(WASHINGTON – January 11, 2021) – What a week! It began Sunday (1/3/21), as a part of a group of journalists questioning Rep. James Clyburn (D) of South Carolina. During the “Q and A”, I asked Congressman Clyburn about a breaking news story regarding the President calling the Georgia Secretary of State and telling him to find more than eleven thousand votes to help overturn his election in the state. “I won’t put anything past the President,” said the South Carolina legislator (this idea would be revealed by Wednesday).
Tuesday (1/4/21), I dropped in my office at the Annapolis State House preparing for the 2021 Maryland Legislative Session in the area where I work, commonly referred to as “The Pit.” I have a pair of calendars on my desk. One shows the month, another shows the date. The date was March 20, 2020, the last time I was in the State House. I did a Zoom call with colleagues, and snapped pictures of Lawyers Mall, where Justice Thurgood Marshall will return.
I head home to watch election results from the Georgia United States Senate. By 11 pm EST, it was clear that Rev. Rafael G. Warnock had defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler. There was uncertainty as to whether Jon Ossoff had defeated Sen. David Perdue (but it was trending in that direction). This election would decide which party would control the Senate.
I retire knowing Wednesday the Congress would begin counting the results of the Electoral College. Some members of the GOP in the House of Representatives – Jim Jordan (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), and Louie Gohmert (Tex.) – were all in; in the Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) went on record they would challenge the votes as well. They were urged on by the President who went on several social media sites (Twitter/Facebook/Parler) to urge supporters to come to Washington, DC to “stop the count.” There would be a rally outside the White House.
There were ominous signs. Mayor Muriel Bowser, for instance, asked DC residents to “avoid Downtown and confrontation” Tuesday afternoon. The Mayor also put the National Guard on notice.
The Hotel Harrington, which was frequented by members of “The Proud Boys,” announced it was closing its doors in anticipation of large crowds. Federal authorities arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys Tuesday evening. These were signs.
On Wednesday (1/5/21), the day began with Vice President Mike Pence announcing he could not change the outcome of the election by selecting new electors. The President had urged him to do so, but the Vice President rejected this idea noting what the Constitution spells out about his role is in this process. The President went on a Twitter tirade. A letter was released by the Vice President to the public as to what his role is in this procedure. The process would begin at 1 pm.
At 11 am, I begin to monitor the “March to Save America” on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, and NBC. I switch over to FOX, OAN, and NEWSMAX and see they are showing a rally of Trump supporters outside the White House. Featured speakers include Rudolph Giuliani, “Let’s have trial by combat.” “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore!” Donald Trump Jr. yelled. “This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party!”
The President appears on stage at 12 noon (1-hour rant of how the election was stolen). The President urged the crowd, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump says he will march with them to the Capitol. He doesn’t, but monitors the activities from a tent then inside the White House. From Trump: … “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
The joint session of Congress convenes at 1 pm with Vice President Pence presiding. He begins to open the mahogany boxes which contain the votes of states. He stops on Arizona because there is a challenge. Each challenge will last 2 hours. AP calls race for Joss Ossoff in Georgia as they begin deliberations.
The chambers split and the challenge in each chamber begins. In a split screen, you see the marchers heading to the Capitol Building. The Capitol Police watch in horror as the crowd overwhelms the east- and westside barricades. The group gains access to the Inaugural staging area and then went on to the grounds of the Capitol. That’s when things take a turn for the worst.
In the Senate, Secret Service remove the Vice President and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Over in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is shepherded away. The remaining members are taken to the same secure locations as the mob breaks into the Capitol making their way into two chambers.
I am glued like you to the television, wondering how is this possible? I worked in the Capitol prior to 9/11. I have been back since and it’s difficult to enter. Why wasn’t their more security? All of the officers had guns. Why weren’t they used? Why was it taking so long for National Guard troops from Maryland and Virginia to arrive to secure the building? When additional police arrive, why was this mob allowed to leave and not be arrested?
Several Republican leaders urged the President to go before the cameras to ask his supporters to leave the Capitol. He appeared on Twitter via video only to rant about the election being stolen and tell his supporters to leave. A second video appeared where he said, “We love you, but it is time to leave.”
At 6 pm, curfew was imposed in Washington, DC by Mayor Bowser. Police officers began to move the crowd away from the Capitol grounds. Control is re-established. President-elect Biden addresses the nation. The Congress reconvenes and commences the process a little after 9 pm. The first challenge to Arizona is defeated at 11 pm. The others follow suit and Joe Biden is named the President.
Thursday (1/7/21), I plan to go to Washington, DC. I take my son, Julian. As we get closer to the Capitol there is security everywhere. The first thing we notice is the erecting of an eight-foot-high fence. As we get to the Reflection Pond, we notice a number of Trump supporters berating international journalists. These Trump supporters believe they have done nothing wrong and are willing to tell anyone how they feel. There continue to be caravans of cars, buses and trucks with Trump flags.
Despite universal condemnation, they are unwavering in their belief the election was stolen. On Capitol Hill there is discussion and shock as to how this happened. The assessment is swift. The Sargent at Arms is fired, the Chief of the Capitol Police resigns, and it’s announced the fencing will stay up during the Inauguration. There is word the President has gone to Camp David. There is serious talk about invoking the 25th Amendment where the President is removed from office by the Vice President and eight members of the Cabinet. Speaker Pelosi says if this does not take place she will consider a second Impeachment.
I talked to Democrat Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland about the events of the siege, lessons learned, and what should happen.
Friday (1/8/21), things are moving fast. The President records another video saying what his supporters did at the Capitol was wrong (Its seems he’s been told this looks bad.). Twitter and Instagram announce a ban for @RealDonaldTrump. Others follow their lead, mostly banning information until after the Inauguration.
There are intense discussions about the how and the why of mob getting into Capitol. A number of high-profile people seen in videos are arrested. There are bi-partisan discussions about how to proceed if Articles of Impeachment are drawn up. Same members of the GOP are against the idea saying it would further divide the country. Speaker Pelosi makes a call to the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to inquire about safeguards around the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The Chief assures her safeguards are in place.
The FBI, the Metropolitan Police, and Capitol Police beginning an investigation. More video inside the Capitol is released and shows a mob “hell-bent” on entering and desecrating the institution. There are few days left in the Trump Administration.
The chorus of condemnation is growing. An alternate version of the events includes: it was Antifa, the mob was exercising their First Amendment, and these were individuals who’re frustrated. Stop! You broke the law and this treason. We saw it and the world saw it.
Per South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, “Anything is possible with this President.”
Charles Robinson is a reporter for MPT. He also has served as Sr. Journalist for Bmorenews.com since our inception in 2002. He covers local and national news, including developments in Annapolis, City Hall in Baltimore, and Washington, DC.