By Luke Klink
Protestors backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday as a joint session of Congress was beginning the process of certifying the results of last fall’s presidential election. The protest halted the process, and legislators were evacuated from the building.
Among the legislators was Congressman Tom Tiffany, who was re-elected to represent the 7th District of Wisconsin. He called for a stronger message from political leaders on both sides of the aisle in an effort to put an end to growing numbers of violent protests across the country.
Shortly after 1 p.m. E.T., on Jan. 6, Congress began opening electors’ envelopes from each state, according to Tiffany. The process continued until reaching those from the state of Arizona, when there was an objection by both a House member and a Senate member.
“We had retired to our respective chambers, and we were about an hour into the debate when some people breached the Capitol,” Tiffany said. “We really didn’t know what was going on at first.”
Tiffany said at the time events started taking place he was in the House Chamber and could not see what was happening outside the Capitol.
“Then, security got concerned, and they confined us to the House floor,” Tiffany said. Then they thought it may not be safe to be in the building so they evacuated us out of the United States Capitol.”
Protestors made it into the Senate Chamber, but did not get inside the Hall of the House of Representatives.
After the Capitol was cleared, Congress reconvened and certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegations from both parties forcefully condemned the actions of protesters.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) released the following statement announcing her support for Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to immediately remove President Trump from office:
“President Trump incited a violent insurrection against Congress as we were working to faithfully carry out our constitutional duties to accept the vote of the American people. This attack on our democracy makes it clear he has broken his oath to support and defend the constitution, and that he is unfit to serve. I join the bipartisan calls for Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment so that the American people can have confidence that there will be a peaceful transition of power in the few remaining days of this disgraceful and dangerous presidency. If the Vice President fails to act, then Congress should take action to address President Trump’s impeachable offenses.”
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) had planned to deliver an address on the Senate floor explaining his concerns about the election in Arizona before Congress was evacuated. He said millions of people have valid concerns about the election.
“Unfortunately, lawless protesters entered the Capitol and by consensus we decided to expedite the proceedings. I condemn the lawlessness and mourn the loss of life that occurred in the Capitol,” Johnson said.
In his speech, text of which also was released, Johnson states, I refuse to dismiss the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of Americans who have lost faith in our institutions and the fairness of our electoral process. Those who have lost confidence are not crazy. They are patriots who dearly love America and are alarmed by what they have witnessed over the last four years: a thoroughly corrupt FBI investigation of a duly elected president; a grossly biased media that has chosen sides and uses its power to interfere in our politics to a far greater extent than any foreign entity could ever hope to achieve; an increasingly powerful social media that censors news and conservative voices; and courts and election officials that usurp the constitutional authority of state legislatures in setting the times, places, and manner of holding elections.”
Photos and video footage later show a female protester being shot as she tries to break through the barricaded doors of the Speakers’ Lobby.
Washington police said the riot at the Capitol resulted in five deaths and at least 70 arrests. The Justice Department has charged more than a dozen people involved in the riots, and dozens more have been charged in Superior Court in Washington D.C. with unlawful entry, curfew violations and firearms-related crimes.
Tiffany personally did not see any protestors enter the Capitol. Video shows protestors breaking through windows to enter the building and some milling on the Senate floor.
As events unfolded, Tiffany called the scene “rather startling.”
“I was surprised at the U.S. Capitol that something like this would happen, but we were able to be evacuated out of the building,” he said.
Tiffany added violence has been seen dating back to last summer in cities across the country.
“As much as this is getting a lot of attention today, and rightfully so, there was as bad of acts that were going on trashing the White House, or trying to breach the White House this summer,” Tiffany said.
“It is just time for this all to end,” Tiffany said. “We need political leaders who are going to stand up to the anarchists and others who are just out there to cause trouble, and they need to put their foot down. It needs to be both Republicans and Democrats that deliver the message. That’s it.”
Law enforcement needs to be able to do their job and make arrests so protestors who break the law get sentenced to prison, according to Tiffany. “They need to send them to prison for a long time because what has been going on in our country the last eight months, it needs to stop,” he said.
After the riot, U.S. Congress Reps. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) were the only members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to vote in support of objecting to the 2020 presidential election results. They were among the 120 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all Republicans, who objected to counting the electoral votes from both the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Although there was an objection from House members to electoral college results from Wisconsin, no U.S. Senator signed papers to formally object to the state’s electoral votes. Johnson withdrew his planned challenge.
Tiffany compared today’s protests in Washington, D.C. to 2011, when he was a Wisconsin legislator and large crowds descended on the State Capitol in Madison to protest Act 10. Protestors then included people from out of state like Illinois and California, he added.
“Those were some rough characters. I saw this back in 2011. It is really unfortunate when you see these n’er-do-wells that try to foment unrest and discontent,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany called on protestors not to act violently.
“I just think that to a certain extent we shouldn’t have to tell people that, but it is clear there is going to have to be a stronger message put out there,” Tiffany said.
“Political leaders on both sides of the aisle, whether it was Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris, last summer, they didn’t say a thing about the riots in big cities,” Tiffany said. “Now people are saying what they are saying about President Trump today. We need elected leaders who are going to stand up and say, enough.”
“All of us. The President. The President-elect. All these people. Speaker Pelosi. Our elected leaders, myself included, although I have been very consistent about that ever since the Madison riots, where I called for stopping these violent acts before they started,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany spoke about Madison riots in Wisconsin last summer, saying Gov. Tony Evers and the Madison Mayor did not take action to stop violent acts before they started. He said that could have been done, but “they did not take action to get control of the situation in Madison.”
“Then Gov. Evers let it get out of control in Kenosha,” Tiffany said. “This is what happens when you have anarchy in the streets, and it is time to get control of it. Elected leaders need to be very firm about this.”
“Stop the violence. If you are going to do it, you are going to prison,” Tiffany said.