One year ago today, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, was hunkered down in his office as a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.

He had been conducting an interview outside his office, which is in a separate building near the Capitol building, when he was told he needed to go inside and lock his doors.

While there, he spoke to The News-Review about the events unfolding.

A curfew had been called, and that meant he’d be sleeping in his office instead of the houseboat he lives on while in Washington, D.C. He couldn’t legally carry a gun in the city, but he was armed with some bear spray, he said.

In more than three decades in Congress, DeFazio had seen a lot. But never anything like the events that unfolded that day.

“The United States Capitol has just been invaded by people who are intent in overturning the Constitution of the United States and our representative democracy, and trying somehow to perpetuate Trump and make him the dictator,” he said.

In DeFazio’s time in office, he had seen the first removal of a Speaker of the House in a century, wars and 9/11, along with two school shootings in his district.

“It’s kind of like what’s next, locusts?” he said.

DeFazio last year announced he will retire at the end of his term.

On Thursday, he issued a statement about the events one year ago.

“What happened on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol, in no uncertain terms, was an attempted coup by insurrectionists encouraged by Donald Trump’s violent, destructive, and treasonous rhetoric and behavior, that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Capitol Police officers and rioters, and injured many more,” he said.

“For 245 years, the peaceful transfer of power following a free and fair election, as dictated by our Constitution, has been a bedrock of our representative democracy. The events of January 6 were an assault on that foundation, and on the will of the American people, spurred on by a sitting president intent on sowing chaos and the destruction of our democracy for his own personal gain,” he said.

DeFazio said the insurrection was strategically planned for weeks at the highest level of government. It was organized, he said, around a lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

“In order to move forward from this dark and painful chapter in our nation’s history, we all have a role to play. We must demand that our leaders and institutions combat misinformation about the 2020 election, and we must hold accountable the perpetrators of the January 6 coup attempt — including Donald Trump, his cronies, and the insurrectionists,” DeFazio said.

Some members of Congress are planning to mark the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection with a moment of silence. Others will spend the day educating Americans on the workings of democracy.

And still, others don’t think the deadliest domestic attack on Congress in the nation’s history needs to be remembered at all.

Where they stand on remembrance can be largely attributed to their political party, a jarring discord that shows the country’s lawmakers remain strikingly at odds over how to unify a torn nation.

Former President Trump, who had been fairly and legitimately defeated, told his followers to “fight like hell” to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election and said he would march with them to the Capitol, though he did not. The result was violence and mayhem that left five people dead in the immediate aftermath, hundreds facing charges and millions of dollars in property damage.

But the lack of bipartisan resolve to assign responsibility for the siege or acknowledge the threat it posed has eroded trust among lawmakers, turned ordinary legislative disputes into potential crises and left the door open for more violence after the next disputed election.

It all sets Congress adrift toward a gravely uncertain future: Did Jan. 6 bring the end of one era or the start of a new one?

“One thing that people should consider when thinking about Jan. 6 is ... people should think about the fragility of democracy,” said Joanne Freeman, a professor of history and American studies at Yale, whose book “Field of Blood” chronicles violence and bloodshed in Congress in the years before the Civil War.

Seeing few historical parallels, Freeman warned, “We’re at a moment where things that people have taken for granted about the working of a democratic politics can’t be taken for granted anymore.”

The aftermath of Jan. 6 hangs heavy over snow-covered Capitol Hill, in the relationships that deepened between lawmakers who feared for their lives that day and those that have frayed beyond repair.

The Capitol, before the riot a symbol of the openness of American democracy, remains closed to most visitors in part because of the coronavirus pandemic public health concerns, but also because of the escalated number of violent threats against lawmakers. Representatives are required to pass through metal detectors because Democrats say they cannot trust their Republican colleagues not to bring firearms to the House during floor proceedings.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., said every time he leaves his office he scans the hallways for potential threats — a feeling he said that, as a Black American, is familiar, but one that he never expected as a member of Congress.

“The lack of freedom of movement — without fear — is not there at the Capitol. And I’m a member of Congress,” Bowman said.

Bowman has asked Biden to declare Jan. 6 a National Day of Healing.

But Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has no plans to memorialize the day, and he doesn’t think others should, either.

“This thing has already become way too politicized, and that would just further exacerbate it,” he said.

Trump’s false claims of voter fraud have continued to foment division, met mostly with silence from Republicans in Congress unwilling to contradict his version of events.

Some two-thirds of House Republicans and more than a handful of GOP senators voted against certifying the election results that night, after police had battled the rioters for hours, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat. That the Republicans would carry on with their objections, after all that, stunned Democratic colleagues. Views hardened.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who went forward with efforts to block the certification after the riot, brushed off questions about it, saying he’s talked about it enough.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he had no second thoughts about his vote to block certification.

“I am proud of leading the effort to defend voter integrity,” Cruz said. He decried the siege as “unacceptable,” a “terrorist attack.” But he also said the insistence by Democrats and the media of no mass voter fraud “only inflamed the divisions we have.”

An investigation by The Associated Press found fewer than 475 cases of voter fraud among 25.5 million ballots cast in the six battleground states disputed by Trump, a minuscule number in percentage terms.

Unlike past national traumas — including the 2001 terror attacks — the country has emerged from Jan. 6 without an agreed upon road map for what comes next.

Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot whose New Jersey-area district recently marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, said people have repeatedly recalled “in these sort of bewildered tones” how united the country was that day — compared to now.

“It feels like a huge break from our history,” Sherrill said.

The result is not just a breakdown in trust among colleagues, but also a loss of common national commitment to the rules and norms of democracy.

Routine disputes over ordinary issues in Congress can quickly devolve into menacing threats — as happened when several Republican lawmakers started receiving violent messages, including a death threat, after voting for an otherwise bipartisan infrastructure bill that Trump opposed.

