Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Leave your feedback
One year ago, supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt the democratic process. When the violent mob broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 2021, lawmakers that were inside scrambled for safety. Republican Rep. Troy Nehls from Texas, a former sheriff and combat veteran, joins Lisa Desjardins with more.
One year ago this week, crowds stormed the U.S. Capitol while lawmakers were inside affirming the results of the presidential election.
We have two different views on the events of January 6 from lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle who were both at the Capitol that day.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
And now I am joined by Troy Nehls, a Republican congressman from Texas, also a former sheriff and combat veteran.
Thank you for your service, and thank you for talking to us today.
I know, on January 6, you were there with a chair leg in your arms at the door to the House chamber to keep rioters out. I wonder how you reflect. What do you think happened on January 6? How do you see it?
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX):
Well, actually, thank you, Lisa, for having me.
It actually was a hand sanitizer. It was a wooden hand sanitizer. I was at the back doors, the center doors leading into, obviously, the House chamber. Those doors would be the same doors a president would walk through when he would deliver a State of the Union.
And I was positioned back at those doors. And, obviously, once we went — were going through the objectors in the Arizona, and the state of Arizona was there, and then, all of a sudden, several uniformed personnel in plainclothes. Obviously, the plainclothes rushed Nancy off the dais back there and rushed her back in her speaker's lobby.
But, the doors started shaking violently. I mean, the doors were locked, but people were banging on those doors. And Capitol Police were there. I was told by one of them that I must leave. And I chose not to. I said: "I'm not. I am not leaving. I'm going to sit there and I'm going to be there with my brothers and sisters in blue."
And the doors kept shaking violently. You could hear the commotion on the other side. And then you can see in some of the photos that furniture was brought over to help secure those doors.
But there was a — these wooden hand sanitizers. And Markwayne Mullin, another member of Congress, was there. And he broke off — broke off that hand sanitizer off that wooden base, and there was another one there. And I did the same thing. So that was my weapon for the day should those individuals be successful in getting through those doors.
And thank goodness they weren't.
I know that you have called what happened criminal. You have been very clear in saying that it was dangerous, those who incited violence were wrong.
But there is a real divide over the narrative about January 6. And there's a real divide over the role of President Trump, the former president, who I know you support.
I wonder, how do you see his role that day?
Rep. Troy Nehls:
Well, let's go back to the individuals that you mentioned I used the word criminal. And, yes, there were individuals inside that Capitol Building that day that committed very — assault on police officers, and some of those assaults even being aggravated.
If you were inside the Capitol that day, and you broke windows, and you destroyed property, you should be held accountable. If you assaulted a law enforcement officer, you shouldn't just go to jail. You should go to prison.
And I think most of the American people agree with that, that when you were in there, and you were committing criminal violations of the law, assaults, destruction of property, breaking the windows, you should be held fully accountable for your actions that day.
But what we do know is, there were many people inside that Capitol Building that day that were not doing any of those things. They weren't touching anybody. They weren't assaulting anybody. They were walking around inside that Capitol Building. Many of them were grandmas. Many of them almost appeared to be ushered in.
And so their only crime that a majority of the people inside that building, the people that entered that building, I guess the only crime was maybe entering the building. And many of them, quite honestly, didn't even realize that they were committing a violation of the law. That is the United States Capitol. It's open to citizens.
And it's the country's building. So, I kind of question some of the motives of the DOJ and others who are claiming that every person inside that building is an insurrectionist. That term gets to be used quite a bit by the liberal media, but nobody has obviously ever been charged with insurrection.
So, I have — I pause as it relates to the 700 or so individuals that have been arrested by the FBI and the DOJ as it related to their activities on that day.
I got to check your language. I heard you say that it seemed some of them were ushered in. I didn't see anyone ushered in. I saw people breaking in.
I also want to come back to the former president, former President Trump.
00 on January 6, you wrote this tweet after seeing what you did. You wrote: "What I'm witnessing is a disgrace. Violence is never the answer," a strong tweet from you.
But at that moment, as of that time, President Trump still had not told the rioters to go home. And we know there were many, many Trump supporters in that crowd, if not the majority of the crowd, from my experience.
Did he do enough? What do you think his role was that day?
Well, I don't — I'm not in Donald Trump's head. I wasn't in the Oval Office or wherever he was positioned that day.
And I wasn't one of his top advisers. So, I don't know. I mean, could he have maybe said something earlier?
But he's your president. He was our president.
Maybe he could have said something earlier. Maybe he did.
But I have to say, he was our president, a Republican, and you support him. You think…
But you alluded to earlier when I made the comment about being ushered in, nobody on this select committee — and it's Pelosi's select committee. Bennie Thompson is the puppet, and she is the puppet master.
You want to claim that it's bipartisan. When you look at bipartisan, Liz Cheney and Kinzinger are Pelosi Republicans. Kinzinger isn't running again. And, obviously, Liz Cheney is going to be defeated here in 2022.
But that entire committee, they all have one thing in common. They hate Donald Trump. They don't hate. They despise him. They talk about him all the time. And I kind of joke that they have a serious crush on this guy. They have a serious crush on Donald Trump, because that's all they want to talk about.
What they want to do is blame Donald Trump for January 6 with everything. They want to go after him, all of his associates. They could do contempt of Congress against Bannon. Then it was Mark Meadows.
But nobody on this committee is asking the real difficult questions, the questions that the American people need to know about, and that is, why were the Capitol Police so ill-prepared to deal with that day?
How do we move forward? How do you think we get past the divide in the country, in just a sentence or two?
I — that's a very difficult question. I think our country overall lacks faith. I think we need to get back to basic principles. And we're losing faith as a country.
But there is that divide, unfortunately. I went to Donald — I went to Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20. And he got up there and he said that he would work with his friends on the other side of the aisle. And, quite honestly, as a member that's been there for 12 months, I haven't seen any of it. I haven't seen any of it.
Joe Biden despises President Trump. He completely reversed his immigration policies. He completely reversed all these other things. So there is a divided country. And we must do better than that. We owe it to the American people to come together. But, right now, you just don't see it. I certainly don't see it from this administration.
Congressman Troy Nehls, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
Thank you. God bless.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Ebony Joseph is a producer for the PBS NewsHour.
Beth Summers is the senior politics producer for the PBS NewsHour where she oversees coverage of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. She joined the NewsHour in 2001 as an editorial assistant in the newsroom, and has worked as a reporter for the national desk and as well as the politics desk before becoming the NewsHour’s political director.
Support Provided By: