WASHINGTON - Huddling with congressional leaders in a secure location as the Capitol was under siege, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was emphatic: There had to be a way to show the public that the government could function and the transfer of power could continue.
Was there a way to return to the Capitol and continue certifying the election, she asked.
The answer was shocking: They could not return to the House floor – and lawmakers still trapped in the chamber were putting on gas masks to prepare for a breach.
“Do you believe this?” Mrs Pelosi asked, awe-struck.
Chilling new footage shared by the select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol showed for the first time how Congress’ top leaders scrambled on Jan 6 to try to secure the building as it came under attack.
The tense video underscored how deeply they feared for the safety of their colleagues and staff members. As they watched the rioters’ assault on television, Mrs Pelosi and
Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, implored governors of nearby states to dispatch their national guards to protect lawmakers still in the building.
In another clip, Mr Schumer told Mr Jeffrey Rosen, then the acting US attorney general, that he was worried about the security of his lawmakers. “There are still senators in their hideaways,” he said, as scenes of violence at the Capitol played out on a television screen before him.
“They’re obviously ransacking our offices; that’s nothing,” Mrs Pelosi added. “The concern we have is about personal safety – it just transcends everything.”
Mr Schumer chimed in: “Why don’t you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr Attorney General, in your law enforcement responsibility? A public statement that they should all leave.”
The footage, shot by Mrs Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra, also showed top Democratic and Republican officials – including Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader – huddling on the phone with Pentagon officials, mapping out how they could quickly certify Mr Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
“This cannot be, we’re just waiting on so-and-so,” said Mr Schumer. “We need them there now, whoever you’ve got.”
In another clip, Mrs Pelosi spoke with Vice-President Mike Pence about how quickly lawmakers could return to the Capitol. Mr McConnell had stressed the symbolic importance of returning to the Capitol to continue the certification, Mrs Pelosi said.
But she worried aloud that “it could take time to clean up the poo-poo that they’re making all over – literally and figuratively.” “It’s just horrendous,” Mrs Pelosi had said earlier, “and all at the instigation of the president of the United States.” NYTIMES