He sent a text message to his wife trying to reassure her, even though he wasn’t so sure himself: “Told her that I loved her, that I loved my daughter, and that everything was going to be fine.”
That harrowing ordeal is at the center of the upcoming impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump.
And Neguse, 36, will arrive in the Senate chamber as the youngest lawmaker to serve as a manager in an impeachment trial.
He has emerged as one of the most promising stars of the historic class of 2018, a group of more than 60 Democrats that delivered the House majority for Pelosi.
He has not received nearly as much attention as some more-liberal members of that class, nor as much as his moderate classmates from key swing districts.
But Neguse will get his first share of national attention when he joins a team of nine House managers trying to win a post-presidency conviction of Trump.
The son of Eritrean refugees and partly inspired to run as a response to Trump’s restrictive policies on refugees, Neguse does not see this trial as a futile or symbolic effort. It is a personal bid to finish his Jan. 6 defense of Biden’s clear victory, a task interrupted when a rioting mob broke into the Capitol.
“For me, personally, part of this trial is finishing what we started. I mean, at the end of the day, that the insurrection was meant to disrupt the work that we were doing on the floor. It was meant to stop the peaceful transfer of power,” Neguse said in a recent 45-minute telephone interview.
Neguse arrived in Washington somewhat under the radar, because the seat he won has been safely held by Democrats for years. But his victory in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, anchored around Boulder and small mountain towns, was no small feat.
Just 1 percent of the district’s residents are Black, and he won the Democratic primary by 2 to 1 over a former county party chairman en route to becoming his state’s first Black congressman.
He quickly won over his peers, who elected him as the freshman class representative to join weekly meetings of Pelosi’s leadership team.
That freshman group included such ideologically different members as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a Marine Corps officer whose special-election win in 2018 became a template for other moderate Democrats.
Those two clashed publicly after the November elections, in which Democrats lost more than 10 seats, with Lamb and others in the 2018 class asserting that Ocasio-Cortez’s democratic socialism had hurt the party in swing districts.
Neguse has threaded this needle better than any other member of that class. He has maintained close ties to Ocasio-Cortez and still counts Max Rose (D-N.Y.), one of those who lost his reelection contest, as one of his best friends.
“I did it by never impugning anyone’s motives, by always approaching conversations and my interactions and discussions with my colleagues in a respectful way, and recognizing that there are folks that might see the world different than I do,” Neguse said.
While he has drifted toward national issues — as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he played a role in the first impeachment of Trump — Neguse learned from others to keep his focus on his district.
Nine of his bills were signed into law, including one to expand the Rocky Mountain National Park, legislation that Trump signed two weeks before leaving office, and he introduced 55 bills, the most among the 2018 class, all while holding 46 town hall meetings, according to his advisers.
In June, he had no opposition in his Democratic primary and won reelection in November by more than 25 percentage points.
And in November, he won another unanimous vote to join the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, a group of lower-level members of Pelosi’s leadership team that hones the caucus’s message.
Pelosi formed the DPCC after several disappointing elections, trying to appease a younger generation that wanted more power. Now in the majority, those younger Democrats hold more plum assignments than ever before, yet Pelosi, 80, and her two lieutenants — Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), 81, and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.), 80 — have remained in those positions for 15 years.
But Neguse won’t complain about his chances to shine, having received opportunity after opportunity from Pelosi.
Late last year, the speaker asked him to work with three veteran Democratic legal minds — Reps. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the lead impeachment manager last year; Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), another impeachment manager; and Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), a constitutional lawyer who will lead the new managers.
Their task? Defend Biden’s electoral college victory of 306 votes, despite unrelenting and false conspiracy claims by Trump. And then, shortly after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, the mob crashed into the Capitol and upended all of their work.
A week later, Neguse delivered a speech calling for Trump’s impeachment — for “inciting a mob that stormed the United States Capitol for the sole purpose of stopping the constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes” — and on Wednesday he watched Biden being sworn in.
But for him, the impeachment trial must go on, even if Trump is out of office.
“This is a vindication of the Constitution, right? And at the end of the day, for any number of different reasons,” Neguse said, “including to deter any future presidents from engaging in the type of conduct that this president engaged in. To ultimately ensure that this type of insurrection does not take place in the future.”