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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Two San Diego Members Of Congress Describe A ‘Horrifying Wednesday’, Call For Consequences For Trump

 January 7, 2021 at 10:18 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Congressman Juan Vargas who represents the 51st district was at the Capitol yesterday when glass was smashed and security was breached, he had to take cover when the certification of the presidential election was interrupted by a violent mob of rioters. Congressman Vargas joins us now to describe his experience, Congressman Vargas. Welcome. Thank you. First, walk me through your experience at the Capitol yesterday, where were you when the unrest, uh, first started? Speaker 2: 00:27 Well, I was actually down in the tunnel area coming up. So I was over in the Capitol. We have offices across the street where I am now, and I heard literally a wave of people. You could hear them coming, you could hear them climbing over things. And that's when I heard some police officers yelling here, they come take, you know, take shelter. So at that point I ran back to my office to make sure that my staff was, was fine. I had a few of my staff members here. And, um, and it was a scary moment. You hear people running through the hallways here. Some were police officers and a lot weren't. So again, we didn't know what was going to go on. And I told my staff we'll get anything you can to protect yourself because our doors may be breached at any moment. Speaker 2: 01:08 And thank God that didn't come to be. But, uh, but it was, it was terrible. I mean, you could hear people's, you know, yelling and screaming. We do have scaffolding outside this building. We were told, you know, look outside of there, people climbing up the walls. There was one guy attempting to climb up the scaffolding. And I told my staff, if he gets up here and tries to come in through the window, we will throw them off the building. So he wasn't, he wasn't able to, I think at some point they convinced them to come down, but, uh, you know, it was a terrible moment. I mean, you know, you don't want to go through this to simply, um, you know, follow the constitution and do your job, which our job was very clear. Our job was to do one thing and one thing alone, and that was respect the will of the voters. And that was that they elected Joe Biden. We were supposed to certify the electors and that's all we were supposed to do. And that's what we were going to do. And ultimately that's what we did, but you know, it was going to be a fight to get there and it shouldn't have been, Speaker 1: 02:01 How did yesterday's law enforcement response compare to other days? I mean, we all noticed the lapse in security during the right. Uh, but did you notice anything strange before it happened? I mean, what questions are you asking about that? Speaker 2: 02:13 I was actually on house administration, so I wasn't in charge of the security around here, but I was involved in it. Our committee was in charge of it. So I was on it for two years. I noticed security better than most people. Again, I've met with the police normally about once a month on security issue. So I know when they roll heavy and when they don't roll heavy, that's what they call it. And yesterday, for some reason they decided not to roll heavy, even though they knew that there were, there was going to be lots and lots of protests, I think because it wasn't black lives matter because it wasn't an immigration when it was just Trumpsters they're going to be fine. You know, they decided not to roll heavy. The reality is going to have huge security here. We have the ability to do that, but, um, you know, they decided not to. Speaker 2: 02:53 And I think it was very, very problematic. Um, obviously, I mean, it was, it led to, I think, loss of life and other things. And again, they could have prevented that in my view, if they simply had treated it, like they normally treat these huge manifestations by rolling happy, I mean go and get the security that you need set up your perimeter, protect the capital. That's what they do. And they do it success it's never happened before, but because these were, you know, supposedly Trumpsters and they're going to be fine. And you know, they're not black lives matter. They're not immigrant activists. Well, it turned out there were the most violent. What do you mean? Speaker 1: 03:28 I mean, I'm hearing reports that there were officers taking selfies with writers. Speaker 2: 03:33 Oh yeah, no was, so it was really a mixed bag. Just to be fair. I mean, there was some officers that were absolutely doing the wrong thing and not pushing back. But then at the same time, I know a lot of these officers, again, because of my former job or my former position here. And I went and talked to one of the guys that was inside as a very dear friend of mine, I call him Q I can't give his whole name, but, and