Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat, was with colleagues in the House Chamber at the country’s capitol Wednesday when protestors stormed the building.
Although, he said in a conference call with reporters from a secure location after being evacuated, “Using the word protestors is an understatement — it’s criminal.”
Those involved should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, he said.
A mass of people, many wearing clothing and flags emblazoned with Pres. Donald Trump’s name, stormed and occupied the capitol after gathering throughout the day.
Welch was among those gathered to confirm the election of President-elect Joe Biden. He heard a noise, not realizing at the time that they were gunshots.
According to the Washington Post, one person died after being shot in the bedlam.
Welch and others were told to stop their work and hit the floor, he said. Gas masks were later prepared for lawmakers.
He recalled hearing crashing sounds as the protestors — criminals, really, he reiterated — banged on the door, attempting to breach the chamber.
“I saw an implement come through the wood, coming into the chamber,” Welch said.
That is when Capitol Police decided it was time for Congress to evacuate, those inside unsure of where intruders were outside their walls.
“In effect we all made a dash for it,” Welch said, and members got out without injury.
Who is to blame for this action? According to Welch, Pres. Donald Trump, who he said incited the rioters.
“He holds maximum accountability,” Welch continued. “President Trump more than any other American bears responsibility.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and others who supported Trump’s calls and objected to Biden’s confirmation, are “aiders and abettors,” Welch said; he felt their arguments had no merit.
“Citizens, not members of Congress, decide who the president is,” Welch said.
Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday shared a statement in which he said, “The fabric of our democracy and the principles of our republic are under attack by the President. Enough is enough.
“President Trump should resign or be removed from office by his Cabinet, or by the Congress,” the statement read.
Asked if he thought Trump should be removed before his last two weeks are up, Welch said “I support removing the president right away,” but followed with the fact that he didn’t think it was realistic.
“We’ve just got to hang on.”
Asked about Trump’s Tweet to followers saying it was time to go home, which appeared to have been taken down later, Welch said, “I’m sorry, ‘It’s time to go home?’ ‘How about you never should have come?’ They’re here on his invitation. It’s pretty hollow.”
The Congressman commended the work of the Capitol Police, saying, “I just saw these people doing their jobs — calm, but really concerned.”
Welch paused momentarily during the call to listen as a capitol Police head gave an update.
He also saluted members of the press, who were in every bit as much peril, he said, adding, “You can’t have a democracy without a free press.”
And, the light among darkness, Welch said, is the fact that Biden will be confirmed at the country’s 46th president.
“When the floor and houses clear, we’re going back, and we’re going to certify that decision that Americans made,” he said.
In a Tweet, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said, “Safe with other Senators. We are eager to get back on Senate Floor when safe and resume the certification of the election. I applaud President-elect Biden’s remarks a few moments ago.”
Fellow Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, Tweeted later on Wednesday, “The man directly responsible for the chaos of today is Donald Trump, who has made it clear that he will do anything to remain in power — including insurrection and inciting violence. Trump will go down in history as the worst and most dangerous president in history.”
In a statement from Vermont's Republican Party, chair Deb Billado said, "What has happened at our nation’s capitol today is wrong, immoral and against the fundamental principles that we hold dear not only as Republicans, but as Americans. The Republican Party has consistently opposed the actions of violent mobs who seeks to destroy property and disturb the peace."