A combat veteran thrust back into action during the Capitol attack grapples with what’s next

A combat veteran thrust back into action during the Capitol attack grapples with what’s next

Rep. Jason Crow didn’t expect to vote to impeach a US President twice in when he came to Congress.

The Colorado Democrat certainly didn’t expect to be transported back to his days in combat as a US Army Ranger while sitting above the House floor.

But that’s where he found himself on January 6, surrounded for more than 30 minutes by a mob attacking the US Capitol, unconsciously slipping back into a mindset he thought he’d left behind when he took his military uniform off more than a decade ago.

It’s a heavy moment for members of Congress as they seek to come to terms with daily new details of just how catastrophic an already tragic event could have become. It all comes inside an institution long since ripped apart by partisan passions, often exacerbated by Trump himself. Crow was a key player in an apex of that divide: he served as a Democratic manager for Trump’s first impeachment trial just a little more than one year ago.

While Crow, who was famously pictured crouched down in aid to a colleague during the attack, has spent the last week grappling with trauma shared by so many in the Capitol that day, he’s also grappling with a broader issue: what comes next.

The first answer, carried out on the House floor exactly one week after the attack, was the impeachment of President Donald Trump — a moment defined by a sense of unity inside the House Democratic caucus driven entirely by the events of that day, Crow says.

“We have converted that experience into action and channeled that into resolve in my view,” Crow told CNN in an interview, noting that the caucus was “more united than we’ve ever been.”

Then there’s the mental aspect — something Crow says has spilled out between colleagues in text chains, group zooms and meetings over the last several days, particularly among those trapped in the chamber that day.

“Trauma, any trauma, impacts everybody,” Crow, who served combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, said. “Nobody is immune to it and everybody responds to it differently so you just have to be aware of that and you have to seek the help that you need.”

But he’s also wrestling with what comes next for the country, specifically through his role in Congress.

He’s pressed the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, to launch an in-depth investigation in the events leading up to the attack — something he believes will set soon.

Furious by the lack of public information about the attack from federal officials, he placed a call to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy for more details — and then promptly informed him he planned to release detailed notes from the call (McCarthy signed off on the move, though Crow says he likely would’ve done it anyway).

“There had been no federal law enforcement or military briefings. None,” Crow said explaining his decision to call McCarthy. “And I kind of had it with that.”

Crow makes clear he will attend inauguration and make his presence known on the inaugural platform, even amid the increased security threats briefed to him and his colleagues over the last several days.

The next steps for the country — and specifically the US Congress — are less clear.

“There’s been a lot of talk about moving forward, which is really important,” Crow said. “But you can’t move forward without truth and accountability.”

Finding that balance, particularly after all but 10 Republicans rejected the House impeachment effort on account that it would create a more divisive environment, isn’t obvious.

“I don’t have the answer to that yet,” Crow readily acknowledged.

But Crow is, in real time, working through his own process of how to reach that goal — one that appears on its face far from anyone’s grasp given the polarized nature of both the country and Congress.

“You have that group of people — the Matt Gaetzs, the Mo Brookses, the Lauren Boeberts, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world — who are so depraved and have gone down the rabbit hole so far that in my book they are irredeemable,” Crow says, listing off GOP colleagues who have been ardent defenders of Trump even as he repeatedly lied about the outcome of 2020 presidential election.

There are others, however, Crow wants to engage with, but not on the political party level.

“I suspect the key to that is going to be individual discussions and outreach,” the second-term congressman said.

“This is going to happen member to member, sitting down and having very, very honest discussions about what led us to this moment, what responsibility people are going to accept and what we’re able to do to move forward.”

He says he’s been “extremely impressed” with Michigan GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, a freshman member who voted to impeach Trump. Rep. Liz Cheney, the highest-ranked Republican to break from Trump, has worked with Crow on Armed Services Committee issues in the past, and while the two disagree on “all manner of things, politics and policy,” Crow came away from the last week knowing his working relationship with the Wyoming Republican would continue in earnest.

“I just cannot see the political upside of doing what she did,” Crow said in a way that came across as a mix of respect and wonder. “Which tells me that I think she did it for matters of principle and integrity. And you absolutely have to give credit where credit is due.”

Crow repeatedly makes something clear: he doesn’t have the answers. At least not yet. He and his family are still grappling with what transpired on January 6, as are his colleagues.

That won’t go away in the near term, particularly, in his view, because the threat is far from over.

“I’m still figuring out how to address this with my children,” Crow said. “I haven’t fully figured that out yet.”

But while the answers may not be abundant at the moment, Crow if firm on one thing in particular.

“We need to be bold,” he said. “We need to be present. And we need to show the American people that we will be the leaders that this country needs.”