(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, said Sunday that criminal charges against the people involved in trying to overturn the 2020 election — including former President Donald Trump — were not his “principal interest” compared to understanding how the violence unfolded to avoid it being repeated.
“Our democracy is on the line here. Our Constitution is at stake. Are we going to have violent assaults against our elections? Are we going to have politicians who, disappointed with the results, try to overthrow the election and just seize power? Is that what American democracy is going to look like in the 21st century?” the Maryland Democrat told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“So, for me, I’m principally interested in telling the American people the truth so we can fortify our institution against coups and insurrections going forward,” Raskin continued.
“But I know that there’s a great public hunger for individual criminal accountability, and I’ve got confidence in the Department of Justice, in Attorney General Merrick Garland, to do the right thing in terms of making all the difficult decisions about particular cases,” he said.
Raskin’s remarks come after the Jan. 6 committee held its latest public hearing, on Thursday, outlining evidence of then-President Trump’s pressure campaign on the Department of Justice to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.
The committee says its investigation showed the sprawling campaign involved, among other things, an attempt to replace the acting attorney general with a loyalist more willing to concede to Trump’s demands as well as suggestions of seizing voting machines and talks of pardons for conservative lawmakers who cooperated in the scheme.
On “This Week” on Sunday, Raskin expressed alarm at the effort but also praised local officials who ensured that the 2020 race was not overturned.
“We saw a series of successive shakedowns of the election officials of secretaries of state like Brad Raffensperger, of state legislative officials. And we saw a lot of heroes, people who hung tough, like Shaye Moss, and were not willing to be deterred from doing their public duties,” he told Raddatz, referencing officials in Georgia who faced pressure over the election. “We saw the same thing at the Department of Justice as Trump’s own appointees, who were telling him they could not do what he was asking them to do.”
Raddatz pressed Raskin on what he saw as the “real impact” of the hearings in the public consciousness, citing a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll that 34% of Americans had been following the hearing somewhat or very closely — “as much as some people are very riveted,” Raddatz said.
“People are busy and so we know a lot of people, especially younger people, will learn about the hearings through snippets that go out on TV or online and people now are able to process information in different ways,” Raskin said. “It’s not like the Watergate hearings where everybody had to be watching at the same moment because of the relatively primitive state of technology then. People are going to be able to absorb this over time.”
Raskin also discussed the testimony of Arizona state House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican who was also pressed to overturn Trump’s loss in the state in 2020. Bowers told the committee it was contrary to his faith to do so but that he would still vote for Trump in 2024 if Trump were to be the GOP nominee against President Joe Biden.
“I was very moved by Rusty Bowers’s testimony and his constitutional faith and patriotism,” Raskin said. “When he said that, I thought to myself, well, if you want to get Donald Trump back in office, and that were actually to materialize, you got to be prepared to do the exact same thing next time because Trump has proven himself to be absolutely disrespectful of the rule of law and completely ungovernable by the Constitution.”
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