Virginia lawmakers react to chaos at U.S. Capitol

Virginia

WASHINGTON (WAVY/WRIC) — Lawmakers sheltered in place at the U.S. Capitol and the entire D.C. National Guard was activated after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the building Wednesday as several Republicans in Congress were sharing their objections to the election results.

The mob breached the building as legislators were debating the electoral college results during what is normally a ceremonial proceeding. The debate came to a halt and members of the House were instructed to wear gas masks when tear gas was deployed in the Rotunda.

Bomb threat

Rep. Elaine Luria, who represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, tweeted Wednesday afternoon that she had to evacuate her office in D.C. because of a reported pipe bomb outside.

“Supporters of the President are trying to force their way into the Capitol and I can hear what sounds like multiple gunshots.”

She followed up that initial tweet saying she doesn’t recognize our country today.

An alert was issued that stated: “INTERNAL RELOCATION: The Cannon Building is executing internal relocation due to police activity. All other staff should remain inside their building until further guidance is received from USCP. If you are outside a building on Capitol Hill, follow the direction of law enforcement officers. If you are in the Cannon Building, take visitors, escape hoods, and Go Kits and report to the South tunnel connecting to the Longworth.”

Rep. Luria’s office is in the Cannon Building.

An all-clear was declared around 1:45 p.m., allowing re-entry.

The evacuations happened as thousands of people descended on the U.S. Capitol as Congress was expected to vote to affirm Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. Videos posted online showed protesters fighting with U.S. Capitol Police officers as police fired pepper spray to keep them back.

Statements from other officials

The Senate recessed after protesters forced police to lock down the building.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted at 3:15 p.m. that he was safe and sheltering in place with other senators.

“Please join me in praying for our country, and for our fellow Americans to do the right thing,” he added.

Later, once Congress reconvened, Warner spoke on the Senate floor about the implications of calling the validity of November’s election into question.

“I think like most of us, I’m still pretty reeling from what happened today.

“What I was going to talk about was the work that I’m most proud of since I’ve been here, with my good friend Richard Burr and all the members of the Intelligence Committee, about a multi-year report we did into foreign interference in our elections.

“Probably our top recommendation of that five-volume bipartisan report was that any official or candidate should use restraint and caution when questioning results of our elections. Because when you do so, you often carry out the goals of our foreign adversaries.

“Use caution, because whether knowingly or unknowingly, and whether that adversary is in Russia or China or Iran, their goals are pretty simple. They want to make it appear to Americans, to folks around the world, to their own people, that there’s nothing special about American democracy.

“I was going to try in a feeble way to maybe reach some of the rhetorical heights of Ben Sasse and I knew I couldn’t do that. So instead – I know I’m violating rules here, today is the day for violating rules [holds up cell phone image] – this is a photo that appeared today on one of the most prominent German newspapers.

“You don’t need to – you can pull up photos from any newspaper or any television feed anywhere across the world. And what is this photo of? It’s of thugs. Thugs in the halls of this Capitol. Diminishing everything we say, we believe in, in this democracy. And when you look at those images, you realize those images are priceless for our adversaries.

“God willing tonight, in an overwhelming way, we’re going to take a small step in a bipartisan way to start restoring that trust of our people and hopefully billions of people around the world who believe in that notion of American democracy. But remember, these images will still endure. I yield back.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Sen. Mark Warner looks on as protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-04) also tweeted that he is safe and added, “Evil always raises hell before it is cast out. We will pass this test. Democracy will prevail.”

Dozens of people breached security perimeters at the Capitol and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the Rotunda. 

One person has been shot at the U.S. Capitol as dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building and violently clashed with police, several news agencies confirmed.

“Domestic terrorists will not stop democracy,” tweeted Rep. Luria.

Later, she released another statement as Congress resumed.

“Tonight, I will return to the House floor to fulfill my duty and oath to our Constitution by certifying the electoral college victory of President-Elect Joe Biden. The domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol today will not prevent the continuation of our democracy. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our government and, with that in mind, the House of Representatives will resume its work on behalf of the people.”

RELATED: Protests rage outside Capitol as Congress meets to finalize Biden victory

Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01) tweeted “This is absolutely unacceptable. This is not how we conduct the Nation’s business. Please allow us to get the work of the people completed.”

The day before, Wittman said that he would object to the Electoral College results.

Wittman share this statement on Twitter on Thursday.

Rep. Bobby Scott tweeted just after 6 p.m. Wednesday saying he and his staff were also safe.

Scott later issued this updated statement on the events Wednesday.

