US Sen. Edward Markey was in the US Capitol complex last Wednesday when thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed the congressional grounds, and laid siege to senators and representatives and their staff members over several hours.
The Reporter’s Ed Forry spoke to Sen. Markey by phone this week about that experience.
Q. Where were you when you started to hear the sounds of the mob?
A. I was in my office writing my speech to be delivered on the floor of the Senate,to uphold the Electoral College. I was there when over the intercom in my office came a voice saying, “The Capitol is under attack. Block all doors immediately, all the blinds, immediately; the capitol is under attack.” They repeated that message a couple of times. It was, you know, a moment that I never imagined could occur – Americans attacking their own Capitol building where we, after we had fought so hard during the American Revolution to construct that very building, that’s what the revolution was all about.
Q. Leading up to that moment, were you aware that there was a mob coming… to confront the people in the Capitol?
A. No, I didn’t know that. The networks were not extensively covering those speeches that were being given by Donald Trump and his family and Rudy Giuliani over by the White House. So, we were not aware at that time of the incitement that the president, his family, and Giuliani had engaged in in the hour before we were beginning to deliberate. So, it was obviously a shock that these rioters, these looters, were able to penetrate the security of the Capitol in such vast numbers. We never saw it coming. It came as a complete shock to the members of the Senate and the House that our security could be penetrated. And it resulted in a lot of very quick action to protect the security of all the members of the House and Senate and the staff.
I give the security personnel credit for that, but we’re going to have to re-examine the security that is around the Capitol complex, especially on Inauguration Day.
Q. Were you and your staff locked down in your office in the Dirksen Office building?
A. I had two staffers with me; all the rest have worked remotely since last March, so there were only two. We locked each and every door and we pulled down the blinds because we face right out onto the Capitol from my office. We didn’t know what would happen. In fact, they did find a pipe bomb in front of the Democratic National Committee office and a pipe bomb in front of the Republican National Committee office…. Thank goodness the security people found those other bombs.
Q. What will you remember about that day?
A. I’ll remember two things: One that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, incited an insurgency against the government of the United States of America that was ultimately unsuccessful. I will also remember at eight o’clock that same day, sitting at my desk in the Senate once again considering the challenge to the Electoral College votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania and other states. The Senate successfully rebuffed the efforts of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and other senators and we were able to certify that Joe Biden had been constitutionally elected as the next president of the United States of America.
So, two things happened on the same day: One was a terrible affront to democracy, and the other was the re-affirmation of democracy. And I was able to be there speaking on the floor of the Senate for Massachusetts and about the values that we believe in. So, it was about as memorable day as I will ever have.
Q. What is your best read on what’s going to happen for the rest of this week?
A. I believe that Donald Trump is going to be impeached in the House of Representatives, and I believe that it is absolutely historically necessary that he be impeached. We have to ensure that history knows that we added an additional indelible Scarlet Letter of Impeachment to Donald Trump for all of history to see.
Q. Do you think they actually will go through with a full outdoor ceremony next Wednesday, Jan. 20? Will it be safe to do that?
A. Well, we will definitely have the inauguration, but again, there are going to be coronavirus restrictions that were going to limit what was going to transpire. To begin with, the inauguration is a national special security event, like the Super Bowl and a few other events in the course of the year. So, there are going to be thousands of troops there to protect against the repetition of what happened last Wednesday. But, again, like the counting of the Electoral College votes, we cannot allow the terrorists to stop our constitutional obligations from being fulfilled. So, we have to have the inauguration and we have to do it in a way that says to the rest of the world: We are not going to be intimidated by terrorists.
Q. This is being described as domestic terrorism. Has that become a more dangerous problem than foreign terrorism?
A. We have to protect against both. We clearly need to ensure that terrorists cannot penetrate the security of the United States from external locations. That’s what inspections of planes and ships and our borders are all about. But we have to be aware of this Trump-created insurgency, which raised its ugly head on Wednesday, because it’s not going away.
They’re unrepentant. They’re proud of what they did on Wednesday. And we have to recognize and accept that as a permanent part of the political future in the United States. That’s a sad commentary on the legacy of Donald Trump, but it’s very real, it’s very dangerous. These people are willing to resort to violence in order stop the operation of democratic institutions in our country.
Q. Some of the Capitol Police personnel showed great bravery in responding to the mob, estimated now at about 8,000 people. I understand many of them are students working part time to provide security to the buildings. Years ago, when he was a college student in Washington D.C., Dorchester’s own Jim Brett worked as a Capitol police officer.
A. Jimmy Brett, Chris Matthews, Harry Reid. Their entry into politics all came through that job. There was a police officer who committed suicide yesterday. He had been on duty on Wednesday. And another one was killed, I guess it was a fire extinguisher that killed him. I feel badly for the police; they were left undermanned, and the intelligence was ignored.
We’re going to have to have a 911 Commision-like investigation about what happened. How did this unfold? There’s no two ways. They were outnumbered 100 to one, or 200 to one, each of them, you know, as the crowd surged.
Q. There’s a video of an officer who was chased up several flights of stairs. He turned right and went down a hallway and it has been reported that had he turned left, it would lead to a door that enters into the Senate chamber. And he’s being treated as a hero for having the forethought to go to the right rather than to the left. He became the magnet that drew the mob away from the chamber. It was an extraordinary scene.
A. It’s a miracle that it wasn’t far more catastrophic in terms of human life and limb. If it had happened like five, six minutes earlier, you know, these terrorists might have had 200 House members, all surrounded on the floor, and others in the Senate. It was just very, very fortunate how quickly people got evacuated, because there was absolutely no notice.
“It was a day like, you know, if you remember on the day of Kent State, when … Nixon had absolutely created this divided country. ‘America love it or leave it. And that’s what Trump has done, the same exact thing. He has built an ‘Us Against Them’ mentality across the whole country and it’s just nitro meets glycerin; it’s going to result in an explosive situation.
“That’s what we had on Wednesday: A day like Pearl Harbor that will live in infamy in our country’s history, if you will.”