he was one of the guys defending the actual floor of the Congress. And there were a number of my colleagues that were held up in there. And so he drew his weapon and he was prepared to fire if he needed to. I talked to him once we went and voted and later on and he was all shaken up, you know, he's a Marine. Speaker 2: 04:12 And I said, you okay? He goes, yeah. He goes, you know, one of my colleagues over there was the one that shot the young lady and he's all torn up about it. I mean, he didn't want to fire upon it, but, you know, he felt he had to do that. So it was, it was a terrible situation for him. How about you? And he goes, I'm a Marine. He goes, I was going to hold this position and I held it until I'm relieved and that's the way you're supposed to do so again, it was a mixed bag on, you know, which police officers doing, what, I mean, some of the ones that were, um, you know, closest, I think to my colleagues were prepared to do what they needed to do. And sadly, and in some case opening fire to make sure that others weren't killed some of the other, uh, capital officers I saw and I saw him on tape and a couple of them, I knew I was like, they're taking selfies with these guys instead of pushing them back, they're tuck selfies. I mean, this was black lives matter. They wouldn't be taking selfies, it'd be whacking them in the head or something. So that really is disappointing. And that's something that we have to talk about, you know, why, you know, the disparate treatment, the difference between black lives matter and the difference here between Trumpsters storming the capital, actually trying to prevent us from doing our constitutional duty. I mean, something has to go, Speaker 1: 05:20 You know, you, you were sworn into your fifth term in Congress on Sunday and have just served over eight years now. How do, uh, yesterday's events at the Capitol compare to what you've seen during that time? Speaker 2: 05:32 Well, there really is nothing comparable just to be Frank. I mean, you know, we come here and we debate issues and you know, I've been through this formality before where we simply follow the constitution and we take a look at the electors and then we certify them and we have a new president, uh, or we have a president reelected and we just simply do our duty. So there was nothing like yesterday. Now I did study to be a Jesuit. I was in El Salvador during part of the war there, the civil war. And then you saw stuff like that. There, you had death squads running around killing people. You had the military that would go rogue and slaughter people. I mean, you had all these manifestations, all this crazy stuff, but that was in El Salvador during civil war. You don't expect that here in the Capitol in Washington, DC, I mean, it was crazy. Speaker 2: 06:20 It was, the Antarctic has taken over. And again, it was the president him on, I mean, let's, let's put blame where it was. I mean, the reality is here. You had the commander in chief of our armed forces, huge power aching on an angry mob to take over the Capitol and prevent him from being ousted from office when he shouldn't, because he lost the election. Instead, he said, you know, go take the capital. And they did, but they didn't fully take it. Obviously at the end of the day, I think our democracy is strong and cooler heads prevailed. And those officers that did ultimately fight back, fought back and Dhruv drove the mob out. And we did our duty and our duty was to count the electoral votes, which we did. And Joe Biden will be the next president. Speaker 3: 07:08 I've been speaking to Congressman Juan Vargas, Congressman Vargas. Thank you very Speaker 2: 07:12 Much. Thank you. Speaker 3: 07:15 San Diego's newest member of Congress spent her third day in office sheltering from rioters in the Capitol Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs of San Diego's. 53rd district started Wednesday watching the electoral college certification from the house gallery. Then the day took a very different turn. Joining me is Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs and welcome to the show. Thank Speaker 4: 07:37 You. Great to be here with you. How Speaker 3: 07:39 Are you and your staff after yesterday's incredible events? Speaker 4: 07:42 We're doing okay. Only two of my staff were in the office and they sheltered in, in the office all day. Uh, I had to evacuate with chemical weapons hood had some scary incidences, but I'm just grateful and thankful that, uh, the situation wasn't worse and that we didn't lose more lives. Speaker 3: 08:03 When did you realize something was happening at the Capitol building? Speaker 4: 08:06 So I was sitting overlooking the house floor and I saw some commotion on the house floor. And then we started hearing Capitol police running behind us. They told us to pull the emergency evacuation hoods from under the chair to be ready to use them, but then we continued in session for a little bit longer