The images of pro-Trump extremists defiling the US Capitol on Wednesday are now seared in the world's collective memory. Still, last night, Congress returned to finish their work and confirmed Joe Biden as the next president.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who is expected to be the next Senate majority leader, put things this way:
"President Franklin Roosevelt set aside Dec. 7, 1941, as a day that will live in infamy. Unfortunately, we can now add Jan. 6, 2021, to that very short list of dates in American history that will live forever in infamy. This temple to democracy was desecrated."
Schumer, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is calling for Trump's removal from office.
Newly elected Rep. Mondaire Jones was in the Capitol building yesterday and joined The World from Washington. Jones is a Democrat who represents New York's 17th District just outside of New York City. He is among a group of congressmembers who unveiled a resolution Thursday to impeach Trump.
Carol Hills: Congressman Jones, thanks for being with us.
Mondaire Jones: Thanks for having me. It's been quite an interesting past 24 hours.
Yeah. You were in the House chamber when the Capitol was breached yesterday. I understand security had people kneeling by their seats. Can you tell us what you heard and saw?
Well, I was on the House floor yesterday and generally in the House chamber, along with 200 other members of Congress and staff persons, when we began to receive alerts on our phones. And then Capitol Police made an announcement that the Capitol had been overtaken and that we would be locking down the House chamber. Once those doors were locked from the inside, eventually, we heard — or I heard — a loud banging behind me. That was the mob of dozens of domestic terrorists seeking to break into the House chamber. And so people feared for their lives, myself included. I also fear for our democracy. We were told to look under our seats and withdraw our gas masks in the event that tear gas needed to be used and instructed that we may have to lie down on the floor in the event of gunfire.
And did you hear any gunfire?
I did not hear any gunfire. We eventually were evacuated to another location that was more secure, where we huddled for literally hours with security forces surrounding that room. It was a process that required our being led through tunnels. And you just never knew who was going to be or what was going to be around the corner.
Last night, just before the 6 p.m. curfew in Washington, you tweeted, "I'll just say it. If today's domestic terrorists were Black, they would have never been allowed to storm the Capitol." Congressman Jones, you've just been elected as one of the two first openly gay Black men to serve in Congress. What do yesterday's events say to you about who gets to protest in the United States?
It said to me what I and most Black people in this country already knew, which is that there is a different standard if you are Black or brown in this country. You can look at the photos of the level of security used during Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice last summer. It was so heightened relative to yesterday. And of course, we had ample notice about the crowd sizes and the motivations and ideologies of the people who were going to descend upon Washington, DC, to try to disrupt our democracy. And yet, clearly, there were insufficient resources to protect us from the mob that overtook the Capitol. So there needs to be greater accountability from a security standpoint.
We associate terrorism with acts done by people or groups from other nations. What are the legal implications of using the label "domestic terrorists"?
The legal implications are the same as the dictionary implications. We have to call domestic terrorism what it is. And that is precisely what these people were yesterday. They were domestic terrorists seeking to overthrow the United States government. And it can't be that you have to be a brown person, that you have to be Muslim in America in order for that word to apply to you. That's not fair. And it does a disservice when it comes to making sure that white domestic terrorism, like what we saw yesterday, is addressed in this country from a security and law enforcement standpoint.
Late last night, you called for a full investigation of the security breaches, and along with some of your colleagues in Congress, the impeachment of President Trump. Why are you calling for his impeachment and the invocation of the 25th Amendment?
I'm calling for Donald Trump's impeachment because I have a constitutional responsibility to be a check on the executive branch of government. And so that means impeachment must occur when it is appropriate, as it is today in the wake of criminal behavior and the incitement of violence against the legislative branch of the United States government with coconspirators in the House and Senate who have been participating in this through propagating this myth of voter fraud. This myth that the government is trying to oppress people. This myth that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. That rhetoric has consequences. And we also need an investigation with respect to any coordination that occurred between these members and the people who descended upon the Capitol yesterday. I'm also calling, as you noted, for invocation of the 25th Amendment. It's why I signed onto a letter to [Vice President] Mike Pence yesterday calling on him and Trump cabinet officials to invoke that.
We need to remove this president. He's shown himself to be a danger even in the final weeks of his presidency.
After everything that happened inside the House chamber yesterday, you and your colleagues returned to certify the Electoral College votes you carried out that some people yesterday were trying to stop. What does it mean that Congress went back to work last night and ratified the election results? What message does that send to the rest of the world?
The message that was sent at the end of the day to the rest of the world is that the United States of America is still a place where democracy can and must exist. And I'm so proud of House Democrats for surviving yesterday's antics and indeed a violent insurrection in order to come together to certify the November election. We don't have to live like this. We can model good behavior and we can save this democracy and even strengthen it. But we need new leadership.
Congressman Jones, how secure do you feel back in the Capitol today?
I feel as though we need to do an investigation of the security breaches that occurred yesterday and ensure that we have people securing the Capitol and members of Congress who do not share the ideologies of the people who were able to overtake the House. And that will make me feel more secure.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.