On Jan. 6, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) was lying on the ground of the gallery in the House of Representatives, hiding from an insurrectionist mob that was trying to break into the chamber to potentially kidnap or kill him and his colleagues.
He’s found himself agitated in the weeks since — which he’s been told is a symptom of PTSD — and has watched many of his colleagues struggle too, unable to sleep and worrying for their safety and the safety of their families.
And he’s read story after story, with growing concern, about a freshman Republican congresswoman from Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene —an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump who came into office as a known believer in the unhinged QAnon conspiracy theory — helped incite the mob that stormed the Capitol. More recently, unearthed social media posts have shown that Greene subscribes to a host of other dangerous and deeply offensive conspiracy theories, including that school shootings are staged, and that a rich Jewish family is using space lasers to start forest fires.
Most concerning, perhaps, is a CNN investigation that found that Greene had liked Facebook posts calling for the execution of Democratic lawmakers.
Gomez has had enough. He announced this week that he is drafting a resolution to expel Greene from office, a measure that would require a two-thirds majority to pass. Assuming Gomez gets the support of all of his fellow Democrats, he still need find about 70 Republican votes.
He talked to HuffPost about why Greene poses a danger not only to him and his colleagues, but to democracy itself, and why members of Congress need to take the rare and extraordinary step of removing her from their ranks.
What did it feel like to learn that one of your Republican colleagues has liked social media posts calling for the execution of your Democratic colleagues?
I was not shocked because I have been following her since she was running in 2020. I thought the QAnon believers were just a fringe element in our civil discourse, but when she won the Republican primary, and she was slated to become a member of Congress, I knew that she was gonna bring in a lot of those conspiracy theories — the QAnon stuff, the whole idea that the election was rigged — to Congress.
So I was not surprised that she liked social media posts with those comments, but just the amount of stuff she’s posted — trying to go after Parkland survivors, saying that it was staged; saying that 9/11 was an inside job — it’s just a lot of just really fringe-y ideas … So for me, I wasn’t shocked.
I was already on edge, because of Jan. 6. I got stuck in the gallery. I was trying to get out when we got stuck because the insurrectionists were outside. This was something that I’ve always thought: We’ve got to put an end to this fringe element in our in our politics, the people peddling lies and conspiracies so much so that you can’t even talk to them, you can’t even discuss an issue with them because their facts are not based in reality. They come from a completely different position.
And I know that after Jan. 6, members, including myself, are very very nervous of [Greene and other extremist House Republicans], because they can bring guns to the House office buildings. They’re not supposed to bring them onto the floor — and that’s why we’ve put metal detectors in place — but she is one of them that keeps walking around the metal detectors, which is against the rules, against the Capitol Police who are there trying to make sure everybody’s safe.
So a lot of us are nervous of the new members that are there. I try to keep my distance from her, but it is deeply concerning.
And it’s concerning that [Republican House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy — all he says he’s going to do is have a conversation with her. Really? That conversation didn’t work very well in the summer after she won and he knew she would be one of the new members of the Republican caucus. So if the Republicans won’t do anything, the Democrats need to take steps to push back and hold her accountable for her actions since she’s been in office.
I know it’s early, but have you heard any support for expelling her from your Republican colleagues?
Yeah, some Republicans have expressed interest but people are nervous across the board about what it means for their safety, and for the safety of their families and their staff, if they co-sponsor a resolution like this. Remember that the rioters and insurrectionists that she instigated, that Trump instigated, they weren’t just coming after Nancy Pelosi, they were chanting “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” So the threats out there are real.
And also the people that follow her, there could be threats from that cohort as well. Just yesterday, somebody was found with pipe bombs here in California. Somebody was found with a handgun in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, with “Stop the Steal” literature and a hit list, from what I’ve been told, so these are real concerning times. We understand that there is real danger out there.
It’s been three weeks now since the insurrection. You obviously had a pretty tense experience of it. Have you had a chance to take a breath? How are you feeling in general?
Thank you so much for asking. The first week was tough because I’m thinking about what happened, what I could have done differently. I made a conscious decision when I was up there that I wanted to be — it sounds weird — but I wanted to be remembered as somebody that was helping people to try to get out. So I took my time, stayed back, helped other members crawl underneath the handrails and really did whatever I could to help.
I think my colleague was there and saw you do that.
Yeah. So it was something that just really did impact me a lot, because when I was on the ground, I didn’t want my wife to worry, because of what she was seeing, so I sent her a text that I was trying to get out of the Capitol with police, even though I was doing that from the floor. It was a tense few moments when that happened and I didn’t want to say “I love you” — not because I don’t — but because I knew if I said “I love you,” she would freak out.
So I was impacted by it and I’ve been concerned ever since then about the safety of my colleagues. Some of my colleagues are having a really tough time. I felt like I was agitated for about a couple of weeks, and actually, we had some conversations with folks about PTSD, and they said hyper-arousal is a symptom, so just being aware of having that and decompressing after that. But, you know, we have to do our job. It’s not a job that you get time off from. This is something that’s 24/7 and 365 days a year, so we’re back at it —
Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but when you say some of your colleagues are struggling, can you elaborate a little bit?
What I’ve heard is some people are still having trouble sleeping, having constant dreams. People are adjusting, but we also understand the reality now. Members were getting fitted for bulletproof vests, looking at what we can do to beef up our home security … So that stress, right? Constantly thinking about that starts messing with your mind a little bit. It creates more anxiety. I knew that if I did the resolution that I would probably be also targeted. And I’m hearing there’s stuff in social media posts about me …
But I think across the Democratic caucus and across politics, people are nervous for their safety. And that shouldn’t be the case. I never had to deal with that before to be honest with you.
So where does the actual resolution stand at this point?
It hasn’t been formally introduced. We have talks with the parliamentarian about exactly when we introduce it, what are the steps, what is the decision tree? If we do it this way, what happens; if we do it that way, what happens? And we’re trying, at the same time, not to be disruptive of our agenda, which is to pass the COVID-19 relief package that helps the American people.
The way I see it, the introduction of this resolution to expel her is a matter of not only me taking the action on behalf of my district but also of my own conscience. I just think that she is not only dangerous, but is toxic to our political discourse and it will take a while to turn things around if she’s in elected office.
Are you feeling the support of your Democratic colleagues? Are they behind this?
Yeah definitely. I’ve been receiving text messages from individuals thanking me for taking this on. Some of them were completely offended by her comments on Parkland or Sandy Hook; they feel it deeply as well, seeing that she can say that Parkland was a false flag, that it was staged, and just do it with such callousness.
Forgive me for not knowing this, I know I can look it up for myself, but is it a simple majority to expel somebody?
No, it’s two-thirds, so I need about 70 Republicans, so it’s a tall order. But we need to put it on the record, in my opinion, that the House was not for a member who behaves like this, who incites violence, who uses conspiracy theories to prove her agenda — who uses conspiracy theories as her agenda is more like it. So it’s gonna be a tall order, but we’re gonna try our best.
What is your message to your Republican colleagues to get them to support this expulsion?
My argument to my Republican colleagues is that she is not a danger to Republicans or to Democrats — she’s a danger to all of us and to our institutions.
This is something that you’ve got to contain, to push back. We can’t just sit here and say, “OK, this is acceptable.” I think we did that for far too long during the Trump era. Republicans thought he would get better. Republicans thought he could do the right thing. Republicans thought he’d go learn his lesson. And he never did. And I don’t think that Marjorie Taylor Green will change. She might be trying to scrub her social media accounts right now, but just scrubbing them doesn’t change the fact that she said awful things, and she’s probably still thinking along the same lines.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.