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Oregon Congressional Delegation Evacuated Amid US Capitol Chaos

John Minchillo

Lawmakers are safe but angry. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer called it “an act of domestic terrorism.”


Members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation were among those evacuated from the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building during Congress’ certification of the presidential election.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Portland Democrat, said he and his colleagues were evacuated to an undisclosed location for their safety as a mob took over the Capitol, including the Senate floor.

Merkley said people who came to the Capitol on Wednesday were “infuriated” after believing the false stories and conspiracies repeated by President Trump, including at a Wednesday morning rally. Despite repeated claims of voter fraud, elections officials have certified all results nationally as fair and accurate.

“I think this situation is the result of really what has been the failure to have a strong bipartisan pushback to the lies and conspiracy theories promoted by the President of the United States since the Nov. 3 election,” Merkley said.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer was sheltering in place in his office.

“I can’t help thinking about how Trump deployed troops in the summer (to Portland) when they weren’t needed, and now it looks like we are having trouble getting them,” he said. “This is clearly an act of domestic terrorism. When armed people break into a Capitol building … It’s an attempt to shut down the government and stop the orderly peaceful transfer of power. This is banana republic, and it’s sadly something Donald Trump has been calling for months.”

“I think people were not prepared for the President of the United States to egg these people on,” he said. “He hasn’t necessarily hidden his intent. At some point, you think there are limits.”

In Oregon, far-right groups convened at the state Capitol for a rally to protest the Congressional certification of presidential election results.

In a call with reporters from an undisclosed location, Merkley recalled a confusing scene that erupted as the Senate was debating the presidential election in Arizona. Suddenly, he said, a staff member rushed into the chamber.

“Nobody runs on the floor of the chamber,” Merkley said. Certainly, nobody runs up to the dais. Certainly, nobody interrupts a speech. All of that was very sudden.”

Senators were first told to leave the chamber, then immediately instructed to stay in place as staff attempted to figure out how to lock the doors.

“I think many of us are aware that protesters could be carrying arms, so there was certainly concern that there could be shooting, that there could be a breach of the chamber,” he said.

Questions have arisen among senators about how the mob was so easily able to force entry to the Capitol, on a day that authorities had known for weeks would produce tensions.

“That type of fervor and that type of belief that people were coming to interrupt a process,” he said. “We should have been very, very prepared for in ways that we weren’t.”

The senator held out little possibility the Senate would reconvene to certify the election results on Wednesday but said he hoped that process could be completed Thursday.

Copyright 2020 OPB.