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09 January 2021

Capitol Hill shock the nation

on states of america without being too melodramatic there was an hour long or so period where this could have gotten really really bad a lot can be done in 13 days and with the powers he has as the president of the united states there's a lot that he can do and they are worried about what he might do beyond sort of how the tea party used to be this is a harder version of that that sees themselves playing politics as a blood sport and joe biden sort of shocked georgia and perhaps shocked the country by winning georgia that was a repudiation against donald trump and i think that carried over into this senate runoff on wednesday the nation witnessed a pro-trump mob infiltrate the capital breaking windows and battling police the senate was evacuated capitol hill was put on lockdown and there were at least four fatalities amid the shock and confusion we want to address how we got here joining me today with answers is anna ashbrenner usa today's election editor so anna you were uh covering things throughout the day and helping manage our uh excellent stories what um what exactly led this to transparent i mean what was going on throughout the day that would lead all of these people to converge on the capitol so there was a rally earlier in the day uh outside the white house the president came out and spoke folks were in dc to protest the electoral college you know they they do not believe that president elect joe biden was elected um fairly that there was widespread voter fraud even though those claims have been roundly disputed by the courts and president trump's own election officials um but that's where this started there was a rally earlier in the day outside the white house where the president came out and spoke to supporters for about an hour um and after that folks started making their way over to the capitol where the electoral college process was set to kick off early afternoon our visual journalists put together a beat by beat of what happened at the capitol let's take a look and after this we're gonna walk down and i'll be there with you uh they broke the glass storm the capitol to smash windows occupy offices the floor of the united states senate rummaging through deaths it's not protest it's insurrection i know your pain i know you're hurt we had an election that was stolen from us but you have to go home now we love you you're very special you did not win violence never wins freedom wins and this is still the people's house let's get back to work it seems that there's some confusion about why there wasn't more of a police presence there uh especially if this wasn't an entirely spontaneous group of people do you do we have any idea why there wasn't a more robust law enforcement presence there you know i think we're gonna find out a lot more about that in the next few days you we've already seen um since uh wednesday members of congress leadership in congress calling for the resignation of um you know the higher-ups in the capitol police the sergeant-at-arms in both chambers so there are a lot of questions both you know within congress and outside of congress um particularly when you look at the difference in what the response among law enforcement was in the summer when you had protesters um you know protesting the death of george floyd and social justice protesters in the white house or at the white house and in the capital um the the difference was very stark yesterday we've seen social media companies twitter and facebook both lock president trump's accounts you get the impression that this will limit the president's ability to talk to all of his supporters i mean sure it takes away his megaphone specifically um but the reality is millions of people believe what the president says and they still have social media you know his press secretary still has social media the people who work for him in the white house um i don't think we're in a position where all of a sudden the president of the united states doesn't have any way of getting his message to the american people i'll be very curious to see how long these you know bans last and if it does extend you know to twitter we saw snapchat had already banned the president you know i think at least a year ago um so i'm i'm just not sure how effective it will actually be um when there are just so many people who share his beliefs and and who still have access to social media in your experience covering elections have we ever seen a group with such fervent allegiance to any candidate as we've seen with trump and uh with this group that was at the capitol i mean no as far as my own time covering politics i think i have likened at times this to the support of a sports team um you know i think folks allegiance to president trump has have gotten to the level of what it looks like when someone really loves like a professional sports team of their college sports team obviously the stakes are so much higher than that but that singular sort of dedication to a person rather than the party i think is very different than what we've seen in uh prior election cycles that's a that's a very good point you know when when the lions uh continually lose we don't really see fans uh storming forward field no so yeah one last thing i wanted to ask about here i mean we've already seen uh state media and authoritarian countries uh making ham of these events i mean the chinese tabloids were talking about how this shows the chaos in american democracy so what message are these events of the capital sending to other countries i think we saw wednesday that there if it wasn't fear it was definitely concern among