PACIFIC COUNTY — The violent and deadly takeover of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump last Wednesday have local officials seething, including Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was on the floor of the House of Representatives as a mob attempted to breach the chamber.
The events that unfolded in the nation’s capital have little precedence in the history of the United States, dating back to when British forces looted and burnt the U.S. Capitol building more than 200 years ago during the War of 1812. Last week’s breach came as Congress met in a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, and came immediately after Trump told his supporters at a rally to march upon the Capitol.
In a statement released on Jan. 6, the day the insurrection occurred, Herrera Beutler, a Republican, said she was on the floor of the House when armed rioters attempted to breach the chamber.
“The Capitol Police barricaded us in. We were told to get down and to get our gas masks. Eventually, we were ushered out,” Herrera Beutler said, adding that officers told her they had found and detonated four bombs just outside of the Capitol’s campus. “I am currently safe and sheltered in place. We are locked down because the Capitol is not secure.”
Local and federal law enforcement officials and National Guard members were able to retake control of the capitol building later that night, and Congress certified Biden’s Electoral College win in the early hours of Jan. 7. The insurrection resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher and a rioter who was shot by a police officer as she tried to force her way into an area from which House members were being evacuated.
As of Jan. 11, dozens of members of the mob had been arrested and charged by the Justice Department or the Washington, D.C. Superior Court. Charges include: violent entry and disorderly conduct; theft of government property or public money, property or records; transmitting a threat in interstate commerce; assault on a police officer; and possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, including one person who was charged with possessing 11 molotov cocktails.
Herrera Beutler had harsh words for the mob, saying she witnessed first-hand the “chaos, panic and danger” their actions incited.
“Is this the America we want to give to our children? A country of lawlessness and mob rule? Previous generations of Americans have laid down their lives to answer ‘no’ to that question. Do we want to be the first generation selfish enough to say ‘yes’?” Herrera Beutler said.
With regards to the certification of the election results, Herrera Beutler said she would vote to certify Biden’s victory, breaking with several dozen members of her party. By refusing to certify states’ results and attempting to overturn the election, she said Congress would be leading the country down a road of lawlessness and anarchy.
“Of the six states being actively contested in this election, five have Republican legislatures. Yet not one legislative body has voted to withhold, object to, or change certification of their electors,” Herrera Beutler said. “Every single one of the states in question has certified and sent one slate of electors officially to Congress. Not a secondary slate. Not a contested slate. Not multiple slates. One slate. Not one of these legislatures has met as a body and voted to send Congress a bill, a resolution of disapproval, or a plea for help due to injustice. Nothing.”
“I will not vote to undermine the entire Electoral College because my choice for president did not win.”
County party officials react
Locally, both the Pacific County Democratic and Republican parties denounced the actions of the rioters.
In a statement provided to the Observer, Nansen Malin, chair of the Pacific County Republican Party, called what happened in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday “very troubling.”
“I understand peaceful protests and concerns about the integrity of elections, but storming the People’s House and using force, violence and intimidation is wrong,” Malin said. “We need to apply the same standards to everyone. We need to hold civil discourse and be respectful.”
“My fear is all the hard work that has been done to shed light on election concerns is now unraveled by the actions of a few. Republicans need to hold each other to higher standards and be the light our country is founded on. We need to build up our democracy, not attack it.”
In a one-sentence statement provided to the Observer, the Democrats of Pacific County said simply: “It is a very sad day for our country.”
Fallout from last week’s events at the Capitol have spilled into this week, as the House appears poised to impeach Trump for a second time — with some level of bipartisan support possible this time around.
As of the Observer’s Jan. 12 print deadline, more than 210 House Democrats had co-sponsored an article of impeachment introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01) on Monday, for “incitement of insurrection.” A vote on impeachment is expected to take place on Wednesday.
In a Jan. 11 article, Politico reported that as many as 10 House Republicans are “seriously weighing” whether to vote for Trump’s impeachment. The article says Democrats have their eyes on a handful of GOP lawmakers who seem most likely to support impeachment, in which Herrera Beutler was included. For her part, Herrera Beutler had not said publicly as of Tuesday afternoon where she stands on impeachment.
If impeached, a trial would be set in the Senate, where senators would vote to either convict or acquit Trump. A two-thirds majority is needed to convict, meaning 17 Senate Republicans would need to join Democrats to convict Trump. Since last Wednesday, several GOP senators have called for Trump’s removal or stated that they believe he committed impeachable acts, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Details surrounding the trial, such as when it would start, were still murky as of Tuesday, although the trial is not expected to get underway until after Trump is out of office. If convicted, the Senate could then consider whether to disqualify Trump from seeking federal public office in the future, which requires just a simple majority vote.
FBI warns of armed protests across countryOn Jan. 11, national news organizations reported that the FBI is warning of armed extremist groups planning to demonstrate in state capitals throughout the country this coming weekend.
In a bulletin, the FBI said there are plans for armed demonstrations in all 50 state capitals to varying degrees of coordination and expected turnout. The bulletin, first reported by ABC News, includes information suggesting people might try to storm and overtake government buildings.
Olympia has already seen armed protests in the days since the riot in Washington, D.C. On the same day as the insurrection, demonstrators — including some who were armed — breached the gate at the governor’s mansion.
In response to planned demonstrations, Gov. Jay Inslee activated as many as 750 members of the Washington National Guard ahead of the first day of the 2021 legislative session on Monday.
“As legislators begin their work on behalf of the people of the state of Washington, we must do whatever we can to ensure that they can do that work without fear, intimidation or harassment,” Inslee said last week in a statement. “The actions we saw in both Washington, D.C. and Olympia earlier this week were completely unacceptable and will not be repeated in our state capital again.”
A more heavily fortified capitol campus met a small group of about 30 armed demonstrators on Monday, some of whom taunted National Guard members and Washington State Patrol officers on duty. State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, of the 19th Legislative District, addressed the group of protesters and criticized the legislature’s plans to hold a mostly virtual session this year due to concerns over covid-19.
Two people were arrested at the demonstrations on Monday.