Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, held a virtual town hall on Jan. 12 to address questions and provide a report on the violent pro-Trump mob of insurrectionists that assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6 during the certification of the electoral college results. The rampage led to the death of five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick.
Topics included the 25th Amendment, articles of impeachment, Capitol Police readiness, holding rioters and those who incited violence accountable, and ways to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
The virtual talk was a casual one, and instead of issuing a formal statement Huffman’s district director relayed questions to him from folks who were watching on Facebook and other platforms.
Before diving into the questions — his office received over 400 of them — Huffman did say this in response to last Wednesday’s events, “This is a big historic moment for our nation. It is something that I never imagined I would be experiencing as a member of Congress, but really we’ve all been attacked and violated. This is our Capitol, our citadel of democracy and so when that disgraceful mob stormed the Capitol and literally took it over for a few hours where no help was coming and they had control of the place, that is just a wake-up call and it speaks to the level of violence and insurrection that we all saw… We have to make sure there is accountability.”
In light of the FBI’s recent warning of armed protests being planned in all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to the inauguration, Huffman urged people to be vigilant and to be aware of their surroundings in capital cities and in and around local seats of government or federal buildings.
“I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I think we need to understand that these threats are real and could very well be hyped in the days ahead,” Huffman said. “At the same time, this is the United States of America and we are going to get through this.”
One of the first questions for Huffman was how will Congress determine which elected members may have contributed to the attempted takeover and how will they be held accountable?
Huffman cited Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
“Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was put in the Constitution to deal with people who participated in insurrection in the Civil War in the Confederate side and it is to prevent them from being a part of Congress and it also prevents them from being president or vice president. That was put there for a reason, it wasn’t a one and done just for Civil War insurrection, it was very much envisioning that there could be future insurrections and you just don’t want people like that serving in the United States Congress. Now how it gets implemented is another story and I think it may well be up to Congress itself to police that and there are lots of conversations right now about investigations and even legislation and I think there is no doubt that the House Administration Committee or the Ethics Committee probably has the tools to determine which members of Congress were the most involved and whether any of them crossed that line into actively aiding and abetting an insurrection,” he said.
Huffman said he happens to believe at least one or probably several members of Congress did cross that line.
“If that finding is made the House or the Senate would vote to expel them,” Huffman said.
With that in mind, one viewer asked Huffman what it was like going back to work with some of his colleagues who helped to incite the mob.
Huffman said it was hard to even look at some of them in the eye.
“I’ll be honest, it has been tough. It is really hard for me to understand how some of my colleagues followed this dangerous, combustible rhetoric and indirect calls to violence that pretty quickly became direct calls to violence… they just followed it every step of the way and followed President Trump every step of the way and his incitement and it is hard for me to look some of them in the eye,” Huffman said. “Others I know are feeling contrite and weren’t so far down the rabbit hole that they couldn’t wake up and realize that this has gone on way too far and we got to stop it and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the leadership of Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. I agree with these people on almost nothing politically, but I respect the fact that they are able to draw that line for our country.”
The conversation then turned toward the topic of what the average citizen can do to support the growing impeachment efforts by the House and Senate to impeach President Trump.
“I think the collective outrage that has been expressed around this country matters. How you choose to be part of that whether it is through petitions or calls or emails or letters, I think all of it matters. I think if this is a time where you share that sense of outrage and you really want to be part of demanding accountability, please do what you can to let your elected representatives know how you feel, write a letter to the editor, let your community, your neighbors know, this is a time to stand up and be counted,” Huffman said.
Regarding the impeachment efforts, one viewer asked what is to be gained of impeaching President Trump when there are only a few days left of his presidency.
Huffman said he believes this is the most urgent topic that Congress has before them right now.
“Because we’ve seen for the first time in history, a president of the United States actively incite an armed, deadly insurrection against our democracy and against our Congress. To let that stand, to somehow just look the other way is not an option,” Huffman said.
He added that he believes most of the country shares that view.
“I’m pleased to see that a growing number of my republican colleagues in the Congress share that view and this is building momentum in real time. I read just minutes ago that as many of two dozen House Republicans may now support our articles of impeachment,” Huffman said.
“Why do you do it,” Huffman said, addressing the question, “Because he is still president, he's still got the nuclear codes and while it may just be for another eight days there is all sorts of harm that he can cause to our national security, to our democracy, and to all of our wellbeing if we do not get this man out of office.”
If the president were to be convicted following a Senate trial and the impeachment process the Senate can prohibit him from holding office ever again according to Huffman.
“I happen to be one who thinks that too is important,” Huffman said, expressing staunch support for the impeachment of the President.
He said they cannot take the chance of Trump holding office again and said the French thought they were done with Napoleon when they sent him off to Elba, yet meanwhile the famed French statesmen had started plotting his second act.
“We cannot afford to take a chance like that,” Huffman said.
Conversely, an individual asked why not censure the president instead of impeach him? A censure is less severe than an impeachment and is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism.
“A censure would be meaningless, it is not enforceable, it wouldn’t do anything. Impeachment is still the one tool we have that could potentially remove him from office even if it is just a few days. Impeachment also carries with it a lot more weight in terms of pressuring him to do the right thing and resign,” Huffman explained.
Touching on the upcoming inauguration of President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, someone asked whether or not a public inauguration ceremony will be safe in light of what has occurred at the Capitol.
Huffman said it won’t just be Capitol Police who will be on a security detail, the secret service and national guardsmen will be on hand.
“This will be a whole different set of actors including the Secret Service. This will be designated as a national security event and what that means is it just triggers a whole bunch of additional resources including 15,000 members of the national guard. A serious non-scalable perimeter fence has already gone up and it will be a much more secure perimeter instead of just the little waist-high barriers. Razor wire will be on top of that fencing, so I think it will be as safe as can be,” Huffman said.
While there were countless other questions, Huffman had to end the talk at 5 p.m., 8 p.m. EST time, in order to cast his vote for a House resolution that would urge Vice President Mike Pence to evoke the 25th Amendment.
Hours before the House vote Pence said he would reject calls to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment.
To view the town hall in its entirety visit: https://www.facebook.com/RepHuffman.