you know leaders outside of the united states i think if as americans we saw what happened yesterday happen in another country particularly one that exports democracy throughout the world we would have been very concerned um i do think that while democracy was obviously tested maybe to the fullest extent it has been in modern times it did succeed democracy has has stood um but without a doubt democracy was damaged in this process our i think our standing in the world um was damaged um you know when we have to walk into you know the u.n or go to a g8 summit or something like that i think this hangs a little bit over us now going forward and that's anna aschburner usa today's elections editor thanks so much for being here anna thanks for having me there was a moment where they just burst through and you start seeing people flowing like literally a flow of people when wednesday began we knew two things were happening a we knew in president's park on the ellipse at around 10 am president trump and his supporters will be holding a quote as they call it save america rally we also knew that a little over a mile and a half away from president's park at the capitol building vice president pence would be overseeing the certification of joe biden and kamala harris's win in the 2020 presidential election obviously the events of yesterday unfolded much different than how we had initially anticipated that morning here to discuss was somebody on the ground as usa today had dozens of staffers on the capitol covering uh the events that happened will carless who is a national correspondent for extremism joining us now will thanks for the time we kind of set up there how the day began how did your work day begin on wednesday my job was basically to be on the lookout for groups like the proud boys uh groups like the oath keepers um the three per cent to militia groups anybody who look like they might be part of the groups that i monitor and cover um it turns out that i was with you know very talented um guy who's based in dc and knows the city really well it's not a city that i know very well and so i kind of let him uh take the lead as far as covering these protests he's covered a lot of them what jack's um jack's initial feeling was let's that stay at the ellipse until trump did his speech and then right after that he said what they're going to do is they're going to march down the mon down the mile towards uh towards the capitol building and so right i think about halfway through trump's speech we began to walk ourselves down the mall towards the capitol building at that point there were already thousands of people like streaming out towards there a lot of people hadn't been able to get into the ellipses to the ellipse because there was limited space so there are a huge amount of people right the way up the hill towards the washington monument and it was really cold and the speech was kind of dragging on so a lot of people started to just move off down towards the capitol building and there were already like i'd say a couple of thousand people a few thousand people on the um on the west side of the capitol building kind of the back of the capitol building so well you arrive on the capitol you mentioned the thousands of people that were there what else did you notice upon arriving there i mean the first thing that was really apparent for me was that i i got there and there was obviously there's been attempts to set up like a pretty flimsy like outer perimeter and i i think the way to pitch to this is if you're looking you're looking at the back of a huge building and in the middle of it there was this temporary setup which is kind of this auditorium i guess where they hold the inauguration it's like a temporary stage made out of scaffolding and then um i guess about probably 60 to 100 feet from there they had set up some just those like metal barriers like waist high chest type metal barriers what i had expected to see was rings of riot police all the way around the building two or three deep i mean i think that's what that's what i've seen uh at least on tv and other protests jack had told me to expect that he said that there's gonna be really heavy security and that was the weirdest thing and i i think i misspoke i think i said riot police they weren't riot police they were just regular dc cops bike cops i think um they weren't in riot gear they didn't have shields and they were just kind of standing there looking down at the audience and sort of saying like keep back and the audience audience the the protesters at this point were already really head up really excited shouting screaming abuse of the police uh it was already getting ugly like right from the start it continues that the noise builds the action builds around the building was there a particular moment that you remember when the breach happened or was it kind of like a gradual thing that led up to it kind of bring me into the moments before the the actual breach that we all witnessed happen live so if you go back to that scaffolding and that stage that i talked about that was kind of impenetrable you couldn't really get in there but there was a gap to the side of it to the left hand side as you're looking at it that was like a sort of a stone platform that at the beginning there were probably like 10 people maybe a dozen people who were  up on that and they were facing the rest of the crowd and saying get up here come on up here come on up here and put this in the context one of the things that that was really driving this was that the whole time you have thousands of protesters coming down the mall so it's almost like this building up of pressure this building up of steam that that was