Congressman Bill Keating (D-Mass.) was walking from his office to the House Chamber when he learned he needed to shelter in place during the riot of pro-Trump extremists at the nation's Capitol Wednesday.
Keating says he was resolved to reconvene with fellow House members to finish certifying the electoral vote for Joe Biden as President no matter what happened.
CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Congressman Bill Keating of Bourne about yesterday's scene.
KE: You were there for the proceedings and we’re certainly glad to hear that you and your team were safe. Talk about where you were when this started to happen, this insurrection yesterday.
Congressman Keating: We are just going in and out of the capital itself, in the chamber, in groups, because of COVID-19 and the virus, to try and keep social distance. So it could have been much worse because there weren't as many members in the chamber. We were going in and out and I was heading down to the chamber. I began to get alerts on my phone. We're connected to emergency alerts from the Capitol Police. And I found out suddenly that they were evacuating the Cannon Building, a House office building, and people from that building were being evacuated into our building. And so I stopped going towards the Capitol and then we had the order to shelter in place. So, you know, some pretty extraordinary messages we were getting, things that you wouldn't anticipate even in your wildest dreams.
KE: Could you see anything or what were you hearing from folks who were evacuating into your building?
Congressman Keating: Where my windows were, I didn't have a vantage over the plaza where people were gathering. But it's interesting. The day before, I had two hours to just get a little exercise. I started walking just to see what the crowds were going to be like in my own assessment. And as I often do, I talked to the police and asked them what preparations they had, were they ready for the crowds, and they were quite confident at that time. I talked to D.C. police officers when I was walking, even Supreme Court police officers that are there. And they all seemed very prepared. They thought they were very prepared. But obviously that was not the case. This caught them by surprise. They did have an outer perimeter set up and it was, you know, blocks away. Yet I think they were just barriers, not fortified personnel and police. So there'll be meetings, discussions, investigations about the security factors, obviously, that failed.
KE: When you were sheltering in place, what was that like? You know, were you just kind of sitting and waiting? What were you doing?
Congressman Keating: Well, we had the televisions on. It was a surreal scene. Certainly everyone was put on alert. We were given great and detailed instructions. There are security measures I can't get into publicly. It was something that they prepare us for. But actually going through something like this and seeing this attack on our democracy, an attack on the Capitol is something you see in movie scenes. Fantasy became reality yesterday, and four people died, 14 police officers were injured, one of them quite seriously and is hospitalized. It's had real effect. It was also an attack on democracy going on inside the building before. And that was, unfortunately, some of my colleagues who were perpetuating really what was the crux motivating this effort: that the elections were fraudulent, that our government was illegitimate. We weren't leaving there until we accomplished what we started that day, which was indeed the certification of the Electoral College vote that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris will be the vice president. Donald Trump bears great responsibility for this. He orchestrated it. He targeted this date now for some time. We had the person that was second in line of succession to the president and the person who is third in line, speaker of the House, trapped in the building. So this is quite serious.
KE: Does the president need to be removed from office?
Congressman Keating: The logistics of that probably are unrealistic because thirteen days left. But the reports, I think, are very accurate of his own administrative people having discussions about the 25th Amendment, which is an amendment to remove the president. That came about after John F. Kennedy's assassination, questions where they said we have nothing in place if a president's incapacitated. But it also could be for other reasons. The reality is [we have] a very litigious president. If that was started, he could ob ject and he could tie that up legally, I believe, for that period and the clock runs out. Is it appropriate? In my opinion and the opinion of a majority of people I talked to yesterday, members as well as some of his own staff? It's appropriate. And some of the messaging that came out yesterday from his former chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, from his secretary of defense, the concern that was there and on the political side, having someone like President George Bush, who has been so quiet, reserved, careful following the tradition, his comments were quite strong.
KE: Do you see any repercussions actually landing at the foot of President Trump or others maybe in his administration who kind of helped over the years to whip up the people that finally showed up on the Capitol steps yesterday?
Congressman Keating: Well, I think there'll be a lot of legal issues, other issues confronting Donald Trump in his civilian life. But don't forget, this may be just a short period of time. We have an inauguration coming now that's going to be quite scaled down. What happened yesterday will give great incentive to all kinds of people who would like to use that swearing in as a point. And don't think that the security people in D.C. haven't upped their game and aren't scrutinizing everything that happened yesterday and taking precautions for that. I also am in touch regularly with people around the world; I was contacted by some of those media people this morning. The scenes that they saw of the United States and that Capitol and the breach of security and what was happening has far reaching consequences. We already saw the Chinese government manipulating that for propaganda. We saw concern from our allies as they witnessed this. It doesn't help us project strength and it has a tangible effect.
KE: Right. There's going to be ripple effects from this for a long time.
Congressman Keating: There will you know. It's already started. The way we view the presidency. The way we view the executive. This will have some far reaching effect, but we're resilient as a country.
KE: I just want to switch gears for a moment to talk about the fact that meanwhile, in Georgia, two seats in the Senate switched and became Democratic seats. That's a big win for your party.
Congressman Keating: Well, that's far reaching as well. There's some irony with the reports that the president said he was happy they lost their seats because they weren't supportive enough to him. But this now, by their margins, we have a united government. We have the ability, I think, to more adequately address the COVID-19 crisis and also to deal with the economic crisis, which we haven't talked much about. The stock market may have done well over this last year, but our economy is really facing a dire situation. It's made much worse because of the pandemic, and a recovery package is necessary. This will facilitate very robust infrastructure projects that we need and have needed for decades. I think it'll facilitate getting funds for things like the rebuilding of the two [Cape] bridges, and other major repair. So these are things that on the brighter side, I believe we have a better opportunity to address more effectively.
KE: Looking toward the future there, after a day that left many Americans speechless. Congressman Bill Keating, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us. You've had a long 24 hours. I hope you're going to get some rest.
Congressman Keating: I didn't sleep yet. Well, all right, I'll take your advice.
KE: Thanks once again.
This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.