WASHINGTON, D.C. — Both NCW’s congressional representatives, 8th District Democrat Kim Schrier and 4th District Republican Dan Newhouse, remained safe and unharmed during Wednesday’s melee at the U.S. Capitol, when insurrectionists charged into both houses of Congress trying to overturn the election that cost Donald Trump the presidency.
Speaking by phone from lockdown in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, Newhouse said the siege, launched as congressmemebers gathered to certify the 306-232 electoral vote outcome that made Joe Biden president-elect, left him and fellow congressmembers quite shaken.
Newhouse was on the House floor when he got an email saying the Cannon House Office Building, where his D.C. office is located, was being evacuated. Entry of electoral votes had just begun, and Republicans the Arizona delegation had raised the first of several expected objection to the outcome.
The protestors massed outside the Capitol, many of whom soon came pouring in, voiced the false belief that the election had been stolen from Trump. All 50 states have certified their vote totals, many after audits and recounts, and multiple lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign and its allies have presented no evidence of fraud.
Newhouse said his wife happened to be in his office at the time, and he tried to return to the office building, but instead had to meet with her and his staffers in the nearby Longworth Office Building.
“Frankly, from that point on, we have been sequestered in rooms in the Longworth Office Building, unable to get back to our own offices,” Newhouse said.
That was at about 3:25 p.m. Pacific time, almost five hours after the first incursion onto Capitol grounds. Newhouse said he’d had no contact with colleagues since, and heard little about the situation save for news coverage.
“We can’t believe what’s happening,” he said, “having our nation’s Capitol building being literally overrun by thousands of people, gunshots being fired, teargas being used. One person I understand just in the last few minutes died of their gunshot wounds, which is truly unfortunate. We are all in a state of disbelief.
” … This is not the United States of America,” he said. “This is not how we conduct business. We stand for First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, peaceful demonstrations, but this has gone beyond that, and I think it’s truly unfortunate for our country.”
Last month, Newhouse was one of 126 signatories to a friend-of-the-court brief in the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn presidential election results in key swing states. The suit, later turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court for lack of standing, sought to argue that mail-in and early voting procedures in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were unconstitutional. It was widely seen as frivolous and unprecedented, drawing on Trump’s repeated false claims that voting practices in those states gave way to fraud.
Asked whether he thought in retrospect his participation in the lawsuit contributed to Wednesday’s atmosphere of insurrection, Newhouse said, “Absolutely not. I don’t think that my support of the amicus brief in any way should have led to the kind of actions we’re seeing today.
“My intention, and the intention of all 125 others who signed the amicus brief, was to ask the court to look at the states that were in question, that had election processes that were in question, to see if there was anything that fell out of the ability that they as states had under the Constitution in how we conduct elections. And so, my intention through that was, by answering those questions, to absolutely give faith on the part of people in our election process. So I don’t think that there’s any connection there.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court — because they decided the state of Texas did not have standing — did not hear the case, but they said it was not rejected on its merits. So I think moving forward, in the future, we still have some very important questions to have answered through the court system as we look at the 2020 election.”
The House and Senate reconvened later Wednesday, and the vote to accept President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 electoral college victory went forward as planned.