WASHINGTON, D.C — Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren first realized lawmakers could be in danger as she watched security at the U.S. Capitol whisk House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to safety on Wednesday afternoon.
It was no surprise thousands of Trump supporters had descended on Washington D.C. in the hopes of overturning the presidential election. They had discussed it for weeks on social media, with President Donald Trump urging his followers on Twitter to come out and rally on his behalf.
But the San Jose Democrat didn’t think her life would be at risk. She expected security measures would be in place to protect the Capitol — and the lawmakers inside — from the angry mob of rioters.
“I was told they had everything under control,” said Lofgren, explaining she had received a security briefing the day before. “…We questioned the line of command and coordination with the National Guard. We were told that was all in place and that there was no doubt they were completely able to keep us secure.”
Instead, the rioters were met with little resistance. They forced their way inside the Capitol — scaling walls and shattering windows — and then roamed throughout the halls, vandalizing the building and breaking into lawmakers’ private offices.
“I was stunned to see the lack of effective response to that mob,” Lofgren added. “….As time went on, obviously, the mob and the rioters breached the security of the House itself. We were on the floor. We could hear the rioters outside of the chamber pounding on the doors.”
Lofgren, who was eventually evacuated to a safe location, said there needs to be a thorough investigation into why the Capitol wasn’t better protected. Some guards acted heroically, she said, but some videos circulating on social media show officers taking selfies with the trespassers or opening gates to let them inside.
The congresswoman added she believes the response would have been “quite different” had the mob been composed of black or brown rioters. San Jose activists, many injured by police force during protests over the killing of George Floyd, called the response to the pro-Trump mob a display of hypocrisy and racism.
Like a growing number of legislators, Lofgren is now calling for Trump to be removed from office. If Vice President Mike Pence does not invoke the 25th Amendment, the congresswoman said the House should impeach the president for a second time and hope the Senate will remove him.
Although the president has just 12 days left in office, Trump being impeached — becoming the first president to be impeached twice — would be the first step toward barring him from holding public office again.
“The president has been stimulating this unrest for some time,” Lofgren said. “He has engaged in a propaganda campaign that is false and has convinced apparently a lot of people in the United States that he actually won the election when he didn’t.”
Adding that the president appears to be living in an alternate reality, the congresswoman said she believes Trump is a threat to national security.
Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) and Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) are also calling for the president to be removed. Eshoo shared on social media that she has cosponsored articles of impeachment that will be filed in the House on Monday.
“The President incited a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and a failed coup of our government that ended in bloodshed,” she wrote on Twitter. “He did damage to not just a building — he damaged the temple of our democracy where the representatives of the people speak and govern on their behalf.”
Trump, who lost both the popular and electoral vote to President-elect Joe Biden, has repeatedly claimed election fraud in the 2020 election without any proof or evidence. But as calls for his removal intensified, the president abruptly changed course on Thursday night.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” he said at a news conference. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
This was a stark contrast to his comments Wednesday, when he addressed his supporters on the Ellipse near the White House and called Biden’s victory an “egregious assault” on democracy.
“You will never take back our country with weakness,” said Trump, before urging his supporters to march down to the Capitol as members of Congress began tallying Biden’s Electoral College victory.
While claims of election fraud have been shot down by judges and election security officials, many Trump supporters remain unconvinced. Some rioters this week compared themselves to the founding fathers in 1776, claiming they were fighting against tyranny as they stormed the nation’s Capitol. Others shouted “Stop the Steal” or carried signs that said “Trump Won.”
The president, who eventually instructed the mob to return home, told his supporters he understood their pain and called them “very special.”
Several people died as a result of the attack, including a Capitol police officer and a woman who was shot by security. Dozens of other officers were injured.
City police officers found and removed one pipe bomb at the Democratic National Committee and another at the Republican National Committee, according to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Police also recovered a cooler with Molotov cocktails on Capitol grounds.
Despite all the chaos, lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol later that evening to finish tallying the votes. Lofgren, who was one of the tellers announcing the election results of each state, said it was important to send a message that rioting would not prevail.
“We stood up to the mob,” she said. “We would not allow them to prevent us from doing our job.”
Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.