WASHINGTON — Thursday marks the anniversary of a sad day in our nation's history – when insurrectionists attempted to stop presidential election results from being certified.
More than 130 officers were injured and five people died from that tragedy on Jan. 6, 2021.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) spoke with KVUE about his experience that day on capitol grounds.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, thank you for joining me tonight. Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at our nation's capital, the attempted coup to stop our election. You were there at the Capitol. Please run me through what was going through your mind and what you saw while you were there.
Rep. Doggett: Well, it was a truly tragic and shocking day for our country. I was shocked to look out my window up with a beautiful view of that Capitol and seeing 25 or 30 police officers rushing around the Capitol to try to protect the entrance on the mall side of the Capitol. And then the alerts to barricade in our offices, meeting with colleagues and seeing how fearful they were. The entrance where we always go in or from my office to the Capitol had police tape, because that's where one of the insurrectionist was shot and killed. These are the kind of images that mar our Capitol, along with the destruction of the Capitol and 141 police officers injured. That should never happen. And now we know that this was more than one day. It was really two months of plotting to essentially overthrow the government. We need to ensure this never happens again. I'm concerned that these days, the coup plotters are more in pinstripe suits trying to figure out how to suppress the vote, how to ignore the vote if they don't like it. So they're continuing challenges to our democracy.
During that time, were you in fear for your life at all?
Rep. Doggett: I wasn't personally. I know some of my staff members were quite concerned and some of my colleagues, of course, had people really literally banging on their doors. They did not get to our door. We were ready. I felt we were safe there. I was more concerned about what was happening to my colleagues and more concerned about what was happening to our democracy. Basically, I was where I was because, with COVID, they limited the attendance in the chamber at the time to the states that were being contested. This was Arizona, I think, at that time. And so, I did not have reason to be in the capital. I went back later that night as we completed the vote count, and it is important that at the end of the day, late at night we were there completing the peaceful transition of power, which is so central to our freedoms and to the democracy. You don't always win an election. You have to be willing to accept a free and fair count.
We know that a lot of people, hundreds of people, have been charged with this insurrection, but we know many more have not been charged yet. Do you feel like the charges that people have faced have matched their actions and what message do you think these charges are sending to our nation?
Rep. Doggett: Well, the main message that charges should be sending is don't ever contemplate doing this again. Don't desecrate our Capitol and our democracy by doing this again. Some of the penalties have been appropriate for those who entered and did damage there to the Capitol. But I do have some concern that there has not been sufficient accountability for those who were organizing and plotting this coup, this attempted coup, and that more needs to be done. I believe that the Jan. 6 committee has tried to move forward expeditiously. They need to move forward more expeditiously, and they need to make criminal referrals if the evidence is there to support those referrals without regard to who is the person involved. I think there is much more work to be done to assure true accountability for something that really hasn't come close to happening since the Civil War or the War of 1812 in terms of entering and damaging the Capitol.
What is Congress doing to make sure are trying to make sure that this doesn't happen again?
Rep. Doggett: Well, immediately. This Jan. 6 committee, which exists only after Republicans rejected the idea of an independent, bipartisan commission, is gathering records, subpoenaing witnesses. We've had to hold two people in contempt and refer them from criminal action because they refused to cooperate and testify. So that's the immediate accountability. The longer-range issue as far as protecting our democracy is to end voter suppression. I think Texas has been ground zero for that suppression, the most difficult state in the country in terms of voting processes. So I'm concerned about those measures, as well as the overall issue of how we participate in a democracy and ensuring that we never have this happen again because everyone has an opportunity to participate.
From this event, do you think Democrats and Republicans have grown closer together in terms of election integrity and the meaning behind that?
Rep. Doggett: You know that night for a while, I thought this tragedy really did draw us closer. I listened to the Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, speak about the wrongdoing that occurred and Mitch McConnell over in the Senate. What's been troubling is how quickly they moved away from their initial reaction and refused to hold people accountable for the wrongdoing here, and the fact that there are still so many people at this point that think it's OK to engage in violence. We see it portrayed relative to impressions of the events of Jan, 6, but we're also seeing it play out in school boards and local governments across the country. That is never the way to resolve our disputes unless we hold those who engage in it accountable. Then we just encourage more of it to happen. It's also notable that apparently, the studies that have been done show that the leaders, in terms of potential threats to the public at large, are white nationalists. And I think tragically, some of what we saw in Charlottesville in terms of the racism is reflected here in some of the same far-right groups that feel empowered to use violence to their ends to preserve what they wrongfully think should be a white nation.
The idea of the election being stolen has trickled down into our laws. With our new laws in place now in Texas, it will be harder for people to vote. Do you think that that was moving in the right direction or the opposite?
Rep. Doggett: This is all part of the big lie. There is no credible evidence of substantial voter fraud, whether we have Republicans look for it or Democrats or these phony audits like the one that Gov. Abbott wasted money on here in Texas. There is simply no evidence to justify the suppression that is occurring. The only purpose of that is to deny people their vote. We need to be encouraging more people of all political persuasions to have a stake in the future of our country by participating, not discouraging it with these various voter suppression efforts. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would do so much to provide some federal standards of federal protection to assure that these racist attempts to suppress the vote are not successful.
Do you think the punishment for those who were a part of this insurrection was harsh enough for what was done?
Rep. Doggett: No, it's a case-by-case basis. I don't think it was strong enough for some, but what I'm really concerned about are the organizers and the leaders at the top, not just the people that walked in the building that day, that they be held accountable. And to date, many of them have faced no punishment whatsoever.
Do you think the investigation will have an impact on the midterms later this year?
Rep. Doggett: It's very difficult to evaluate the impact, and I believe that Chairman Thompson, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, who has demonstrated tremendous courage, are trying to pursue that in a nonpolitical way as they possibly can under the circumstances and let the chips fall where they may as far as the election. But just focus on the accountability because there's something far more at stake here than what happens this coming November. It is about whether or not we can have a democracy work. We respect the outcome of an election regardless of whether we win or lose and that's what's in jeopardy here. Even this week, President Trump is once again putting out total lies that are have been verified to be wrong and falsehoods by Republican investigators as well as Democrats. That's what leaves us in a very troubling position. I would like us to have become closer together, but as long as he's spewing these falsehoods, we will have difficulty bringing the country together.
Any message you want to send to everyone on this grim anniversary?
Rep. Doggett: To remember how precious our democracy is, how many have sacrificed their lives from the battlefield to the battlefields for civil rights, and that we have a responsibility to protect that democracy is never so secure as we might think it is when there are extremists who are willing to attack it in favor of authoritarianism.
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