until finally they told us to put the hoods on shelter under our seats. Uh, we could hear, uh, protestors banging on the doors right behind us. We heard some flash bangs and, and shooting. Uh, and then we evacuated to the other side of the house gallery had to climb under handrails and over chairs to get there and went to a couple of different secure locations until we were finally released back to our offices to resume session. Speaker 3: 08:52 No, some members of Congress have shared with the media that they were afraid for their lives. Were you? Yes. Speaker 4: 08:59 Uh, I, uh, have been in a number of difficult situations that my background is in post-conflict stabilization and that was probably the most scared I've ever been for my life. Uh, there was one point where, uh, Capitol police told us to take our congressional pins off because they were worried that we would be more of a target if the protesters could see who the members of Congress were. And I think that it's really clear that there were many of, uh, the mob that came in that were intent on causing harm to elected members of Congress. And that is a really dark day for America. Speaker 3: 09:38 Do you have questions about the security breach that allowed the writers to get into the building? Speaker 4: 09:44 I think it's clear that we need an investigation into how, uh, they were allowed inside the complex and inside the building. Uh, it's clear that something went wrong and we also need to investigate why the response yesterday was so different than what we saw over the summer towards peaceful protestors. Speaker 3: 10:02 Congress was called back in session last night to complete the task of confirming Joe Biden's win as president. What was that historic session like? Speaker 4: 10:12 Uh, I decided to go back to the house floor. I felt like it was important to show that we were still there that no angry mob could get in the way of us conducting our constitutional duties. It was a pretty somber moment. Uh, I was disheartened to see that many of my colleagues did not change course due to the events earlier in the day, but when we got through all of the States and it was officially certified, uh, that we will be inaugurating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20th. I think we all felt a real sigh of relief, uh, and really felt like that wall. It was such a dark and difficult day that help was on the way and, and the future will be brighter. Speaker 3: 10:58 Now you joined with other democratic members of Congress to call for the impeachment of the president over yesterday's riot. Why would that be necessary with only two weeks to go in his term? Speaker 4: 11:09 You know, my background is, uh, working in post-conflict transitions in conflict zones, and I think it's incredibly important that we hold everyone responsible for inciting encouraging or committing the violence that we saw yesterday, responsible and accountable to the highest level. And while we will be getting a new president on January 20th, I think it's important to show very clearly that what was done, uh, the president's attempt to overthrow an elected government, um, because he didn't like the outcome of an election is unacceptable and something that can never happen again. Speaker 3: 11:46 What about the invocation of the 25th amendment? Do you support that? Speaker 4: 11:50 I do. I'm hopeful that vice president Pence and members of the cabinet will uphold their constitutional duty to protect and defend the constitution and will invoke the 25th amendment. Speaker 3: 12:01 And do you think Congress should expel some members for obstructing the process of confirming the electoral votes? Speaker 4: 12:08 I do. I think that, uh, it's important that anyone who encouraged this violent behavior by sowing doubt in our electoral process, by encouraging, uh, these writers and, and, uh, protesters, uh, needs to be held accountable. It's the only way to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again, Speaker 3: 12:29 Congresswoman Jacobs, are you concerned about more violence in Washington in the final days of this presidency? Speaker 4: 12:37 We can't roll anything out and we have to be prepared for anything. I will be attending the inauguration. And I believe that it's of utmost importance that we do not let an angry hate-filled mob control, how our democracy governance itself. Speaker 3: 12:53 I've been speaking with San Diego, Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs, Congresswoman Jacobs. Thank you so much for your time. Speaker 4: 12:59 Of course.

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Sara Jacobs, the new representative for San Diego's 53rd congressional district said she's never been in more fear for her life. 51st District Rep. Juan Vargas said he was ready to defend his capitol office, whatever it took. Both are calling for consequences for President Trump.
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