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North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman On The Capitol Riot

CA District 2 Congressman Jared Huffman
CA District 2 Congressman Jared Huffman

Several congressional delegates had to remain in lockdown at the Capitol Complex in Washington, D.C., including Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents much of California’s North Coast. He spoke with Jefferson Public Radio’s April Ehrlich while he was in lockdown that afternoon.

APRIL EHRLICH, JPR REPORTER: I mean, first, what was your day like today? What did you see?

CA DISTRICT 2 CONGRESSMAN JARED HUFFMAN: I never imagined a day like today, April. That I would be locked down in my Capitol office and riding out a violent coup attempt in the United States of America. Let alone a coup attempt instigated by an American president.

REPORTER: I saw on Twitter that you're calling for him, for President Trump, to be charged with sedition. Is that right?

HUFFMAN: Well, this is textbook sedition, by any analysis. This is an attempted violent insurrection that [Trump] has incited, and I think we crossed a line today. People may in the past have wanted to ascribe more innocent motives to the president, or to think that he was misunderstood or joking or whatever. We're just way past that. There is no ambiguity in what he set in motion, about his role in it, and what it is. This is a violent coup attempt underway right now.

REPORTER: So you said you're not on the front lines [right now], but you are in lockdown. Are you far away from the hot spot, or where are you at right now?

HUFFMAN: I'm in the Capitol Complex. And so, you know I can hear the crowds out my window. I could see them if I look out. I've been encouraged to stay away from windows right now. And we think that the mob has not penetrated the building that I'm in. We're not entirely sure because they're in many parts of the Capitol Complex and there's just not great information about that. So what we've been told to do is to just lock down indefinitely until we get the all-clear.

REPORTER: Wow. So there are still people there at the complex; there are still rioters there.

HUFFMAN: Oh, yeah.

REPORTER: Did today's events surprise you?

HUFFMAN: Yes and no. I didn't expect it to go this far. But anyone who has watched this building and all of the fuel that Donald Trump and others have thrown onto this fire can't be terribly surprised that it went up in such a terrible flame. I mean, this in some ways was inevitable given how reckless people are being, how they were encouraging it.

REPORTER: And how were they encouraging it?

HUFFMAN: Well, just this morning President Trump at the rally at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue just through all sorts of red meat at this crowd, told them to march on the Capitol. Rudy Giuliani got up at that rally and talked about engaging in combat. Donald Trump Jr. talked about going after members of Congress that didn't support the coup attempt. This has been going further and further and further into violent insight, and today it's finally happened. So really, no one can be totally surprised by that. You'd have to be wildly naive to think that it could never happen under those circumstances.

REPORTER: So where do we go from here? I mean, what happens next?

HUFFMAN: Well, I think the first thing is we've got to try to stabilize this mob scene at the Capitol and hopefully de-escalate in a way that avoids more bloodshed. We've got to complete the job we came here to do. We're going to certify that Electoral College outcome. It may take all night tonight, all night tomorrow night, but we're not going to be intimidated or dissuaded from doing that. And then we've got to hold people accountable. You cannot do this to the United States of America. This is not Bolivia. This is not some tinpot dictatorship where you have juntas that just roll through and change the government at the point of a gun. You just can't do this in the United States of America.

REPORTER: From what I understand, a lot of the people who are there rioting were incited by misinformation about voter fraud. I mean, how do we educate people about the facts when it comes to voting?

HUFFMAN: Yeah, well certainly they were lied to. Certainly they were misled. But you know, I guess a couple of things: first of all, those who did the lying and the misleading and the inciting need to be held accountable. And it's really no excuse. I mean, these people should have known better and no amount of discontent over an election loss justifies the kind of violence and thuggery that we've seen today. They don't get a pass.

REPORTER: So I was looking at some of the statements that Congressman Doug LaMalfa has made in the past, and he has also supported President Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him and that there was voter fraud. I mean, would you count Congressman LaMalfa among the lawmakers who helped instigate this event?

HUFFMAN: He has some culpability, yes. I get along well with Doug in many ways. I like him, but I say, shame on him for contributing to this disgraceful violent situation today.

REPORTER: I saw you've been making pretty bold statements. You know, you're very straightforward with what you're saying and I've seen a lot of politicians kind of making — they’re kind of touching on the subject but not really saying anything forthright, but you seem to be pretty forthright. Are you concerned that this, I don't know, could impact you personally? Or, how are things going for you?

HUFFMAN: Well, in terms of my personal safety — look, I'm locked down in an office by myself with gas masks and, you know, sirens and explosions all around me. So it is what it is at this point. I never wanted this for our country or for any of us here in the Capitol. But I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We cannot keep pretending that this is somehow benign or innocent or that it's just about the feelings of Donald Trump's base. This is much more sinister than that.

REPORTER: Do you have any other concerns right now that you would like addressed?

HUFFMAN: Now, the biggest concern is just trying to stabilize and deescalate this mob scene in a way that avoids further bloodshed, and I hope we can do that. The next thing is to finish what we came here to do. We're going to certify that Electoral College result. And if you allow a mob scene like this to distract you or delay you or to prevent you from doing that, then they've won. And we're not going to let them win. So those are sort of the immediate priorities. When we get through this, I think we've got to give very serious consideration to all of the accountability, from President Trump at the top to these thugs that are breaking into the Capitol and causing damage — they've got to be held accountable to that — to political accountability for folks like Doug LaMalfa and others who absolutely added fuel to this fire and bear some responsibility for this disgraceful situation.

REPORTER: Thank you so much for your time today.

HUFFMAN: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

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April Ehrlich is a reporter at Jefferson Public Radio, focusing on in-depth investigative journalism and data reporting. She advocates for journalists across Oregon as the president of the Greater Oregon Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.