Inside the Capitol for Impeachment: National Guard in Every Corner
WASHINGTON — They slept on the marble floors, lined up for coffee in the 24-hour snack bar and marveled at the marble likenesses of the nation’s founders in the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. They snapped photos with their phones, ate pizza and sometimes played cards, their M4 carbines at their sides.
Throngs of armed, camouflage fatigue-clad members of the National Guard ringed around the Capitol and lined its halls on Wednesday, weapons, helmets and backpacks stacked seemingly in every corner of the complex. The heavily militarized presence provided a jarring and sobering backdrop to the House chamber as a majority of lawmakers moved to impeach a sitting American president for inciting an insurrection on the nation’s Capitol.
It evoked reminders of the rioters who just one week earlier had stormed the complex as its terrified occupants took shelter inside the barricaded House chamber and secure locations across the Capitol — and the recriminations that remained ahead of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration.
“It doesn’t belong here,” Representative Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia and a veteran who served 20 years in the Navy, said of the military presence in the building. “It is something that is out of place.”
“I hate the idea that we’re going to change in a way, be harder more difficult or more cumbersome for people to come enjoy the historic monument that this is because of what happened last week,” she added.
Much like the lawmakers, aides and reporters who were still exchanging accounts of where they were during the siege of pro-Trump supporters, Capitol Hill on Wednesday appeared to be torn between nursing the open wounds left by deadly riots and the need to lay the groundwork for healing under a new administration.
Capitol workers feverishly worked in recent days to complete preparations for Jan. 20 inauguration — hanging blue curtains over the entrance to the Rotunda and brushing dust off the statues — among reminders of the violence. Window panes remained splintered and cracked in parts of the Capitol and two holes were left over the entry to the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California after rioters stole the speaker’s embossed wood plaque.
Freshmen lawmakers delivered their maiden floor speeches on the merits of charging President Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting an insurrection. After a majority of the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump, Ms. Pelosi spoke from the same lectern that a pro-Trump supporter had been photographed gleefully hauling across the Capitol.
“I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how disgusted I am with what happened and the point that we’re at — it’s sad, it’s disgusting, it’s sad,” said Representative Brian Mast, Republican of Florida. An Army veteran who lost his legs while serving in Afghanistan, he gave tours of the Rotunda to members of the guard as a way of showing gratitude for their service. (Mr. Mast also voted to overturn the results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania, and expressed no regret about those votes. He was not among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump.)
Some lawmakers lamented the threat that made the military’s presence necessary, with many Democrats irate about the role they said their own Republican colleagues had played in whipping up the rage of the mob that assaulted the Capitol, putting lawmakers’ lives in danger.
“It should not and will not be tolerated,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, told reporters. “And that’s why extraordinary security measures have been taken.”
In response in part to concerns about Republicans bringing guns to the House floor, new magnetometers have been installed outside the doors to the chamber, a new security measure that was challenging for several lawmakers. Typically allowed to bypass the magnetometers at the entrances to the building, several Republicans grumbled about the added layer of security and some made a point of pushing past police officers despite setting off the alarm.
The Trump Impeachment ›
From Riot to Impeachment
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout:
- As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by President Trump set the stage for the riot.
- A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
- Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
- Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
- The House has begun proceedings on an article of impeachment. It accuses the president of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.
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