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Several Democratic women in Congress have said some of their Republican colleagues are at least partly responsible for last week’s violent storming of the Capitol that left at least five people dead.
In an Instagram Live on Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called President Donald Trump a traitor for inciting “an attack on the United States Capitol” and said some Republican members of the House and Senate helped him, as well as the attackers. She called for the resignation of anyone who incited or supported the rioters, specifically naming Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who led the effort in the Senate to object to the certification Joe Biden’s election.
“[The rioters] flew the Confederate flag for the first time in American history in the U.S. Capitol,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It didn’t even make it in during the Civil War. And there were members cheering them on.”
If any member of Congress failed to denounce the Confederacy, Ocasio-Cortez called for them to “turn in your pin and get out.”
Ocasio-Cortez added that fellow lawmakers’ actions put her and other members of Congress in personal danger. She did not want to join her colleagues in a safe room because she was worried they would divulge her location to the attackers, she said Tuesday. Rep. Lauren Boebert, for instance, tweeted when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the House chamber. Ocasio-Cortez also said she had a “close encounter” in which she thought she was going to die but did not divulge details, citing security reasons.
“Many, many members of the House were nearly assassinated,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Before the riot, Trump held a rally near the White House where he told thousands of his supporters that he would “never concede” and encouraged them to head toward the Capitol to “take back our country.” Nearly 150 Republicans in the House and Senate supported the president’s election fraud claims and voted to stop the electoral vote certification. Trump told reporters on Tuesday that his remarks were “totally appropriate,” and less problematic than other politicians’ responses to the protests against racial injustice and police brutality that swept the country last summer.
In a Facebook Live, Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey also called some colleagues complicit in last week’s violence, saying she saw other members of Congress leading “reconnaissance” tours in the Capitol the day before the siege. She promised to hold those people accountable and, if necessary, ensure their removal from Congress.
“We can’t have a democracy if members of Congress are actively helping the president overturn the election results,” said Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot.
More than 30 House Democrats joined Sherrill in demanding information from security officials about “an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex” the day before the deadly riot, according to a letter signed by the lawmakers and shared with The 19th. The visitors were especially suspicious given the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the letter read.
“Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex,” according to the letter, which was addressed to the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol Police acting chief. “The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious.”
Rep. Val Demings of Florida, a former police officer, joined the growing group of representatives contesting that rioters were assisted from the inside of the Capitol. In a CNN interview, she called the attack well-planned and well-coordinated, and says she is “very concerned” that members of Congress were involved.
On Monday, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri introduced her first bill, a resolution to investigate and expel her colleagues who “sought to sabotage” the nation’s democracy.
“I believe the Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election must face consequences,” Bush said in a tweet. “They have broken their sacred Oath of Office.”
Rep. Terrie Sewell of Alabama took to social media to denounce the actions of her state colleagues, Rep. Barry Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks, who gave an impassioned speech at the rally before the riot. She called their comments “outrageous” and said they must be held accountable.
“It is not okay for my congressional colleagues to use their public platform to incite Americans to overturn our election, storm the U.S. Capitol or assault our democracy,” Sewell wrote. “It’s called an insurrection and such seditious behavior must have consequences.”
While rioters breached the Capitol, breaking windows and ransacking offices, lawmakers found secure locations to hide during the lockdown, many of them sequestered together. Several Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, have since tested positive for coronavirus.
Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, blamed her diagnosis on Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks. Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brad Schneider of Illinois have also tested positive.
“When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here,” Watson Coleman wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece.