A House Impeachment Manager Talks Resilience After the Insurrection

Rep. Stacey Plaskett is one of the prosecutors overseeing Trump’s trial

Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Virgin Islands, like all U.S. territories, did not have a vote when it came to certifying the next president of the United States. But it certainly has a voice now that Rep. Stacey Plaskett sits as an impeachment manager for the trial of outgoing president Donald J. Trump.

The Brooklyn-born Plaskett, whose parents moved from the Virgin Islands to New York, says this appointment — by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — was unexpectedly perfect. The former New York prosecutor would not specify details of how she and the other impeachment managers will handle Trump’s upcoming trial, but Plaskett said she’s ready.

“The significance to me, personally, is feeling like the culmination of a lot of the work that I’ve done over my life,” Plaskett told ZORA via Zoom. Her experience on the Hill and as a lawyer prepared her for moments like this, where she and eight other legislators will serve as prosecutors when the trial goes to the Senate. “I was once a member of the Bronx district attorney’s office, where you get a week of training and then are thrown into a courtroom.”

To hear Plaskett tell it, moving forward, the case has the potential to move quickly, with a caveat. “You know, this is the fastest impeachment trial,” she says. “I hear a lot of people asking, ‘When is the speaker bringing over the impeachment?’ The more appropriate question is when is the Senate going to accept the impeachment? The Senate is out on recess until the 19th. So, we’ll see what happens.”

The events of the January 6 insurrection are still fresh in Plaskett’s mind. The Congressional Black Caucus member was on the Hill that day and in her office when things began to get rough. She opted to not stay in a safe room with Republicans who refused to wear face masks. And now, given that three politicians who were in that safe room have since tested positive for Covid-19, it seems her decision to stay safe with her staff was prescient.

More than fear that day, Plaskett remembers, she felt shock.

“No one could have expected what was going to happen,” Plaskett says. “We were all very aware that there were going to be protesters. So we all were very aware that they were going to be violent and that they had been ginned up. But to think that they would storm the Capitol and attempt to kidnap and do harm to members in the most sacred space of our democracy, we couldn’t ever imagine that part of it.”

In the hours following the insurrection, Plaskett checked in on her people. Some were on the Hill, and some weren’t. Were they all okay? The state representative notes they are also islanders, so they know how to brace when a storm is coming. In fact, an image of Plaskett and her staff went viral that day. They were posted up in the Rayburn House Office Building on the Hill, the picture showcasing a team ready for anything — men’s dress shoes switched out for Jordans — with a familiar look of Black defiance in the midst of White domestic terrorism. Black Twitter loved on the image, finding hope, strength, and resolve in the staffers’ stances.

“We’ve lived through some pretty traumatic things like hurricanes while working in an office, not sure if your family’s alive after,” says Plaskett. “They are resilient.”

When it comes to security for the upcoming weeks, Plaskett didn’t comment much on the news that some Capitol police officers had long sounded the alarm about racism within their ranks, except to say she has: “I don’t want to talk too much about what I have, but we kind of created wraparound services for myself and for the family.”

It also helps that her governor, Albert Bryan Jr., who is also Black, was not going to act as if nothing major happened that day.

“You know, I am blessed with having the only Black governor in America who happens to be my Kappa brother,” says Plaskett, who maintains security both in the mainland and in the islands. “He was very concerned.”

Plaskett mentions “Kappa brother” because she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta. Usually, these topics don’t come up in interviews except that in light of the impeachment trial, it’s interesting to note Plaskett’s line name: “Fact ✔️.”

As the celebration of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. approaches, Plaskett says she was originally due to be back in the islands, rolling up her sleeves, wearing a baseball cap, and pitching in on a community service project. Many Black people use MLK Day as a day of service instead of a day off. But given her role on the impeachment team, she has to stay close and is planning an alternate, private acknowledgment of King’s sacrifice with her family.

“The presidential inaugural committee has requested [for] communities around the country to engage in a day of service for Martin Luther King Day,” she explains. “The local Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands is going to be engaged in community service, feeding the homeless, addressing those needs, doing cleanups. Doing repairs in areas that need our support. And I thought that I would be there Monday morning assisting and providing, being part of that, you know? But, since being appointed to this, I will be in Washington.”

The work of King and other civil rights leaders will be even more poignant this year as her delegation and the nation honors the legacy of John Lewis and remembers the most recent murders of Black people that brought about the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020.

“The date is really important also because of what happened at the Capitol right on January 6th,” she says. “So much of what we saw, the people who came to storm the Capitol, was not just about stopping the election but about racism, anti-Semitism, about White supremacy. After what happened last summer with Black Lives Matter and so much of the peaceful demonstrations that occurred with not just Black people, right? [There were] so many Americans and people around the world standing in solidarity against systemic racism. So this MLK Day, in a time when we have also lost so many of our great leaders, I think is a really special marker.”

As Inauguration Day bears down upon the nation and states brace for the possibility of more White supremacist attacks on democracy, Plaskett says all she is focusing on is getting back to work.

“You know, I’m one of those people who deals with times of crisis, disaster, and traumatic experiences by just working. So. I’m good,” she says. “I hope that the world will see, despite our breaks and our riffs and the battering that can take place in this country, that democracy wins.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misnamed the area of New York from which Plaskett hails. She is from Brooklyn.

Director, Multicultural @Medium. Focusing on ZORA, Momentum, Level and bolstering creators of color. All ideas welcome. And yes, I’ll still be writing.

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