Maryland U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin says evidence collected by the Jan. 6 committee during its five weeks of public hearings will prove “devastating” to efforts by former President Donald Trump’s supporters to minimize the seriousness of the Capitol attack.
“I think the cumulative effect of this will be devastating for those who wanted to try to dismiss the meaning of Jan. 6 and sweep it under the rug,” the Montgomery County Democrat told The Baltimore Sun as he prepared for Tuesday’s U.S. House select committee’s hearing.
There has been debate in media and political circles over whether the hearings are reaching most Americans. Tuesday afternoon’s session, to be led in part by Raskin, will be the committee’s seventh and will focus on extremist groups’ involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol by Trump backers determined to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.
House Republican leaders chose to boycott the committee last year — leaving it with no Trump allies — gambling that the hearings would be considered by many to be partisan noise.
A Quinnipiac University poll of adults released June 22 found that 26% of Americans were watching the committee very closely, and another 32% were watching somewhat closely. The rest were paying little or no attention.
The panel’s first hearing, held in prime time on June 9, was watched by close to 20 million people, according to Nielsen — about the same as last season’s biggest “Sunday Night Football” broadcast. Fewer watched the next five hearings, held during daytime hours, when the television audience is smaller.
“I think that the original strategy of Trump supporters of just ignoring the whole thing didn’t work and now they’re having to try to pick holes in the testimony, and not with very great effect,” Raskin said Sunday.
Conservative media personality and former congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik of Middle River questioned Raskin’s assessment of the hearings’ potential impact.
“I’ll be watching … to see if there is any new evidence,” Klacik said Monday. But she said many others have tuned out, saying of Trump supporters in particular: “I don’t think they’re really paying attention to that.”
The committee’s last scheduled public hearing is Thursday, but Raskin said the panel could add more. “Things are happening all the time and witnesses are popping up,” he said.
Tuesday’s hearing will explore a Dec. 19 Trump tweet: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Raskin said the tweet galvanized Trump’s most radical supporters.
The hearing will also explore other rallying cries to the far right made by Trump backers or intermediaries, the congressman said.
“Oftentimes, the most outrageous features of Donald Trump’s conduct are things that are hiding in plain view,” Raskin said. “People dismiss that it’s just a tweet, but it was a tweet that went to 70 million people, calling on them to come join a wild protest against the government. I view that as the pivotal moment for the mobilizing of the domestic violent extremist groups.”
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Raskin, 59, is a former American University constitutional law professor who served three terms in the state Senate. His district includes parts of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties, but will be almost entirely in Montgomery beginning next year because of redistricting.
Raskin said the fragility of the U.S. Electoral College system remains “an actual danger to the American people because a bad faith actor like Donald Trump can plant booby traps in all of the nooks and crannies.”
In 2020, 147 Republican U.S. lawmakers — including Maryland Rep. Andy Harris — opposed formal certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s electoral win after Trump alleged the election was “stolen.” Courts repeatedly rejected Trump’s claims of election fraud, but officials in some states, such as Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers of Arizona, testified about being pressured by Trump associates to help overturn Biden’s victory.
“Election officials can be bullied and intimidated. There are lots of ways in which the Electoral College can boomerang against us,” Raskin said.
In 2007, Raskin led an effort in Annapolis to have Maryland join a multistate compact that would bypass the Electoral College system — which he describes as “obsolete and dysfunctional,” and award electors to the winner of the national popular vote for president. Raskin’s state legislation was signed into law by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. But it’s effectively moot because not enough states — just 15 so far, plus the District of Columbia — have signed up for it to take effect.
Raskin said reforms are needed to preserve the integrity of the Electoral College, but that “it’s time to move to the national popular vote for president.”
Two Democratic presidential candidates in this century — Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Al Gore in 2000 — won the popular vote but lost the election based on the Electoral College counts.