“Today’s attempt at a violent coup at the United States Capitol marks one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. I am reminded of President George Washington’s warning of ‘cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men . . . enabled to subvert the power of the people and usurp for themselves the reins of government.’ Last November, the people of our country spoke loudly and clearly and elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to serve as our next President and Vice President, respectively. Those results were certified by Democratic and Republican election officials all across the country. Now tonight, the Congress of the United States will count the certified votes of the Electoral College pursuant to the Constitution. We will not be intimidated from doing our constitutional duty and affirming the will of the People.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va)

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine also tweeted about the protests, confirming he and his staff were safe. He also urged the violence to stop.

He later posted an update after Congress reconvened.

“Tonight I spoke on the Senate floor about exactly what objecting to these electoral results means for our country:

After John Lewis was savagely beaten on Bloody Sunday, the US Senate came together to pass the Voting Rights Act.
We should be coming together today—after more violence—to affirm the votes cast in November. Instead we’re contemplating an unprecedented act of disenfranchisement.

If we object to these electoral results, we’re saying to states: No matter how safe and secure your elections are, we’ll gladly overturn them if we don’t like the results.

But more importantly—as the body that acted together to guarantee Americans the right to vote—if we object, we will become the agent of one of the most massive disenfranchisements in the history of this country. The United States Senate cannot and must not allow that to happen.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Watch Kaine’s full speech from the Senate floor here.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), who is running for governor, released a statement calling the mayhem an “attempted coup.”

“The peaceful transfer of power after an election is the hallmark of American democracy. Only once in the 231 years since our Constitution was ratified has there been an overt attempt to take by force that which was lost at the ballot.

“Until now.

“What occurred today was nothing less than an attempted coup incited by a man who swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States on the very steps of the U.S. Capitol that was invaded by armed insurrectionists.

“My heart breaks for our country tonight.

“Yet, this attempt to destroy our government of the people, by the people, and for the people, must not succeed. While democracy is fragile, the will of the American people for its survival has proven resilient time and again. We can and shall rise above the actions of today’s violent mob to protect our democratic institutions and the peaceful transfer of power demanded by the voters on Election Day.

“We must all do our part.

“I condemn the actions taken by those who sought to overthrow our government by force, and pledge to do all I can to preserve it.

“All those who incited or enabled today’s actions by their words, deeds, or silence should face serious political consequences. I stand with those members of Congress calling for the invocation of 25th Amendment. In addition, members of the Republican Party who sowed the seeds of distrust in our democratic institutions and perpetuated the lie of voter fraud that led to today’s events should likewise be held accountable.

“I pray for the soul of our nation and the safety of those in Washington, D.C., tonight. I am particularly grateful for those public servants who continue to do their job to ensure the peaceful transfer of power on January 20th.”

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond)

Wednesday night, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statement about the mayhem in the nation’s capital.

“I have been working all afternoon and this evening with leaders in Washington D.C., the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Police, and others in the federal government.

“The violence we saw at the U.S. Capitol today was nothing short of an armed insurrection and a humiliating assault on American democracy. The President incited this mob with his refusal to accept the lawful results of a fair and secure election. And the members of Congress who have enabled him—and continue to encourage and praise his efforts—bear just as much responsibility.

“This did not come about overnight. When elected leaders purposefully reject facts and fan the flames of conspiracy theories, all in pursuit of power, they are taking dangerous steps. And now we are seeing where those steps can lead. God forbid we experience anything worse.

“I continue to pray for the safety of every member of the House and Senate, all the staff, the journalists, everyone who works in the Capitol. And I commend the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police for quickly stepping up in this time of great need.”

“Let me be clear: Virginia will be there for as long as it takes to protect our nation’s capital and ensure the peaceful transition of power.”

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe — who’s running again for governor — also released a statement.

“Today has been one of the darkest and ugliest days in our nation’s history. As a direct result of Donald Trump’s calls to invalidate our fair and democratic president election – and many Republicans’ continued support of his efforts – terrorists have attacked our nation’s capitol with deadly consequences.

“This isn’t the first time Trump has incited violence in our streets and his statement today of ‘love’ for these violent extremists makes him a continuing threat to our democracy. Vice President Mike Pence must immediately invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Donald Trump from office before more Americans are harmed.

“Thank you to President-Elect Joe Biden and Governor Ralph Northam for their leadership for our country and Commonwealth. Our nation is hurting right now and our institutions are being tested, but our democracy will undoubtedly prevail. Ours is the greatest democracy on Earth, and I look forward to January 20 when President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated as part of the peaceful transfer of power that is fundamental to who we are as a nation. He and Vice President-Elect Harris will unify us and lead America through this dark and painful time.”

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

** The Associated Press contributed to this report

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