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Democratic lawmakers with military backgrounds quickly condemned their Republican colleagues and President Donald Trump as “treasonous,” and accused them of inciting the fatal violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
But their statements directed at a pair of Senate Republicans went beyond the usual political brinksmanship, particularly after a pro-Trump mob broke into the offices of lawmakers and the chambers of Congress.
At least five people died following the riots, including a police officer and one person who was shot. Over a dozen D.C. Metropolitan Police officers were injured.
“What is our country coming to,” Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine Corps infantry officer, told Insider. “What is our country coming to, that the greatest democracy the world has ever seen, is under assault from within and inspired by the president of the United States.”
Moulton recounted being hurried off to a secure room with dozens of other lawmakers by Capitol Hill’s security team. Dramatic images of the incident showed lawmakers taking cover and assisting others during the hours-long siege.
“To be honest, this was nothing compared to what we saw in Iraq, but for many of my colleagues it was the worst thing they’ve seen,” Moulton added. “I’ve heard one woman say that this was the most frightening day of her life. This is not what members of Congress signed up to do. It’s what I expected as a Marine, but not as a member of Congress.”
Hours before the violence, Trump hosted an event near the White House to galvanize supporters to “never concede” in disputing the results of the presidential election. A joint session of Congress was in session on the same day to count the 2020 presidential race’s Electoral College votes.
Republican lawmakers from both chambers formally objected to the counting, raising debunked theories of widespread voter fraud and lending credence to conspiracy theories that have repeatedly been struck down by federal judges.
Of note was Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who appeared to raise his fist in support of the rioters on Wednesday; and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both senators were accused of showboating and fueling statements in an effort to advance their political profile. Sen. Hawley’s office also reportedly sent a fundraising email mentioning his objection as the congressional session was underway.
Moulton told Insider he “absolutely” believes Hawley and Cruz shared the blame for the violence.
“These are domestic terrorists attempting a coup who were incited and supported by lawless Republicans lawmakers,” Moulton said. “I think they should be censured because we need to make it clear to future lawmakers and future generations of Americans that you will not incite violence against the United States of America. That’s treasonous.”
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, another Marine who deployed to Iraq, also had choice words and accused the two Republicans of inciting violence. Gallego reportedly helped other lawmakers put on their gas masks and gave instructions, as well as sheltering news reporters into his office.
“We have a president and we have senators that incite this that are just as bad as those who broke in,” Gallego said to MSNBC on Wednesday. “Cruz and Hawley did not break in with the rioters, and neither did Donald Trump, but their words broke the barriers of civility that have really kept the country together for hundreds of years. And they’re just as responsible and they should be ashamed.”
“The names of Cruz and Hawley should go down in history next to people like Benedict Arnold and Donald Trump,” Gallego added. “They are just traitors to the country and traitors to the Constitution.”
Representatives for Hawley did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cruz’s office referred to the statements he made denouncing the violent attacks on Capitol Hill, and alleging Democrats were merely playing politics.
“The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” Cruz said. “The Department of Justice should vigorously prosecute everyone who was involved in these brazen acts of violence.”
“No one should be surprised to see Democrats playing politics and to see them try to attack strong conservative leaders,” Cruz said during a radio interview. “That’s something Democrats have done for a long time. I do think it’s really cynical for them to be trying to take advantage of what was a tragic event that occurred yesterday in Washington – the terrorist attack on the Capitol.”
Like Gallego, other lawmakers with combat experience sprung to action to assist during the chaos. Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a former US Army Ranger, was pictured comforting Democratic Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania during the siege inside the House chamber.
“I called my wife,” Crow told the Rolling Stone. “I told her I loved her and told the kids I loved them and told my wife I might have to fight my way out. “
“I immediately got into Ranger mode, as I say,” Crow reportedly added. “I’m going to do everything I can, I’m going to take as much action as I can. I did a double-check of all the doors, made sure they were locked. Escorted the more senior members away from the doors, moving them into a defensive position. Asked folks to take off their member pins so that if the mobs break down the doors, the members would be harder to identify. I took a pen out of my pocket to possibly use as a weapon.”
Crow also tweeted of the incident: “It didn’t need to be this way. Enablers of Donald Trump led us to this point.”
After reconvening, both Hawley and Cruz voted to sustain their objection. The Senate ultimately voted overwhelmingly 93-6 against the objection of Arizona’s electoral vote; as well as 92-7 against the objection of Pennsylvania’s.