Twenty-four hours after a group of terrorists, encouraged by President Donald Trump to go to the U.S. Capitol, took over the building and sent congress into lockdown, Minnesota’s Third-District Congressman Dean Phillips called the day the most horrifying moment of his life.
“When you run for Congress and take the oath of office, we know it comes with risk to your personal safety, as evidenced by [Rep.] Steve Scalise (R-La.) and [former-Rep.] Gabby Giffords (D-Az.) being both shot in the last decade,” he said. “But I should also say I have great empathy for Americans all around the country, in our community and beyond, who were watching the events unfold on television and probably felt the same fear that I did in that chamber at that moment.”
Phillips, Minnesota’s first Jewish member of the House of Representatives, said what was particularly sad was the antisemitic and racist imagery many of those that entered the Capitol had with them or were wearing.
“The Confederate flag being waved in our nation’s capital, and the many examples of the insurgents wearing shirts that read Camp Auschwitz, and the shirts that said 6MWE (6 million weren’t enough),” he said. “There are so many horrors of yesterday, and, sadly, among them is those of antisemitism. And there were racist elements, there were anti-American elements, there were antisemitic elements. Just every horrifying example of what we still have to work every day to overcome – in our country and around the world – were exhibited, sadly, in our Capitol yesterday.
“We have a collective choice to either use the horrors of yesterday to further divide, to politicize, to separate, or we can use it as a national wake up call to resolve to change our ways and build bridges and respect one another. to unify and combating the very racist, antisemitic atrocities that clearly still exist in our communities.”
Phillips said that the transition from hearing the objection to accepting the Electoral Votes from Arizona to being in lockdown happened very quickly. He said he was on the House floor when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) were whisked off the floor by Secret Service. The doors were then slammed shut and barricaded.
“A Capitol Police Officer announced through the intercom system that we were on lockdown and that insurgents had entered the building; they were in the Rotunda coming our way, that we should take cover under the seats, and get our gas masks,” Phillips said. The gas masks are kept under every seat in the House Chamber. “And then the house chaplain started a prayer.”
Phillips and those in the Chamber could hear the banging on the doors when Capitol Police officers told them to run and follow them.
“We did through the outer door through some tunnels and passageways to a secure area in one of the House office buildings,” he said. “That’s where we sat in a bipartisan fashion for about 150 of us for about six hours straight.”
Earlier Thursday, Phillips announced that he was staying in Washington, D.C., to entertain impeachment or the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would remove Trump from office. After news came out that Vice President Mike Pence wouldn’t push the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, Phillips announced on Facebook that he has joined Articles of Impeachment for abuse of power authored by fellow Congressman David Cicilline, Jamie Raskin, and Ted Lieu.
“Some might even say, ‘With 12 or 13 days remaining in the president’s term, why bother?’” he said. “My response is that our oath of office doesn’t expire, whether it’s day one or day 1,448 of a presidency. I have watched with growing incremental dismay almost every day of this President’s term, the dangers of his dissemination of misinformation, and disinformation and division. And but what happened yesterday, and I believe his culpability and lack of condemnation, and, frankly, the inspiration of the events of yesterday are seditious.”
With less than two weeks until President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in, Phillips said that impeaching Trump a second time is still possible under what’s called a Privilege Resolution, which is what Minnesota’s 5th District Rep. Ilhan Omar also announced on Thursday. Cicilline and Lieu are co-sponsors of that impeachment effort as well.
“It is our understanding based on a legal opinion that we can actually proceed and litigate articles of impeachment, even after his presidency comes to an end,” Phillips said. “One of the outcomes of it could be the prevention of him from ever holding a federal office again, and that we believe is worthy of consideration.
“It may well – even if articles are introduced and litigated and he is convicted –be beyond this presidency, and so be it. But I think history and posterity will judge those of us who have some degree of power to do what’s right and just.”
Phillips did say that while it was “astounding” there wasn’t more death and destruction, he acknowledged that if these were Black Lives Matter protestors, the outcome likely would have been different.
“I think it’s fair to say that had insurgents been carrying Black Lives Matter, banners, that something may have been done to prevent the breaching of the Capitol,” he said. “And I think that something would have come from the White House.”