Speaking to the Journal
by phone this afternoon from his Capitol office during a mandatory lockdown instituted by Capitol Police as officers worked to clear the building of a violent pro-Trump crowd, North Coast Congressmember Jared Huffman said he entered the day braced for the possibility of conflict but didn’t imagine anything like this.
“There were some red flags that we could have disruption, and maybe even some conflict today,” Huffman said. “So most of us asked our staff not to come to work. I’m the only person in my office. We were here thinking that we would be largely doing a ministerial job of certifying the Electoral College results. I expected it to go late into the night but certainly didn’t expect a mob to show up or anything like this.”
Congress went into emergency recess early this afternoon as rioters supporting President Donald Trump’s false election fraud claims pushed through police lines and stormed the U.S. Capitol, breaking windows and occupying the Senate floor. There were reports of multiple violent altercations with Capitol Police and that a woman was shot and killed. Lawmakers are currently sheltering in place where secure, with Congressional leaders moved to an undisclosed location, as Capitol Police work to clear the building amid a chaotic scene.
The protests came as Congress was preparing to certify the Electoral College results from the Nov. 3 election, which saw Democrat Joe Biden win the popular vote by some 8 million votes and win a commanding Electoral Collage victory after narrow victories in six states. In the weeks following the election, Trump’s campaign and supporters filed nearly 60 lawsuits challenging the election results but nearly all were dismissed and U.S. Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, said his Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.
Nonetheless, Trump has refused to concede defeat and repeatedly espoused baseless conspiracy theories while refusing to offer any evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities while also pressuring state officials to overturn results.
This morning, as Huffman prepared for the joint session of Congress scheduled to begin at about 1 p.m. EST, he said he watched C-SPAN footage from the rally in support of Trump and his repeated false conspiracy theories and claims that widespread voter fraud across six states was the reason he’d lost the Nov. 3 election to Biden. Huffman said he watched with increasing alarm as Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and son Donald Trump Jr. addressed the crowd.
According to a transcript, in a rambling 70-minute address that was part campaign speech and part airing of unfounded election conspiracy theories, Trump told the crowd the election was “rigged” and “stolen,” pledging never to give up and “never concede,” and urging his supporters to “fight like hell and, if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
He then urged them to march to Congress. Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” Trump Jr. told Republican members of Congress unwilling to stand with the president — who include Sen. Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell and conservative stalwart Sen. Tom Cotton — “we’re coming for you.”
“Trump and Giuliani and these others were just throwing all this incendiary red meat on the mob and telling them to march on the Capitol, and that’s what they did,” Huffman said.
Huffman said he then watched news coverage in disbelief as the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol swelled.
“The first indication I got that the mob was actually turning violent was when they breached the (Cannon House Office Building) and the Madison Building,” Huffman said, adding that he learned of the breach when someone sent him video of it on Twitter. “From that point on, it’s just been a series of warnings and alerts, one after another, and trying to assess what’s happening.”
Huffman said he’s been receiving updates from his chief of staff, colleagues and Capitol Police throughout the day, and was instructed to get out his Congressional emergency “go-bag.”
“It is surreal,” he said. “To have to dig out the go-bag that I didn’t even know existed in my office that has these protective tents you can deploy to protect yourself from toxic agents and gasses. We were told to push back from windows, pull shades and lock all our doors, almost like an active shooter situation.”
Isolated alone in his office, Huffman said he’s sat hunkered down, texting with colleagues, watching news footage and following social media to see the scene outside his doors.
“It’s been crazy all day long,” he said. “There’s just been a constant din of these crowds and sirens constantly, and then explosions periodically. Every few minutes there’s an explosion.”
Huffman said he thinks the explosions have been tear gas canisters deployed by Capitol Police to disperse violent crowd, though officers have also reportedly used flash-bang devices and news reports indicate various suspected pipe bombs have been left throughout the D.C. area and are under investigation.
As to what’s next, Huffman said he’s not sure.
“We are in an indefinite lockdown,” he said. “We don’t know when they will get the security situation under control. Once they do, we are eager to get back to work to finish this election certification. We are not going to be dissuaded from that. But they’re going to have to do a variety of security sweeps to make sure it’s safe to return to the floor.”
This afternoon, Trump posted a minute-long video to social media ostensibly to ask his supporters to go home peacefully but the video was filled with more unfounded fraud allegations and references to opponents who are “so bad and so evil.” Huffman said he started watching but had to turn it off.
“I couldn’t finish watching it,” he said. “It was so pathetic. It’s like when the arsonist kind of half-heartedly calls for the fire to be put out while throwing gas on it.”
Huffman said a “violent mob like this … is a hard thing to just turn off,” and he doesn’t know where things go from here. He said he doesn’t expect any of his Republican colleagues who have stood by Trump and parroted baseless election fraud claims to change their tune.
“We will get through this,” Huffman said when asked what message he’d like to deliver from lockdown to the residents of his Second California Congressional District. “We will certify the Electoral College and will inaugurate President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris a few days from now and nothing is going to prevent that from happening.”
Shortly after his interview with the Journal
, Huffman tweeted: "We are going to impeach this seditious criminal Trump (again), and this time we convict in the Senate. Even if it happens after he leaves office. This just cannot stand."
About an hour and a half after Huffman's conversation with the Journal
, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to colleagues saying lawmakers would resume counting Electoral College votes tonight.
Around the same time, Huffman's predecessor, former North Coast Congressmember Mike Thompson, who now represents California's Fifth Congressional District due to redistricting, tweeted calling on Vice President Mike Pence to initiate proceedings under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
"On this dark day for our nation, we need to stand up and end this immediately," Thompson wrote. "Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake."
Huffman replied, "Amen!"