WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is responsible for the right-wing mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday while Congress worked to certify the election, said Vermont’s House Rep. Peter Welch, in an impromptu conference call with reporters.
“He bears maximum responsibility,” said Welch, who described seeing the doors to the House Chamber being bashed in, being told to lie on the ground and don gas masks by Capitol police, and of hearing reports of possible gunfire along with what sounded like a gunshot. “(Trump) began inciting this before he lost the election. The campaign began, he was telling people it was a rigged election. As the election went on, he said it would be rigged, and then when he lost he said it was a stolen election.”
He said a responsible leader would have accepted the will of the people, whereas Trump has been doing the opposite since before votes were even cast.
According to national media reports, the mob breached barriers outside the Capitol building a little after 1 p.m. Wednesday. Shortly after, they were inside the building tussling with police.
“The first notion I had that there was something really out of the ordinary happening was when I observed the security staff for (House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer) and security staff for (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) rush from the back of the chamber … and they had that look on their face that said 'this not a drill, this is not a drill.' And they just escorted, very quickly, both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer off the chamber floor,” said Welch.
Some of what Welch said was difficult to hear from the phone connection.
What followed was a lull, then Capitol police announced that “protesters” had breached the building.
Welch initially referred to members of the mob as protesters, but then said their actions were criminal in nature and referred to them mostly as criminals.
“There was again another lull, but then we started hearing noises from outside. … We were told that we had to put on our gas masks,” said Welch. “We got them out, there’s a process to do that. … There was a report that there was some tear gas, I don’t know the facts, but apparently it was from the protesters. I’m using the word 'protester,’ but I think it’s an understatement — this is criminal conduct.”
Welch said he was in an area above the doors to the chamber when people outside began banging on it.
“I started to hear crashing sounds, it was right below me, and it was apparently protesters who managed to get all the way through the Capitol to the House Chamber and there are heavy wooden doors that are locked … and the protesters, the criminals, really, were banging on it, and attempting to breach it,” he said. “Police had their guns drawn, and they were looking for anything they could to bolster the door, because I saw something, some implement came through the wood … I think that was the moment where there was maximum apprehension by the police and the members who were lying on the floor.”
Members were escorted out another exit by Capitol police, whom Welch praised for their work in keeping lawmakers safe. He wasn’t aware of anyone in his vicinity having been injured.
Asked if police had responded to this incident similarly to how they’ve handled Black Lives Matter related gatherings in the past, Welch said he could only speak to what he saw.
“I can only talk about what I observed when the doors were literally being battered down in the House of Representatives, and the Capitol police were wonderful,” he said. “The stress they have to be under, their lives were really insecure. And where their responsibility was to protect the members who were in that chamber, I saw these people doing their job and being calm and concerned. I can only speak about what I observed in this case, and I observed real people committed to the job they were there to do.”
Welch said he expects that once the building is secured, Congress will return and certify the election results which saw Joe Biden elected over Trump.
“Let me tell you, this is bad, what’s going on here, but we have the highest turnout in our history in the last presidential election, that is people taking seriously their pledge to be part of the future of democracy,” he said.