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Chicago Magazine: Rep. Marie Newman’s First Week on the Job

January 8, 2021

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, D-LaGrange, has had an eventful first week in office. A “week-year,” she called it. Newman was sworn into the House of Representatives on Sunday. On Wednesday, a mob of Trump supporters pushed their way into the Capitol, temporarily halting Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote, and killing a Capitol police officer. I spoke with Newman Friday about her experience on Capitol Hill during the riot, and what the consequences should be for the president and the members of Congress she believes incited it.

Where were you and what were you doing at the moment you found out the Capitol had been invaded?
We had all been briefed that there could be some trouble. I don’t think anybody anticipated where we ended up. We saw the crowds growing and growing throughout the morning, and started to get really concerned around noon, when it looked like they were getting to be really critical mass. There was more concern for the Capitol police. This was not good for them. “Oh, they’re going to keep them back? These guys are going to be awful to the police.” Then I saw that they were getting up onto the various outside steps and scaling walls, somewhere between noon and two.

Did you see this from the floor?
No, I was on the Capitol campus, near my office in the Longworth Building. But I was watching what you all were watching. I was watching C-SPAN. I kept flipping around on the TVs we had and thinking, “I’m not seeing this correctly.” I was seeing that the Capitol had been breached and there were very rough characters with white supremacist signs and Nazi signs and all kinds of propaganda and with weapons walking through the Rotunda and walking through Statuary Hall. I was stunned that they were in. Then I started seeing the tape of them walking through without any pushback, and it was beyond upsetting. It was clear to me then that the Capitol police did not have the appropriate backup. To see the lack of backup was shocking in our most sacred building.

Had you planned to be on the floor later that day?
When there’s an objection to a certification, the idea is for us to go vote on certifying that. By the time they got to the point, or before the point at which we would all go back and vote, there were some people in the galleries, members of Congress, who I was really worried about. I wasn’t so worried about me and my staff, because we were in a relatively safe area, but they were on the floor when these characters were walking through the Capitol.

Let’s be very clear who they are: they’re seditionists, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists. I have dear friends that were there, and it was very scary to them. They have all recounted it to me. They had oxygen hoods on, they were crouched down. We have friends that are of varying degrees of agility, shall we say. Some had just had surgery. We have veterans, former law enforcement, and they were telling members, “This is what you do.”

What we learned here is that Congress needs a plan for everything. We assumed, because [during] every inauguration and major event the perimeter is secured, that this was all set. We now know that something went awry — [either] between the partners, [or] the Trump Administration may have said no to them, [that] they could not have help. Something happened that was not appropriate.

You released a statement saying that President Trump bears responsibility for this. What should happen to him these last twelve days in office?
It does look like we are going to bring impeachment charges to him. We are going to move forward with that. We are hoping that the remaining members of the Cabinet have a fit of conscience and decide to implement the 25th Amendment.

Why do you blame him for this?
We have tape. Starting with Charlottesville, calling Nazis, white supremacists, Proud Boys “very good people,” and that he’s proud of them. We have tape of him saying they should stand ready. This week, he told them, go to the Capitol, go do this, this is your right. He incited violence. He also asked them to conduct an act of sedition. It is very clear. I don’t know how much clearer it has to be.

Can he be impeached and removed from office in twelve days?
Is it possible? Yes. Are there lots of obstacles? Yeah. It’s less a problem than it was two years ago. There are Republicans that want to impeach him.

You also signed on to Rep. Cori Bush’s resolution saying that members who supported these election challenges should be expelled. Isn’t that their Constitutional right? Isn’t this a Constitutional process?
They should be expelled for inciting sedition.

But doesn’t that lead you down the slope of saying that anybody who objects to an electoral vote should be expelled?
Let’s break that down. I want to be clear what Congresswoman Bush is articulating. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, several members of the House, literally said, Yes, you should be at the Capitol and you should force your way in. It is not about free speech. And I want to be clear: There may have been protestors at that event. A hundred percent fine. The people that breached the Capitol and brought pipe bombs and brought large weapons, those are seditionists, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists, and we have to stop being polite about that.

What about members like Rep. Bost [IL-12] and Rep. Miller [IL-15], who just cast a vote saying, “We don’t accept these electoral votes”?
That’s fine. That’s your American privilege to do that. That act of disagreeing with the certification is OK. What’s not OK is for Mary Miller to be a white supremacist and to be supporting Adolf Hitler’s ideology.

She says she was comparing leftists to Adolf Hitler. That was her explanation.
There’s no backpedaling. Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Duckworth, and I have asked her to resign.

Are you worried about the inauguration?
Yes, I am. We are demanding very specific plans. Leadership is making it crystal clear to the nine [which] law enforcement agencies will be engaged, along with security — that you are going to itemize every little piece that goes along with this, and we will be reviewing it, and making sure the American people are safe, that President-elect Biden is safe, that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is safe, and that everybody at that event is safe and D.C. is safe. I have personally let leadership know that we should be detailing the type of protections. We can’t go into detail about the protections because domestic terrorists will show up again. We want them to know, “If you try this again, it will not work, so don’t come.”