful with Jamie,” she replied.
Jamie Raskin’s mother, Barbara, was a best-selling author, and his father, Marcus, was an anti-Vietnam War activist who was placed on President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.” “It certainly gave me sensitivity to people who get into high office, or the highest office, of the presidency, and then abuse it for their own political purposes,” Jamie added.
When Raskin, a long-time professor of Constitutional law at American University, decided to run for office, he had the support of his whole family: Sarah, daughters Hannah and Tabitha, and, most importantly, son Tommy.
“Tommy was pure magic; he just was,” said Raskin. “He was always writing plays. He was always writing poems. He was exuberant. Everybody wanted to be around him.”
Braver asked, “As gifted as he was, he also, as he went into adolescence and beyond, started to have some problems with anxiety and other mental issues?”
“Yeah, he did. Like so many kids today, he had a struggle with mental health.”
Tommy attended Harvard Law School remotely from the Raskins’ Maryland home throughout the outbreak. Both George Floyd’s death and President Trump’s bogus electoral claims shook him.
Raskin said, “The darkness of the time overcame him.”
Tommy Raskin would commit suicide on the night of December 30, 2020. His father was the one who discovered him the following morning.
Braver said, “I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like.”
“Like the end of the world,” said Raskin.
I thought 'd lost everything when I lost my son Tommy. Then I realized Tommy wasn't gone. I could feel the strength of him deep my heart and that love gives me the confidence to succeed.
I'm not going to let democracy go down the tubes.
— Michael Grossman (@MichaelArt123) January 2, 2022
Tommy left a note, which read: “Please forgive me. My illness won today. Look after each other, the animals and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy.”
Raskin said, “For him to ask forgiveness of us, means that we can ask forgiveness from him.”
But Raskin’s latest book, “Unthinkable,” is about more than just his son’s death; it’s also about the catastrophe that befell the whole country only a few days later.
Raskin felt obligated to be in the House chamber on January 6, when Congress was about to certify Joe Biden as the next president. Raskin exhaled a sigh of relief when Vice President Mike Pence declined to reject any electoral votes as demanded by Mr. Trump.
Braver asked, “Was Mike Pence a hero?”
“On that day, he was a hero,” Raskin replied. “And this is a guy who, I felt, went along with way too much during the Trump administration. But on that day, he was a constitutional patriot.”
Raskin rose to speak after the proceedings started, thanking his colleagues “for all your love and tenderness, which my family will never forget.”
“Everybody was in a standing ovation,” he recalled. “And I was absolutely overcome with emotion. And, for a second, a split-second, I thought, maybe, because of Tommy, the two sides aren’t gonna fight tonight.
“But, that was a bit of a fantasy.”
In reality, only minutes after a rally in which President Trump reiterated the “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen from him, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, attempting to break into the House chamber.
“Boom! Boom! Boom!” said Raskin. “And at that point it was pandemonium and chaos.”
Raskin and other members found themselves racing along the corridors, looking for a secure spot to hide.
Braver asked, “Were you terrified?”
“I didn’t feel any fear the entire time,” Raskin said. “And I think that was because of Tommy. The very worst thing that has ever happened me has already happened. And then I felt, Rita, like Tommy was in my chest. I felt him by my heart. He was giving me strength.”
Raskin became the main House manager in the Senate Trial last February, after the House decided to impeach Mr. Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” However, the Democrats were unable to get the two-thirds majority required to convict.
Braver asked, “Did you ever honestly think that impeachment would carry the day?”
“I believed from the beginning, up until the moment when the roll call was called, that we could get 100 votes,” Raskin replied. “I thought it would be 100-0.”
Undaunted, Congressman Raskin decided to participate on the January 6th committee, where he would work systematically to unearth what he now believes is a coup attempt. “There was a plan, essentially, to set aside the presidential election of 2020, despite the fact that Joe Biden won by more than seven million votes, set it aside and them implant a new presidency,” he stated.
Braver asked, “Given your own personal tragedy, why do you stay in the fight?”
“Look, I’ve already lost my son, the thing most precious to me,” said Raskin. “But I’m not gonna see American democracy go down the tubes. We are in the fight of our lives to defend American democracy.”