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Jamie Raskin’s ‘Truth Squad’ of Democrats prepares for Biden impeachment inquiry

The House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat has recruited a crop of young energetic freshmen to push back on the Republican investigation, Eric Garcia reports

Thursday 28 December 2023 15:26 GMT
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From left: Reps Jasmine Crockett, Jared Moskowitz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Maswell Frost and Jamie Raskin
From left: Reps Jasmine Crockett, Jared Moskowitz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Maswell Frost and Jamie Raskin (iStock/Getty)

If it were up to Rep Jamie Raskin, he would not have to spend his time pushing back on Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

“We would love to do hearings about the role that gun violence is playing in savaging and disrupting community life in America,” he told The Independent by phone earlier this month after House Republicans unanimously voted to open an impeachment inquiry. His colleague Rep Maxwell Frost of Florida, who got his start as an activist for March for Our Lives after the shooting in Parkland, would probably agree.

But that’s not the world in which the Maryland Democrat lives. Instead, the top Democrat on the House Oversight & Accountability Committee will now serve as the first line of defence against Republicans’ hope of impeaching Mr Biden at the bidding of Mr Raskin’s longtime nemesis: former president Donald Trump.

Shortly after his election to Congress, the former constitutional law professor at American University became one of top antagonists of Mr Trump. In the early days of his third term, Mr Raskin served as the lead impeachment manager for Mr Trump’s second impeachment trial after the Capitol riot. Later, as a member of the January 6 select committee, he, along with a bipartisan panel of colleagues, sought to make the case for Mr Trump’s culpability in the riot.

But as ranking member on the committee that will lead the impeachment inquiry, Mr Raskin is also leading a coterie of telegenic young Democrats who entered the House after the last election. Mr Raskin has taken to calling them the “Truth Squad”, who aim to push back on Republican lies.

Rep Jamie Raskin (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project)

Among this fresh-faced group of Democrats include Reps Jasmine Crockett and Greg Casar of Texas; Jared Moskowitz of Florida; Daniel Goldman of New York; and Mr Frost of Florida.

Already, many of them have generated viral moments. In September, many of them pushed back against Republicans in a hearing that featured Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene showing nude photos of Hunter Biden.

Mr Raskin said that he looked to recruit new members who had what he called a “sense of fight and energy” around defending democratic institutions.

Throughout much of this year, Mr Raskin had to rely on his team of Democrats while he underwent chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma. As a result, when members of the Oversight Committee led by Ms Greene went to a prison in Washington DC where people were being held for crimes related to January 6, he sent Mr Garcia of California, a former mayor of Long Beach, and Ms Crockett, a former public defender, to counter allegations of sub-par conditions.

Rep Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, left, speaks as Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, listens during a stop of the "Democracy for the People" tour, a race and democracy summit sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Wednesday, July 28, 2023, in Houston. (Copyright Michael Wyke 2022 All Rights Reserved 918-282-3233)

“Crockett, as a former public defender, was able to was able to refute immediately the claim that the January 6 insurrectionists were being mistreated,” Mr Raskin said.

Mr Garcia and Mr Goldman, for their part, recently gained a feather in their cap when they led the charge to bring down disgraced former congressman George Santos. Shortly after the former New York Republican’s expulsion vote earlier this month, Mr Garcia and Mr Goldman descended the steps of the Capitol and high-fived each other.

While Mr Goldman is a freshman, he’s not new to Congress as he took part in the House’s first impeachment trial of Mr Trump.

“So with that background, I know how investigation should be conducted,” Mr Goldman told The Independent. “And I view my role as pointing out all of the different ways, and there are too many to name, that the Republicans are failing to do a proper and legitimate investigation.”

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Getty Images)

In addition, to Mr Raskin, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) serves as the No 2 Democrat on the Oversight Committee. Now in her third term, Ms Ocasio-Cortez earned plaudits during her first time on the committee when she questioned Mr Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in a way that triggered Mr Trump’s current fraud trial led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“I think they're fabulous,” she told The Independent of the freshmen members. “They're a great asset to the committee, and we're just very lucky as a party to have them on Oversight.”

Mr Raskin and Ms Ocasio-Cortez have become exceptionally close. During the month of October when the House conducted votes to nominate a new speaker, the two sometimes sat together and conversed, and she led hearings during Mr Raskin’s cancer treatments.

“She took the gavel for me at numerous points and played the role of the ranking member for me,” Mr Raskin said. “Both of us have been determined to basically tease out the very bestin each of the members of our committee. There have been lots of opportunities for them to uphold the Constitution and defend the democratic institutions against Republican attacks. So, you know, she has been very forceful on that.”

While many hail from reliably Democratic districts, many of the freshmen, such as Mr Frost, Mr Moskowitz, Ms Crockett and Mr Casar of Texas, also come from reliably Republican states. Ms Crockett said she learned how to respond to Republicans during her one term in the Texas legislature.

“It's interesting, because I've had these viral moments and people look at it and they think, ‘Oh, she became somebody different in Congress,’” Ms Crockett told The Independent. “But if you go back and look at my video from the floor as well as committee work in the state house, I've always been the same so they definitely prepared me for the test.”

Ms Crockett praised Mr Raskin’s leadership in how he coordinates the committee.

“He encourages us he makes sure that we stay together, we work as a team,” she said. “And he also makes sure that we're up on the issues, but he gives us the latitude and the freedom to be who we are and develop our own congressional personalities.”

Of course, Republicans have not been amused by Democrats. In November, Mr Comer blasted Mr Moskowitz, saying “you look like a Smurf,” given his height and the fact he was wearing a blue suit. Mr Comer also called Mr Goldman “Mr Trust Fund”, alluding to the fact that he is an heir to the Levi’s fortune.

The Oversight Committee Democrats have shown a unified front ever since Republicans opened the impeachment inquiry. Mr Frost, the youngest member of the committee, has said that the team meets before hearings to prepare for questioning.

“We have a plan together, we know what other people, what their question line is going to be about and I think that's something that the Republicans on that committee really don't have – that kind of teamwork,” Mr Frost told The Independent. “It’s part of the reason we kick their ass at every meeting.”

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