A Violent Assault on Our Democracy

Following the mob riot at the Capitol, there are questions that demand answers, writes the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Who planned the deadly attack, and why was security so inadequate?

11 Jan 2021 | 10:10

In the years since the 9/11 attacks, my Congressional staff and I have participated in security drills, including “shelter in place” drills: lock the doors, grab a gas mask, stay quiet, wait for rescue. All to prepare for the unlikely event that a foreign adversary might once again launch an attack against our nation’s Capitol. Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever imagine that one day I would do it for real because we were being attacked by a violent mob incited to attack the Capitol by the President of the United States.

Make no mistake, that is exactly what happened on January 6, 2021. A deadly terrorist attack on the seat of our democratically-elected government was incited by the President. It was an assault, not just on a building, but on our democracy and on the sacred tradition of the peaceful transfer of power, a tradition that has been the cornerstone of our democracy for more than two hundred years.

The images from that day are now burned into our collective conscience. Among them, a confederate flag in the Capitol Rotunda, a mob ransacking the Senate Chamber, Capitol Police officers being violently attacked, and angry rioters threatening the lives of my colleagues, the Capitol Hill press corps, and all who work there. All this, at the direction of a would-be despot.

As I sheltered with staff in my office that looks directly across to the Capitol and watched the scenes outside my window play out on live TV, I was shocked and angrier than I have ever been. One of the greatest assaults on our democracy in the history of our country was unfolding right before my eyes. In all the chaos, I had difficulty reaching family and staff back home to let them know that everyone in my office was safe.

I am grateful that no member of my staff was harmed, but that was not the case for everyone. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer who reportedly died after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher by a rioter.

After the attack, and after the Capitol was secured, my colleagues and I were determined to finish our Constitutionally mandated duty to certify the electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And so instead of going home and letting the rioters win, we reconvened the joint session of Congress to finish certifying the electors, and to certify — once and for all — that President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris won the 2020 election.

The events of that day underscore that President Trump is a clear and present danger to our democratic traditions and must be removed from office. His reckless actions on Wednesday have shown that he is unfit to be the leader of the free world. He cannot be trusted to carry out his remaining duties and cooperate in the peaceful transfer of power to the next President.

It is also clear that despite the abundant danger signs, including internet postings instructing those traveling to Washington for this riot to “bring guns” and asking “who should we kill?,” those charged with protecting the Capitol were not prepared for the mob that would descend. It appears that many of the perpetrators were permitted to simply walk away free.

As Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, I am determined to get to the bottom of the events of January 6. I am coordinating closely with my colleagues on other committees, but there are questions that demand answers.

First and foremost, we must focus on the assault on the US Capitol: How was this deadly attack planned, coordinated, and executed? Who were the leaders? What role did social media platforms play in the planning of the assault? And what was the involvement of white supremacist groups? What role did the FBI play in planning to defend the Capitol?

Second, while I sincerely commend the bravery of the law enforcement officers who persevered throughout this deadly attack, we must investigate the woefully inadequate security and enforcement measures that were in place on January 6. Why was the US Capitol Police not sufficiently prepared for a violent Trump mob that had plainly and publicly telegraphed their intentions on the internet for several weeks leading up to January 6? Did the Capitol Police immediately request assistance from the National Guard or other federal agencies? Why did it take so long for this assistance to arrive? Did President Trump or his Administration delay federal assistance?

While answering these questions is critically important, we must also remember that none of this would have been possible without President Trump’s reckless and shameful campaign to undermine the election. He repeatedly and deliberately lied to his supporters about the election, baselessly claiming that the election was “stolen” from him and fabricating claims of election fraud. He then willfully incited an armed and deadly insurrection with the intent of stopping the peaceful transfer of power.

For these actions, President Trump must be — and will be — held accountable.

As I sheltered with staff in my office that looks directly across to the Capitol and watched the scenes outside my window play out on live TV, I was shocked and angrier than I have ever been.