kind of constantly flowing in and that was i don't want to get too like you know metaphysical about it but that was kind of really charging the atmosphere there was really this feeling of like these people you know this this is really moving towards something so these 10 guys are up there and facing off against them are three or four police officers who are basically just kind of standing there like this going no stay back stay back and i'm watching it and as i'm watching it the the group of people who are up on on the side starts getting bigger so it goes from 10 people to maybe 20 people and this is over the course of like half an hour and i'm thinking like why aren't they putting more people here like when you watch riot protect when you watch riot police in action when you watch protests when there's a clear entry point where people have moved in front of the crowd the natural response is for the riot police to come in get their shields together and push them back and push them off or or to tear gas them or to use flash bangs and other things that was happening there was tear gas being deployed and there were flashbangs going off in the sort of the main crowd area but in this sort of side incursion maybe because the police were too busy dealing with the other crowd there was really just these three guys and as that crowd started to get bigger and bigger and bigger i watched log i'd say about that much in diameter sort of four to six inches in diameter this kind of log and i was like they're going to use that as the factoring ram and sure enough that's what they did and they started pushing that they were also tearing apart the canvas on the side of the the inauguration stage and started to climb into the scaffolding to the right and as 40 minutes went by 45 minutes went by and there was still no backup i was like they're gonna get through and sure enough i'm i'm unclear as to exactly what happened whether they ordered the police to stand back which is what some people have said or whether they simply push through but there was a moment where they just burst through through and you start seeing people flowing like literally a flow of people up onto the the kind of rampart surrounding the back of the capital and it went from 10 people to 20 people to 200 people to 2 000 people like really i'd say within kind of 20 minutes and that's when you see all the footage of the people kind of streaming in and the people climbing up the wall the ironic thing is they didn't really have to be climbing that wall they could have just gone up with everybody else to say 20 40 feet away they could have gone up and got up with the other people but i you know people do silly things in crazy situations and i think people were showing off and trying to you know show how brave they were so people started to climb up the sides of the wall as well i think what happened um is that at the same time that the people burst through the order was given to just say okay we're just going to relinquish and let people in the front of the building to like not the front of the building but the front of the grounds too my thinking is they quickly realized look it's surrounded we're not going to be able to hold this crowd off what we need to do is step back and secure the uh and secure the the building um but i don't know there's a lot of questions they have about the way that it was handled what was your main takeaway away from it was it one particular scene that you witnessed at the capitol building was it a a general thought i called my wife and i said go and buy food and that sounds crazy but i have a family and i said look i think we're facing a real constitutional crisis and this could be an actual coup and that sounds dramatic but like i literally thought that the next thing i was going to see was going to be congress people members of congress members of the senate brought out you know with nooses around their neck or whatever to be beaten up by the crowd and maybe that's because most of the riots that i've covered most of the protests like this that i've covered have been in other countries and where things like that have happened but that i think we were pretty close to that happening yesterday i'd say without being too melodramatic there was an hour long or so period where this could have gotten really really bad and this country could have faced a really really serious uh constitutional and democratic crisis and i think we narrowly avoided it it's easy to look back now with 2020 vision and say hey this was just reasonably quickly and peacefully uh dealt with and the congress was able to reconvene and the senate was able to reconvene they were able to hold the vote and you know aren't we all good and calm and everything's fine but like yeah it's very lucky i think i think we really narrowly avoided a serious serious crisis well carlos usa today national correspondent on extremism will uh glad you're safe appreciate your work and thanks for your time thank you beyond sort of how the tea party used to be sort of a republican party this is a harder version of that that sees themselves playing politics as a blood sport as trump supporters reached the capitol on wednesday they carried a number of flags with them confederate flags ones touting trump is my president and the familiar don't tread on me flag a very popular symbol among far-right groups including the patriot movement my guest says there's no denying that this conservative faction was among the forces behind the chaos on capitol hill this week rich my friend how are you doing well glad to see you made it through this week and uh from being on the scene there in d.c thank you it was a scene let me tell you  