It took six people to move a table against the door to block the crowd from getting in.
For about a half-hour or so Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal sheltered in a dark room, having been told by Capitol Police to turn off the lights and stay off the phones. When the Capitol was deemed secure, Neal and his staffers were advised to cover their faces while walking in hallways to protect themselves from tear gas.
“They were literally pounding on the windows,” said Neal, a Springfield Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, during a conference call Thursday. “And when I went back last evening, the window was smashed right there.”
Congress’ certification of Electoral College results was disrupted Wednesday afternoon by what Neal called an insurrection and the most destructive breach of the Capitol since British military forces burned the building during the War of 1812.
President Donald Trump had encouraged his supporters earlier Wednesday to take to the Capitol to protest the certification of election results, which he claimed, without evidence, to be illegitimate. Those supporters violently invaded the Capitol, halting proceedings and leading to four deaths reported by District of Columbia Police as of Wednesday evening.
Neal, along with all members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, has called for Trump’s removal for his role in instigating the violence.
“[Trump] clearly incited that mob yesterday with his incendiary comments, with his continued suggestion that he did not lose this election,” Neal said.
“This is lawlessness,” he added. “There was an election. Joe Biden won by 7 million votes.”
Neal had been on a Zoom call with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis when he noted “turbulence” and received notes from staff members about “a fury outside.” Upon finishing the call, Neal looked outside and observed things “quickly spiraling out of control.”
He recalled rioters banging on windows and chanting “we are the Ways and Means Committee” in hallways.
At one point, he and other representatives were asked to give their names, the states they represented and their addresses.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘I wonder what the [National] Guard could do,’ ” Neal said. “I think that the Guard — perhaps if there had been a dispute over whether they could have been federalized to get onto federal grounds — they still could have been deployed on the streets outside the federal grounds.”
Some observers have said that if D.C. had statehood, a governor might have more quickly authorized the National Guard to protect the Capitol. Neal said that while he long has supported statehood, he places most of the blame on Trump’s “enablers,” who did not repudiate his incendiary rhetoric or his claims of election fraud.
There’s “ample evidence” for Trump’s Cabinet members to consider invoking the 25th Amendment, Neal said, which would remove Trump and replace him with Vice President Mike Pence. Yet, he added that Pence has “also allowed much of this to happen in the last five years.”
Neal credited his staff members and Capitol Police officers for their “maturity,” and he praised House leaders for resolving “emphatically” to continue certifying election results through the chaos.
There was some concern over possible breaches of government computers, he said, and also over the possibility of more destruction from similar turmoil, particularly with the presidential inauguration scheduled for Jan. 20.
“Something needs to be done in the next two weeks before Joe Biden takes the oath,” Neal said.