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They staffed the Jan. 6 committee. Threats still follow them

By Chris Marquette and Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call
Published: May 6, 2024, 6:03am

WASHINGTON — A deep unease trickled through Jacob Glick’s entire body. He had started a virtual deposition of Jim Watkins, the large, scruffy QAnon conspiracy theorist who runs 8kun, a website filled with hateful, racist content that included calls for violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Glick, then an investigative counsel for the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack, made the customary introductions of his colleagues. Watkins jotted down all the names.

“It already felt creepier — and I’ve been in some creepy ones,” Glick said.

Glick was among the staff on the now-disbanded Jan. 6 panel who say their work exposed them to threats, raised doubts about their safety and required additional safety precautions. Their experiences, recounted in interviews, serve as a high-profile example of concerns among Capitol Hill staffers about whether their work could make them a target for political violence.

At one point during the deposition, Watkins told Glick that his website typically got 300,000 to 3 million visits in a day, but it would spike the day of the deposition. Glick asked why and got a chilling response.

“Because they know I’m talking to you,” Watkins said with a grin.

Glick calmly responded, “Got it.” But he said inside he felt “terrified” thinking about what could happen to him and his family as the target of supporters of the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. He wondered about conspiracy theorists.

“As a gay Jewish lawyer who works for Jamie Raskin, am I all of the sudden going to become this linchpin of QAnon?” Glick said.

Glick said he was overcome with fear for his partner and whether his address was available to the public — and he still thinks about it.

“I had a moment of real panic where I wondered what kind of storyline I was going to be,” he said.

The committee eventually decided to use part of Glick’s exchange with Watkins in one of its public hearings exhibiting that followers of the former president felt Donald Trump wanted them to come to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The prospect of his face being shown in such a high-profile hearing injected a jolt of terror into Glick, but he said he was committed to telling the full story of what happened.

Members of the select committee and staff were exposed to a unique barrage of threats as they were conducting their work. The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., had a police officer stationed outside of his home and still travels with security.

“Obviously since Jan. 6 and my tenure on the committee it has continued to escalate,” Thompson said. “There’s a constant beat of threats.”

But that also happened with some staffers, such as Sandeep Prasanna, who also had to have added security precautions implemented.

A militia member who was subpoenaed by the panel, when they found out Prasanna was conducting the deposition, posted several details, including that Prasanna is gay and a person of color. And over at Georgetown University Law Center, where Prasanna taught as an adjunct professor, a university police officer had to be stationed at his classroom because the class schedule was publicly available.

Other members of the panel’s team of investigators, James Sasso and Marcus Childress, had one of their work emails published on Gateway Pundit, a far-right website.

The staffers had been reaching out to lawyers representing Jan. 6 rioters who pleaded guilty, seeking to interview their clients. The website falsely claimed it as evidence the committee was extorting witnesses.

“I walked into work and my inbox was just flooded with all sorts of email messages from random people calling me a Nazi, calling me a Pelosi stooge, socialist, a lot of other things that the far-right would say about who they perceive to be liberals,” Sasso said. “Telling me to go look into Hunter Biden’s laptop. Calling me dumb.”

That was significant enough for Sasso to give the email addresses to someone on the Jan. 6 panel who managed those threats and worked with Capitol Police. Sasso for some time got emails daily from some of those people.

Sasso said he leaned on the support of his colleagues, particularly the close-knit group of investigators. They supported him through the hate mail, assuring Sasso his wife would be fine and that most people making threats wouldn’t act and were sitting in a basement somewhere.

That didn’t mean Sasso wasn’t highly attuned to his surroundings when he left the office for home with a sense of anxiety about who might be lurking. He said he “did have those moments of terror and being careful when I went home, making sure no one was really following me.”

“The thought crosses your mind. What if this is the day someone is following me and does something about it?” Sasso said.

Even long after the panel disbanded, Glick still has moments he has to grapple with in the wake of hate directed at him from his work.

Watkins posted personal information he said was tied to Glick, who still struggles with the fact that he is a “bogeyman for one of the scariest men on the internet.”

Sasso’s experience has him questioning what long-term impact such a threat environment will have on the country’s democracy.

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“How well can a democracy function if people are afraid to serve in office?” Sasso asked. “Who is going to want to do this thankless job if there’s a ton of heavily armed people willing to come after their families?”

This is part of an occasional series that touches on the safety of congressional staffers and threats to congressional offices.

The post They staffed the Jan. 6 committee. Threats still follow them appeared first on Roll Call.