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Guest opinion Pramila Jayapal

Guest opinion Pramila Jayapal

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Jan. 6, 2021 is a date which will forever live in infamy. This was the most violent, deadly, and destructive assault on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. The insurrectionists were domestic terrorists, many armed and many associated with white nationalist groups. This was a planned and coordinated attack with an intent to overthrow a free and fair election, and included live bombs both on the Capitol grounds and outside the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee headquarters.

These insurrectionists were called to action, incited, fueled, and assisted in their attack on our democracy and our Capitol by Donald J. Trump, the sitting President of the United States, who has used every opportunity to build his own following at the expense of our country and our Constitution and with the express intent to fuel and promote hate and violence as a political tool.

I was one of a dozen Representatives trapped in the gallery above the House floor as this occurred. We pulled out gas masks from under the seats because tear gas was being used and we had to get down on the ground for cover. Capitol Police barricaded the doors with furniture and had their guns drawn. We were eventually told that we had to quickly exit and took flights of stairs down to a safer location. As we did, we passed insurrectionists who had been trying to break into the very gallery that we had been trapped in. They were being held — spread-eagled on the floor and at gunpoint — by Capitol Police.

We knew that the first thing we had to do was to finish the work of certifying the election, to make it crystal clear to these insurrectionists — led by Trump and his enablers — that we would do our Constitutional duty and listen to the will of the people who voted and made their voices clear in delivering both a popular vote and Electoral College vote victory to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. In the wake of the violence wrought on the Capitol, it was even more disgusting that some Republican colleagues continued their baseless objections to the Electoral College certification, even spinning more lies and conspiracy theories on the House floor and shockingly defending the insurrectionists. Nevertheless, at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 7, we completed the process and certified the election in both the House and the Senate. There is absolutely no question that on January 20, Joe Biden will be our new president.

However, our work is far from done. Congress must reconvene right now so we can have immediate accountability in three specific ways.

First, we must immediately remove the President from office. I have called on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to put this country first and uphold their constitutional duty to invoke the 25th Amendment. I have also signed on to once again impeach Donald Trump. He is a direct threat to our democracy, with complete control over the military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It cannot be an accident that the federal government was not properly prepared for the threats associated with Wednesday’s assault, which were being publicly broadcast over social media. Additionally, Donald Trump did not authorize the full securing of the US Capitol. In fact, French Intelligence experts have stated that they believe the President may have been involved in a coup attempt — explicitly or implicitly with his actions. It is inconceivable that Congress would allow him to remain in office in these final critical days leading to President-elect Biden’s inauguration, or that we would not clearly send a message to our country and the world that insurrection and sedition will not be tolerated.

In addition, the Department of Justice must ruthlessly investigate Trump and hold him fully accountable for his dangerous crimes and corruption against the American people with every tool in the toolbox. To those who say we should simply move on, I remind you that his crimes without consequences would only enable him and any others who follow in his dangerous mold to do the same. I also remind everyone that for Black, Brown and Indigenous people across our country who have been met with violence while peacefully protesting, this rapid march towards a rising of the Confederacy — with a noose on Capitol grounds and a Confederate flag planted at the Capitol as others were waved inside — without any consequences is a re-traumatization and an unacceptable outcome in any march towards justice. It simply cannot be.

Second, we must immediately, quickly, and thoroughly investigate what happened that allowed insurrectionists to overtake the Capitol on Wednesday. The United States has the most powerful law enforcement, intelligence, and military agencies in the world. To my chagrin, we spend $750 billion on defense, and yet we were unable to protect our own Capitol and democracy. We need to know what happened and what did not happen, and there must be accountability for that. We also need to know that our Capitol is safe now, that the inauguration will be safe, and that our law enforcement agencies are working for our democracy and not for insurrectionists. Those who were part and parcel of any breaches of Capitol security, or any delays that prevented the Capitol from being fully secured as we took on the Constitutional responsibility of certifying the Electoral College must be held accountable.

Finally, we absolutely must reckon with the racism and white supremacy that was so clearly and painfully on display with the storming of the Capitol.

We know that peaceful Black and Brown protestors would never have been allowed even remotely close to the Capitol. And yet, there were no barricades and no law enforcement to stop the insurrectionists who overtook our Capitol — and even videos and pictures of those people being allowed in, barriers being opened up, and the insurrectionists posing for selfies with law enforcement inside the Capitol. This is the deep injustice and violence of our law enforcement agencies over the course of our history that have led to the powerful calls for justice in policing. No progress in America is possible unless we address the racism, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness that has plagued our country for far too long.

I want to close by extending my gratitude to everyone for your thoughts for our safety and for America during this dark moment. Our country and our democracy will have to recover from these deep wounds — and it will not be easy. It will take time and it will take work. But we will get through this because we are strong and resilient. We will do the people’s work to ensure that justice and peace prevail. And we will preserve and protect our democracy today and always. I promise you that.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is a Democrat, representing Washington’s 7th District. She was one of three members of Congress who tested positive for COVID-19 after being confined to a room in the U.S. Capitol for several hours Jan. 6 where several GOP lawmakers refused to wear masks.

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