um so we were out there myself and uh my colleague ryan miller reporting on these events we started the morning at the trump rally and we ended up as many did on the capitol grounds and i just wanted to ask you one of the things i heard that really stood out to me from trump supporters from all parts of the day and walks of life was referring to one another using the word patriots you know this person is a patriot that person is a patriot i'm curious is this really a movement or is it really just a way of talking about how people view one another when they share this ideology of you know conservatism and being pro-trump yeah the term patriot has sort of been co-opted by this right wing of the republican party and and here in arizona for the last year of my colleague robert delano i have spent a lot of time looking into this movement and i've spent some time talking to some of its adherents and it really is beyond sort of how the tea party used to be sort of the republican party this is a harder version of that that sees themselves playing politics as a blood sport you know they're not looking at at minor issues tax policies or things like that the deficit they feel that the country is in a life and death struggle and particularly believe that president trump is going to be the one to lead them out of this uh there's a lot of conspiratorial thinking and because much of the activity takes place on social media it becomes this echo chamber where conspiracies live and fester and get bigger and bigger and bigger over time i want to ask you about some of that conspiratorial thinking because uh numerous people that we spoke to yesterday and today you know in dc on their way out of dc all of that stuff have shared the idea that the people who actually breached the police barricades and entered the capitol building yesterday were not really a part of the trump supporters they weren't real patriots including uh a face familiar from your reporting what can you tell me about the uh viking deferred man and is he actually you know was he an antifa shill who is posing to make them look bad as an anti-fascist trying to make the real patriots look bad or is he indeed a legitimate member of this patriot movement that you've done so much reporting on the man we're talking about is named jake angeli and i first encountered him uh february uh back before the pandemic really hit here in arizona at a donald trump rally uh in phoenix and he was walking around in a similar outfit to what everything everyone saw uh in the senate yesterday at the speaker's podium uh the president's podium uh and he talked about q anon the q anon conspiracy theory that imagines that donald trump is leading an investigation into all sorts of nefarious doings by top leaders and that arrests are imminent um he has been a fixture at trump events he stationed himself outside the maricopa county uh elections department as they were counting the ballots protesting the results uh he's also been at just sort of black lives matter rallies over the summer um anything where he can get the q a on gospel out i he was not happy with the way he was portrayed in our story so he's not talking to me anymore he gave some props to the arizona republican az central for correctly pointing out in our story that ran this week that he is a q anon supporter and not antifa i do find it uh amusing i guess that someone who is so steeped in conspiracy theory has now become the subject of a conspiracy himself my question to you is now that we've seen some of this rhetoric q and on the patriot movement etc leap off the pages of the internet and into real life what's next i mean are they going to go away are they going to be pushed off of the mainstream social media sites the way trump for example was in the immediate aftermath of this insurrection uh will they disappear who do they talk to now i'll dodge that by saying it's hard to say uh the the leader of their movement donald trump uh is expected to be leaving office shortly and i don't know how the patriot movement and the q arm movement will see trump leaving the stage if nothing dramatic happens as they might predict will will be the case they are systematically being at least here in arizona the patriot groups that used facebook to communicate they they're systematically being removed from these sites and moving to places like me we or parlor but there is not as much action there not as many people are are getting there and maybe that's just a human thing like oh i have to download one more app to be in this group they're getting less of an audience among themselves so i'm not sure what the future will hold uh come february so what among the symbols that we saw outside of the capitol tells us definitively that the patriot movement was there well it is you do look at the symbols the signs the rhetoric online i mean there are trump supporters and then there are trump supporters the people who will spend their day at a rally or fly across the country to go to washington dc that portends someone particularly motivated for their candidate and among the patriot movement the only person who inspires that kind of loyalty is donald trump uh and we i do know there were i do know there were at least a handful of people from arizona there they talked on social media about going to washington dc to be there and this feeling that has been circulating online a lot of it of course is bravado on chatter it's much braver when you're behind a keyboard than in real life but a lot of talk of this is the day this is the day where something dramatic is going to happen wait till this day you know a lot of 1776 type discussions all that sort of gives this impression that the patriots