ND & MN congressional delegations describe what they saw during the capitol insurrection
WASHINGTON (KVRR) – One year ago former President Trump held a “Stop The Steal” rally.
Some of his supporters broke into the U.S. capitol while the Senate was certifying election results.
“I have vivid memories of being on the Senate floor and watching the Vice President being quickly moved off of the Senate floor trying to understand what was happening and the debate we were engaging in was interrupted and then have somebody throwing open the door of the Senate chamber, a Capitol Police Officer, and say ‘Everybody move!’ It was almost impossible to understand this violent mob of people, sent by the president, had broken into the capitol and were attacking the capitol police officers,” Democratic Minnesota Senator Tina Smith said.
“We were going towards the basement and suddenly one of the police officers said ‘People, go faster. They’re right behind us.’ That was the first moment I thought ‘Wow! This is serious business!'” Republican North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer said.
“When we got escorted off the balcony, you could hear people around the corner, but, no, I never actually saw any of them. Like I said, I never felt like I was in imminent danger, but I never felt that danger was not very far away,” Republican North Dakota Congressman Kelly Armstrong said.
“We were leaving the Senate chambers and going to the other side of the office building. I could look down the hall and see some of the protestors, but, no, I felt that the Capitol Police and security and so forth would handle the situation,” Republican North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said.
“Being a Republican was not necessarily a safe place to be because we were the ones that several of them had an expectation would overturn the election,” Cramer explained.
“The most haunting thing that day was the words of one officer with a police radio that hasn’t gotten a lot of focus when he said ‘Does anyone have a plan?'” Democratic Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said.
“The men and women on the ground that day did heroic efforts to get everybody who worked there, everybody who covered there, everybody who was elected there to safety,” Armstrong said.
It took Trump three hours from when people began trying to get into the capitol to post a video to Twitter telling people to get out of the capitol.
“We have to have peace. So, go home. We love you. You’re really special,” Trump said in the video.
“Donald Trump has always had a difficult time criticizing people who are supportive of him. I think that was his biggest violation was not ending it sooner. When I say ending it, not speaking out sooner,” Cramer said.
“Seventy-five percent of the officers that day were in plain clothes. Oftentimes the people invading the capitol had better gear than they did. That was a dramatic mistake made at the leadership level,” Klobuchar explained.
“It was a really bad day. It was a riot and everybody who was in that building and committed a crime should be held accountable,” Armstrong said.
Capitol Police Officer Michael Byrd shot and killed Ashli Babbitt while she was trying to get into a barricaded door leading to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s lobby.
“There’s no way he could know the person coming through that broken glass who was ordered not to multiple times. There’s no way he could know if she had a weapon or not. We do know when you look at the video that there were members of Congress standing behind that officer. She’s really a victim of her own bad choices,” Cramer explained.
“It’s a terrible shame and tragedy that she lost her life, but she shouldn’t have been there and she certainly should have obeyed the officer’s instructions,” Hoeven said.
On July 19th, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced the five Republicans he wanted to serve on the House January 6th Committee including Congressman Armstrong. Speaker Pelosi rejected Republican Congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. They objected to Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Pelosi said she had concerns of the investigation’s integrity and actions and statements made by Jordan and Banks. McCarthy then removed all his picks from the committee.
“Minority members get to populate committees with their own positions. Again, this goes back to this is unprecedented. Well, every time Speaker Pelosi says unprecedented, it galvanizes power in her office and takes power away from the minority,” Armstrong said.
“Kelly Armstrong would do a fantastic job and that’s the point I’m making. It should have been bipartisan, it could have been bipartisan, but she wouldn’t let the Republican leader designate the Republicans on the committee. She was instead to decide them? Had the situation been reversed, she never would have allowed that,” Hoeven said.
Looking back one year later, members of the North Dakota and Minnesota Congressional delegation have a lot in common on what we learned from the capitol insurrection.
“We are a 50/50 country and we need to start talking about ideas and not start hating against people,” Armstrong said.
“We have to realize that this is a democracy, that we have to honor and respect our constitution, or laws, and work through the process,” Hoeven said.
“I think it’s appropriate we remember it. I think the most important thing is that everybody commit to letting it happen again,” Cramer said.
“We can have our disagreements and major policy disputes, which I think is a good thing, that’s what a democracy is about. But, in the end, we have to understand that we’re a democracy and that means that you have to respect outcomes of elections,” Klobuchar said.
“I am struck by how deep the divisions are in our country and how many Americans are willing to say that they believe that violence is a reasonable in a democratic society like we have. I think the lesson I have learned is how fragile our democracy is,” Smith said.
None of the members we spoke with say they have been asked to testify before the January 6th committee.
KVRR reached out to Republican Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach’s office to get her story of what she saw during the insurrection, but never heard back.