The two Republicans on the House panel investigating the attack, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, face calls to be banished from their party.

Despite dozens of court cases and published reports showing no widespread voter fraud, Trump’s baseless claims have become the party standard and led to what some call a “slow-motion insurrection” as his supporters work the machinery of local elections in ways that are alarming voting rights advocates.

Democrats are redoubling efforts to approve stalled election legislation that seeks to bolster ballot access and protect election officials from harassment. But to pass the bill in the evenly split Senate, they are considering dramatic rules changes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Many of Trump’s supporters have argued they are the ones fighting to save democracy. Two-thirds of Americans described the siege as very or extremely violent, according to an AP-NORC poll, but only 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack that way.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the false story that the election was rigged or stolen has just continued “to be spun and spun and spun.”

She said, “The danger is when people act on it.”

Yet unlike the hundreds of Americans being prosecuted for their roles in Jan. 6, many members of Congress face no reprimand — and could be rewarded for their actions.

Hawley and Cruz are both considered potential 2024 presidential candidates.

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who rushed to Mar-a-Lago to patch things up with Trump after initially being critical of the insurrection, remains on track to become the next House speaker if Republicans — with Trump’s help — win control in the November election.

And GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has seen her profile — and fundraising — skyrocket as she shares Trump’s baseless theories and decries the treatment of defendants jailed for their role in the attack.

“We’re in this no man’s land, where basically anything goes, and that’s a very unsettling place to be in a legislative body,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. “And it’s really a very unsettling place for the country to be.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(10) comments

Mike

You only need look at “mynamehere’s” comment history (below link) to realize he/she is a racist. Out of his/her 10 ten total comments, 3 different comments proclaimed black man Tyrone Powell a “career criminal who should be punished severely,” 1 comment opposed “critical race theory nonsense,” and 1 comment attacked our vice president because of her skin color.

NOT ONCE, has “mynamehere” posted a comment to ANY of the many News-Review stories about white criminals. In my opinion, “mynamehere” is a racist.

https://www.nrtoday.com/users/profile/mynamehere/

mworden

I have no patience with anyone who tries to minimize the seriousness of what happened on January 6. It was the attempt of a defeated candidate to stop the certification of the November election, to impede congress and to overthrow the rightfully elected new president. Most of his eager mob were nothing more than dupes who believed the Big Lie. There are many higher-ups still to be held to account for their coup attempt. They are traitors. They were traitors to America then and if they're still minimizing the dangers of January 6, they are still traitors.

mynamehere

Vice President Kamala Harris' saying that the Jan. 6 riot can be compared to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks is about as incompetent an utterance as some of her previous remarks. She was picked for the job because of her skin tone and her gender, not her intelligence.

Mike

Kamala Harris, 57 years old, graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1989 and was admitted to the California Bar in June 1990. She began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, before being recruited to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office and later the City Attorney of San Francisco's office. In 2003, she was ELECTED district attorney of San Francisco. She was ELECTED Attorney General of California, the most populous state in the U.S., in 2010 and RE-ELECTED in 2014. Harris served as the junior United States senator from California from 2017 to 2021. Harris has written two non-fiction books and one children's book.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamala_Harris

CitizenJoe

mynameishere: here is what our Vice President said:

"Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them where they were, and what they were doing, when our democracy came under assault," Harris said. "Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory: December 7th, 1941, September 11th, 2001, and January 6th, 2021."

mynameishere: do you disagree with her statement? She did not say "that the Jan. 6 riot can be compared to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

No. She did not say that, at all. Asserting that she did is a lie.

You are casting aspersions on a person who is far more accomplished and intelligent than you can perceive; it appears that you are blinded by her color and gender.

CitizenJoe

And, mynameishere, speaking of lies and lying liars, here is Tucker Carlson:

"Jan. 6 barely rates as a footnote. Really not a lot happened that day if you think about it."

and

"You call this a terror attack when by no definition was it a terror attack."

Here is the FBI definition:

"The FBI defines terrorism, domestic or international, as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government or civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives."

https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/fbi-and-terrorism

So, mynameis here: it was terrorism, carried out by Americans, attacking the citadel of democracy. I'm going to remember that day, even if you and Tucker Carlson want to forget.

melrosereader

mynamehere. She did not say that. You are a liar.

melrosereader

Comment in the Washington Post has an interesting take on Jan 6.

There are really 3 parts to what happened that day.

The most serious was the coup attempt. This involved Trump, Cruz, Hawley, Biggs, Brooks, Gosar, Eastman, Clark, Giuliani, Powell, Meadows, and all the Republicans in Congress who voted to go along with it. The list of names is quite long.

Second was the insurrection. This was the Proud Boys, 3%ers, Oath Keepers, and their ilk, who planned for an assault on the Capitol Bldg, itself and came armed for battle, acting as the tip of the spear. They breached the perimeter and broke down windows and doors.

Third was the collection of people--the foot soldiers following the insurrectionists into battle--who made up the riot that provided cover for the insurrection. They had no idea what they were doing, and only the most rabid of them became violent and attacked policemen. Many of them just entered the building and wandered around "like tourists", taking selfies; but some of them died.

So far only the foot soldiers and the insurrection leaders have been held to account. The coup attempt's leaders have not.

dejadoodoo

Regardless of all that happened that day, we discovered a couple of issues in the election validation process that need legal attention; only our elected Senators and Representatives can tackle that issue.

What remains, and what is playing out certainly, albeit slowly, is a large scale Whack-A-Mole game. It was a dangerous game they played, but heads are hurting when that big mallet connects. I wish that I could take a few swings, especially at the 45SHOLE.

Mike

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