House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the horrifying moments she and others experienced when President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week in a violent insurrection.
The California Democrat spoke to Lesley Stahl in an episode of “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. Stahl joined Pelosi at the Capitol on Friday, where the speaker showed her what was happening in the House chamber at the time of the riots.
The president’s supporters from across the country flew into Washington, D.C., for a pro-Trump demonstration outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. With an overwhelmed and unprepared Capitol Police force that day, violent rioters pushed through the barricades, clashing with officers and storming the Capitol.
At the time, Pelosi was on the House floor overseeing the chamber’s count of the Electoral College vote that secured President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump incited his supporters to stop Congress and Vice President Mike Pence from certifying Biden’s win, convincing them of the dangerous lie that he was the victim of massive election fraud by Democrats.
“When the protesters were making the assault on the Capitol before they even got to these doors, the Capitol Police pulled me from the podium,” she said. “And I was concerned because I said, ’No I wanna be here,” and they said ... ‘No, you must leave.’”
The rioters eventually reached the doors into the House floor, attempting to break through. Police had their guns drawn and aimed at the doors as they held off the rioters from entering the room. But the other insurrections were able to eventually break into the Senate chamber after Pence and the senators were evacuated from the floor.
“I think it was universally accepted that what happened was a terrible, terrible violation of the Capitol ― of the first branch of government, the legislative branch ― by the president of the United States,” Pelosi said, pausing as she got emotional.
Pelosi guided Stahl to her suite of offices, where one group of rioters managed to reach.
“This door, they broke down as you can see. … They smashed it in,” the speaker said before showing another door that rioters banged on while her young staff hid behind it.
“The staff went under the table, barricaded the door, turned out the lights and were silent in the dark” for two-and-a-half hours, she said.
Another group broke into Pelosi’s private office across the hall, where they broke a mirror, stole a laptop and defaced her desk. One rioter who was photographed sitting in Pelosi’s chair with his feet on her desk was arrested on Friday.
Insurrectionists swarmed through the halls with Confederate flags, Trump gear, zip ties, chemical irritants and other weapons, searching for the lawmakers who were about to certify their leader’s election loss. The FBI is currently investigating whether any of those rioters intended to kidnap or kill lawmakers or staffers.
“The evidence is now that it was a well-planned, organized group with leadership and guidance and direction. And the direction was to go get people,” Pelosi said. “They were vocally saying, ‘Where’s the speaker? We know she has staff. They’re here someplace. We’re gonna find them.’”
After the rioters were removed from the Capitol by police, lawmakers came almost immediately back in session. Pelosi told Stahl that while there were some suggestions that the vote would take too long and that lawmakers should do it at an undisclosed location, “we had to go back to the Capitol” in order to send a “message of strength.”
Congress finally finished tallying the electoral votes for Biden at around 4 a.m. ET, after several Republicans in the Senate continued challenging the election results even after the violence.
“Shame on them. And shame on two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House supporting” the effort, Pelosi said. “So these people are enablers of the president’s behavior. I remember when Republicans in the Senate went to see Richard Nixon and said, ‘It’s over.’ That’s what has to happen now.”