In a day they described as alarming and surreal, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation were locked down in their offices or other secure locations as a mob supporting President Donald Trump breached security barricades, stormed into the U.S. Capitol and tried to enter the House chamber.
“They are trying to break down the doors of the House chamber now,” said U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat.
“The president has to be charged with sedition for inciting to riot. It’s outright sedition. This is nothing short of an attempt to take over the government of the United States,” the congressman said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun.
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen remained locked down in his office as Wednesday evening approached, saying defiantly that Congress should not leave the Capitol complex until it finished its task of certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The mob assembled at the Capitol to support Trump’s contention that the election was rigged against him.
“I really do cry for our country today,” Van Hollen said. “Nobody should be successful in using mob violence. I never thought we’d see a violent mob take control of the U.S. Capitol. It frankly makes me sick to my stomach.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin — who was rushed off the Senate floor to a secure location — said other members, too, were resolved that lawmakers should finish their work without delay.
“If it’s safe to do it, we’re going to do it,” Cardin said.
House and Senate leaders told members early in the evening that they should prepare to reconvene once the Capitol was deemed safe.
On Wednesday evening, the lawmakers did just that.
“We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech. “They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed.”
Baltimore County Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said Trump should be forced from office via the 25th Amendment, which outlines a method to remove an unfit chief executive.
“He is a threat to our national security and a menace to democracy,” Ruppersberger said in a written statement.
The amendment requires the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to assert that the president is not fit to carry out his or her duties. A two-thirds vote in the House and Senate is required if the president resists.
Unless he is removed or resigns before then, Trump’s last day in office will be Jan. 20.
Earlier, Congress was in the process of formally accepting state electors’ votes when Capitol Police could no longer contain the crowds outside. A group of pro-Trump Republican members have objected to vote counts in swing states, and planned to force what could be a lengthy series of debates.
All of Maryland’s delegation are Democrats except Rep. Andy Harris. Harris has backed Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud and voted to reject the Electoral College vote counts in Pennsylvania and Arizona.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican, sent a tweet quoting President Abraham Lincoln, and asking America to “Put this shameful rebellion down!”
Reached for comment, Glassman wrote in an email that it was a “sad day,” before adding, “I am embarrassed that our Congressman Harris was part of such a(n) act of sedition.”
Harris, who did not return calls from The Sun seeking comment, represents parts of Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties, as well as the Eastern Shore.
About 90 minutes into the chaos Wednesday afternoon, Harris posted a message on his Facebook page.
“A peaceful protest outside is fine, but what is happening at the Capitol building right now is not. Let us make the case for each state we’re objecting to. Let the points be made. We can’t do that with the riotous behavior.”
Mfume, who represents areas of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County, was locked down Wednesday afternoon in the Rayburn House Office Building as his staff monitored social media. The staff said there had been evacuations of two other office buildings in the Capitol complex, Madison and Cannon, but that Mfume was “sitting tight.”
Said Mfume: “I grew up in Baltimore. I grew up in the streets. You’ve got to do a whole lot to scare me. I’m more concerned about the innocent men and women who work in this building and whose safety is in jeopardy. They are almost the victims of a crazy mob incited by the president.”
Cardin offered an angry retort after Trump tweeted his support of Capitol Police and law enforcement.
“Pouring the gasoline, lighting the match and then praising the firefighters,” Cardin tweeted. “Really quite unfathomable that this chaos was instigated — encouraged — by the President of the United States.”
Trump, Cardin tweeted, “needs to stop this now. His volatile words started it and he must end it peacefully.”
Cardin said he was hustled off the Senate floor after Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding in his role as president of the Senate, was escorted to safety.
“We were ushered quickly — and I do mean quickly — away from the Capitol,” Cardin said.
A spokeswoman for Democratic Rep. David Trone said the congressman was in the House gallery for floor debate when he was evacuated.
He sent the staff photos of himself wearing a gas mask. Trone said masks had been placed under desks by Capitol Police in the event they were needed. He said police had considered “gassing the demonstrators themselves” in the House chamber, if necessary.
When the mob reached the Capitol, the congressman said police “locked the doors and we continued with the debate. The debate ended when the protesters were seen in the rotunda.”
Trone, who represents Western Maryland and part of Montgomery County, said he and about 100 other members and staff were led to a secure location where they were given water and vending machine food.
“It really boggles my mind,” Trone said. “President Trump will no doubt go down in history as the worst president of the United States. He has fed the flames consistently.”
As the riot escalated, people bearing American flags and Trump-themed flags crowded onto the Capitol steps and some made their way into the building’s Statuary Hall.
The dangerous display came as Maryland Democrats accused congressional Republicans of trying to subvert Democracy by contesting Biden’s victory.
“The 2020 election is over and the people have spoken,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said on the House floor earlier in the afternoon.
Raskin’s 25-year-old son died on New Year’s Eve, and the congressman had brought one of his daughters and his son-in-law to Capitol Hill to be with him Wednesday, spokeswoman Samantha Brown said.
Maryland Policy & Politics
While he was in the House chamber, Raskin’s family members “were at another location in the Capitol when the breach occurred,” Brown said.
Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat who also represents parts of Carroll and Frederick counties, later tweeted: “I am now sheltering in a safe location on the Hill. American democracy will prevail.”
Rep. Anthony Brown, who serves in District 4 representing parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County, on Wednesday night called for Trump to be removed.
“President Trump has once again betrayed his oath of office and demonstrated his extreme unfitness to lead,” Brown said in a statement. “We cannot have a man actively orchestrating sedition leading our nation’s government for another fourteen days, let alone giving orders to our men and women in uniform.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, condemned Thursday’s riot during a speech on the floor and said elected officials “believe in democracy. We believe in we the people.”
“If those were the people, we’re in a lot of trouble,” said Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters S. Wayne Carter Jr. and McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.