were the ones who were there at the capitol yeah this week all of that suggests that the patriots were the one who who stormed the u.s capitol this week well rich relis my friend and colleague thank you so much for your good reporting on this and uh and everything else that you do thank you for having me a lot can be done in 13 days and with the powers he has as the president of the united states there's a lot that he can do and they are worried about what he might do i just think about had this group of had that group of people been black or brown um especially black it would not have happened this way there would we we wouldn't have made it to the steps to be able to then come in the doors that was black lives matter activists turned congresswoman corey bush a democrat from missouri speaking about wednesday's riot on capitol hill a number of elected officials and civil rights leaders have spoken out about this and they've called out the difference between law enforcement's presence on wednesday and law enforcement's presence during the black lives matter protests one of those elected officials to do so president-elect joe biden no one can tell me that it had been a group of black lives matter protesting yesterday there wouldn't have been they would have been treated very very differently and it is unacceptable and joining me now to discuss usa today national correspondent deborah barfield berry deborah thank you so much for the time i you know let's talk about the president-elect's words here because on wednesday when he addressed the nation he reiterated this idea that you know words from the president matter so how will the president-elect's words from thursday impact this conversation that we're having now about law enforcement so the lawmakers and the civil rights group leaders who i've talked to they're looking to president-elect biden to bring a sense of calm to the country and to bring a sense of fairness that so when he comes out and when he has come out and and made comments like he did yesterday about the disparity or the the differences in approach the police approach that he they say matters because it shows that he's paying attention to that problem that he acknowledges that problem and then with that in some way can he can help to address it so what he says how he says makes a huge difference you know i'm curious as far as some of the civil rights leaders that you've spoken with because i mean let's face it there's still a lot of racial injustice in this country and it would be very naive for all of us to believe that you know protests around that racial injustice are over i'm sure it's far from it are they expressing yet any concerns over what those protests may look like going forward now that there is this kind of renewed call to arms for law enforcement they're worried that even going forward some people may be even more emboldened to do more of that not just at the capitol but in other places so is there concern is there worry about what going forward absolutely absolutely what steps can can these civil rights leaders take to you know to kind of whether it's to counter that you know protect others from that i mean i mean what what are they i guess trying to do around this now well you know i think one of the most immediate things they've been calling for and that was like minutes after all this happened derek johnson of the nwcp the urban league the national action network all those groups out the box came out and and called for the president to be removed president  trump to be removed from office they are pointing to him as the person who kind of incited it they are pointing to some of the other republicans who have supported him and egging that on so for them they think that's one that's the most immediate step to take then they're looking for the new administration to also step up um they're calling for a special advisor who would play a role working on racial inequality and issues like that they're calling for that they're calling for working on ways that we can kind of try to heal the country but they acknowledge that there's a long way to go that the the last for the from their perspective the last few years have kind of set the country back and race relations back we've seen a lot of elected officials now or i shouldn't say a lot but we've seen a number of very prominent elected officials call for president trump's removal via the 25th amendment given that he has less than two weeks left in his term is that viable depends on who you talk to um some are arguing with only a few weeks left is that even like you said viable worth the trouble worth trying to do worth the fight some are arguing how could you not they're arguing that 13 days a lot can be done in 13 days and i was just talking to on representative horsford out of nevada um who's he's a vice chair of the congressional black caucus and he says he needs to go now and that particularly in his position and with the powers he has as the president of the united states there's a lot that he can do and they are worried about what he might do usa today national correspondent deborah barfield barfieldberrydebra thanks so much for your work and your time we appreciate it thank you for having me joe biden sort of shocked georgia and perhaps shocked the country by winning georgia that was a repudiation against donald trump and i think that carried over into this senate runoff in this election democrats won the presidency as well as the house of representatives but until this week the senate was still up for grabs would republicans maintain their hold on power or could democrats flip the two seats in georgia's special election to win back control of the senate