PBS Newshour political correspondent Lisa Desjardins was inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as a pro-Trump mob breached a building, interrupting a joint session of Congress and delaying the process of counting Electoral College votes to affirm Joe Biden’s victory.
As Desjardins was speaking with the NewsHour’s managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff, she observed that a lone Capitol Police officer was trying to stop a group of protesters from breaking through a door. As she continued speaking, larger numbers of violent protesters managed to enter the building through the breach, at least a dozen by Desjardins’ count.
“This is an ongoing battle which police are losing,” Desjardins said. “It looks like protesters are entering the Capitol at will.”
Desjardins was later evacuated from the House Chamber, escorted by armed law enforcement officers alongside other journalists and members of Congress. Some wore gas masks as they made their way to a lower level of the Capitol.
“The police have gained control for the moment of this corridor of the Capitol. I no longer hear protesters chanting beneath me in Statuary Hall but I do hear shouting as police seem to one-by-one be taking down the protestors, telling them to get on the ground, trying to control the situation,” Desjardins said.
By 4:25 p.m. ET a large number of U.S. senators were sheltering in place at a secure location inside the Capitol Building.
“It is going to be a real question in my mind if that plan to object to this election continues after the violence we’ve seen and that these members themselves have faced,” she said of some Republicans’ plans to object to the vote count. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., dismissed the suggestion that President Donald Trump — who during the debates encouraged the extremist group known as the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” and on Wednesday encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol — contributed to the attack. Instead he told Desjardins that he believed the media was responsible for stoking unrest among protesters.
“The president has been a leader in the idea that if you think you are right … you can be right, and you don’t need to consider arguments that undermine what you believe is the truth,” Desjardins said, adding that Kelly “is one of the president’s supporters who’s not willing to think more broadly about the underlying causes of what happened here at the Capitol.”
Desjardins noted that even some of the president’s most loyal supporters, including Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and John Kennedy, R-La., had called on the protesters to stop.
She called the attack a “physical manifestation of these years of completely disregarding some aspects of reality” noting that some of Trump’s supporters have long eschewed a sense of personal responsibility, as well as the truth.
By the evening Desjardins reported that she saw top Congressional officials re-entering the Capitol after it had been cleared and secured. The House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., tweeted that Congress would return to continue counting Electoral College votes to certify Biden’s win.
She said it was still unclear how Republicans who previously indicated they would object to the vote count — a large group of lawmakers with varied reasons for doing so — would proceed in light of the attack.