Louisiana congressional members respond to Trump’s violent mobs at Capitol

By: and - January 6, 2021 9:06 pm

U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation spoke out against a violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in what some lawmakers from other states are describing as an attempted coup incited by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress from certifying the November election results.

At least one woman was shot and killed during the chaos, according to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Trump remained largely silent as the mob sieged the Capitol, even as lawmakers from his own party urged him to tell his supporters to stand down.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who called it a “coup attempt,” tweeted directly to Trump: “You are not protecting the country. Where is the DC guard? You are done and your legacy will be a disaster.”

Here’s what Louisiana congressmen said about Wednesday’s events:

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican 

In an interview Wednesday night, Cassidy called the attack on the U.S. Capitol “an act of sedition” and said all of the rioters who rushed the Capitol building should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible in the law.

“This is an attempt to impede, to break up, to stop a constitutional duty of the United States Congress,” Cassidy said. “It is what happens in third-world countries.”

Cassidy said he was in the Senate chamber when he first started hearing people talking about “a breach” at the Capitol. Then, he heard someone say that there been a gunshot — and then he noticed that Vice President Mike Pence had been removed from the chamber. 

“Quickly after that, it became widely known that rioters and anarchists had broken into the Capitol,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy recalled, at that point, that the Capitol’s security started bringing Senate staff members into the chamber for safety reasons. Then the senators and staff members were evacuated from the chamber and taken to a location Cassidy did not want to reveal. Cassidy said he could see that the Capitol police had barricaded the doors and that rioters were in the Capitol waving flags as Cassidy left the building.

Asked if he had ever experienced anything like Wednesday’s attack, Cassidy responded: “Have an I ever been in a place where an act of sedition occurred? No.”

When Cassidy was asked if Trump was responsible for the attack, he said: “The president clearly got people stirred.”

“The president can speak to people as no one else can. The president should say this is wrong, this is criminal, an action of sedition and people should go home,” he said.

At the time of the the interview, Cassidy said he and his staff were still in “lockdown” and he was trying to find some way to get food for his staff as the Senate was planning to go back on the floor to resume certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. It was expected to be a long night.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, Republican

Kennedy was one of six Republican senators who objected to Arizona’s Electoral College votes going to Biden Wednesday — thereby implying Biden may not have won the presidential election in Arizona. Several Republican senators decided not to make similar objections after the pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol Wednesday.

Earlier in the night, Kennedy released the following statement about the mob attack:

“I condemn this violent assault on the democratic process & will not be intimidated by a mob that confuses chaos & destruction with strength and wisdom,” Kennedy said via Twitter. “I will continue to work for LA.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Benton

Johnson was in the House chamber when “chaos ensued” Wednesday afternoon. He said the Capitol police started barricading the doors and that he started to hear glass breaking and, eventually, a gun shot. Then, security ushered Johnson and about 150 other House members to an “undisclosed location,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday evening, Johnson said he wasn’t aware how large the pro-Trump crowd outside the Capitol had gotten before the breach occurred because he hadn’t left the Capitol complex — which includes several buildings connected by tunnels — in a few days. When Johnson is working in D.C., he sleeps in his Capitol office and doesn’t have a separate apartment.

“I didn’t know what was going on at all. I thought the protesters were down by the White House,” he said.

Johnson, who is close to Trump, did not acknowledge that the people who attacked the Capitol were the president’s supporters. He told a reporter that he thought there was a possibly a “big mix of people involved in this.”

“Clearly, there were a lot of Trump supporters in town today, but there might be other groups and parties involved as well,” he said.

When asked if Trump — who had been encouraging the mob shortly before the rioters attacked the Capitol — had any role in causing the attack, Johnson said he didn’t think “any one political figure is responsible.”

“These are adults. I don’t think President Trump is any more responsible for what happened at the Capitol today than the congressmen of Portland are responsible for what happened there,” said Johnson, referring to some violence that erupted in Oregon over the summer. “What caused [the Capitol riot] is the same thing that has caused all the unrest over the last many months.”

Johnson added that he wished Trump would have called out the violence “more forcefully and consistently.”

Johnson refused to say whether he thought Biden had won the November election or whether he would object to the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory later Wednesday night. But he said that he believed there had been “irregularities” in the November election. Several courts and states have confirmed that Biden won the election and that there was no widespread fraud or problems with voting.

We are an experiment in government. Nobody knows how long this can last,” he said of American democracy.  

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette

Higgins had planned to object to certifying Biden’s victory with the Electoral College. After the mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, he posted two tweets that stopped short of any direct references to the mob or Trump.

“Violence and lawlessness are unacceptable,” Higgins wrote. “This must end now. This is not American.”

He followed up with a second Tweet that vaguely referred to actions “within the House of We the People.”

“This very day, we were standing for American freedom, legally, peacefully, passionately, within the House of We the People, and within the parameters of our Constitution,” Higgins wrote. “I say to all violent aggressors… stand down.” 

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge

Graves issued the following statement about Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol:

“The violence, attacks on law enforcement, and destruction of property we saw today from the mobs is unacceptable, un-American, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie

Scalise is Louisiana’s most powerful member of Congress as the second highest ranking leader among House Republican members.

Scalise was significantly wounded in a politically-motivated attack on a congressional baseball practice in 2017. He almost died, went through several surgeries and spent months in physical therapy after that assault.

“United States Capitol Police saved my life. Attacks on law enforcement officers trying to do their jobs are never acceptable. Period. We can passionately protest without being violent,” Scalise said in a tweet Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Scalise had also said he planned to object to the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans

Richmond did not answer calls from a reporter for comment on Wednesday’s event, but staff confirmed he was in the Capitol during the attack on the building. The Democrat is resigning from Congress Jan. 15 to join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration later this month. He has been reluctant to make public comments, in part because of his upcoming job with the Biden administration.

Louisiana’s 5th district seat — covering all of the northeastern portion of the state — is vacant following Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s death of COVID-19 in late December.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots to 1997 when, at age 13, he built a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. Since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune and worked on staff at WAFB/CBS, the Sun Herald and the Enterprise-Journal, winning awards from the SPJ, Associated Press, Mississippi Press Association and McClatchy. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Muller is a New Orleans native, Jesuit High School alumnus, University of New Orleans alumnus and a U.S. Army veteran and former paratrooper. He lives in Southeast Louisiana with his two sons and wife.

Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.