here with the answers is reyna cash he's editor of the savannah morning news part of the usa today network reno welcome thank you so much it's good to be with you susan well in fact democrats did manage to flip both those georgia senate seats how did they do that uh yeah this was a major major win so we had the reverend rafael warnock who was running against uh the incumbent kelly leffler and then in the other race we had uh john ossoff who was facing incumbent david perdue and um as just as we saw in the presidential election uh when joe biden sort of shocked georgia and perhaps shocked the country by winning georgia uh that was a repudiation against donald trump and i think that carried over into this senate runoff traditionally democrats do not turn out as well for runoffs but in this case there were three million early votes uh here in this race and uh nearly as many people voted this time around as they did in the general election uh some of that was motivated in part if not a lot of it motivated uh by donald trump and uh his continued um talk about fraud in the election i think further engaged democrats and perhaps to some degree suppress the republican vote as well yeah republicans definitely unhappy when the president was denouncing the republican governor of georgia and the secretary of state they're also republican because of his disputes with them his unfounded arguments that the election was stolen from him in november in the presidential race that complicated republican but in terms of boosting democratic turnout tell us how much difference you think stacy abrams ended up making oh i think there is uh without question that was one of the major factors uh throughout this entire election period uh she did not take her foot off the gas after the presidential race uh if anything uh leaned into it even more here in the last few weeks leading up to this this runoff she has been the most influential person i i think you can say here in the state in terms of motivating the democrats getting people registered to vote and not just registered but getting people to the polls she hit many many states i saw her in barber shops i saw her in parking lots she canvassed this state along with her fair fight group uh from corner to corner and did not cede any ground to the republicans and that narrative that democrats just wouldn't show up well stacy abrams ran for governor in 2018 she lost to brian kemp do you think that stacey abrams is going to run for governor again in two years i think she a lot of people think that's the path uh considering that at this point she was not selected as a cabinet member by joe biden i think that it's highly likely that she would again run for governor and her chances are good i mean we already have now president trump has uh basically encouraged the vote against uh brian kemp he took credit for kemp's victory in the first place over stacey abrams but now there was a lot of question about whether this is a blue state in georgia and after the presidential election i said that it was purple but now with two uh democratic senators i think you can say it's a blue state and it would be reasonable to assume that stacey abrams would ride that wave a wave that she created herself um into a race for governor here in the state you know that's a pretty quick transformation from what we thought of as a reliably red state to a purple state or even a blue state you know these these two new senators are each groundbreakers in their own way the first black senator from georgia the first jewish senator from georgia does this reflect something fundamental that's happening in the state of georgia i think in georgia and in in the country uh what we're seeing is you hear a lot about the uh suburban women well that's not just white women anymore there are a lot of people of color who have moved out into the suburbs they're raising their families uh they're they are contributing to the economy and they see themselves as part of the fabric of of this state and the nation and um i think stacey abrams recognized that i think these uh senate candidates ossoff and warnock recognized that this wasn't a race that was strictly along lines of race you had many white liberals who as well came out and voted in favor of these democratic candidates uh the the identity of the country is changing um what we look like how we speak what we think about all of that is changing and it's uncomfortable for a lot of people and contributed in large part to what we saw last night at the u.s capitol yeah just one last question we know that the results in the presidential race  in georgia were disputed for weeks and weeks by president trump and his supporters what about these senate races this these two victories have given democrats control of the u.s senate a 50-50 control in the senate with the new uh vice president kyle harris around to vote uh in case of a tie but are these elections really over or do you think they're going to be disputed in georgia there's an automatic recount if the margin is within point five percent that's not the case in in either of  these races uh warnock won by 73 000 votes and ossoff won by about 35 000 votes what we have here the counties must certify the races by january 15th and the state must certify by january 22nd and uh considering the climate of the country the tenor of things that uh that we're seeing right now i would expect to see those dates um moved um certified moved up pretty quickly yeah we're all becoming experts on election law rayna cash thanks so much for bringing us up to date on what's happening in georgia thank you this has been states of america honest conversations on the issues that matter most you