Local leaders respond to siege on capitol


Representative Bill Johnson (center) is seated on stairs inside the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives while holding a CBRN Escape Hood. Credit: Andrew Harnik @ Associated Press

By Staff Report

When Congress convened on Wednesday to certify the results from each respective state’s electoral college votes, from the previous month, it was clear there would be contention among representatives on the upcoming votes, however, few could have anticipated the actions that were about to be taken.

The siege on the U.S. Capitol would result in the death of a police officer, a woman being shot and killed, as well as damage to the historical building and its artifacts.

As with the following of each presidential election, Congress began Wednesday with the historical and ceremonial process of accepting each state’s certificate of votes from their respective Electoral College convenings.

In Ohio, for example, appointed members met on Monday, December 14 under the direction of Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted to affirm the state’s vote for president.

Ohio is a winner-take-all state, which means whichever candidate for president wins the popular vote within the state becomes the recipient of all of its state’s electoral votes.

Two states, Maine and Nebraska, divide their Electoral College votes by districts allowing for proportional allocation of electorates in selecting who will ultimately become the next president and vice president of the country.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia pledge their electoral votes not on who wins the popular vote within their state, but who nationally wins the popular vote.

At the completion of the convenings on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December, electors sign and record their votes on six certificates.

One certificate is sent to the President of the Senate, two are sent to the U.S. Federal Archivist, two are sent by registered mail to their own state’s Secretary of State and one is sent to the Chief Judge of the closest United States District Court.

Each certificate, which was sent to the Senate, is the official set of documents seen Wednesday in which is used to officially certify who will become the new leaders of the Executive Branch of the United States come January 20.

Numerous Senators and Members of the House of Representatives had publically stated before Wednesday their intent to challenge certain states’ allocation of electors.

Local Muskingum County U.S. Congressman Troy Balderson (R) said he would not contest the vote while the county’s other U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson (R) said he would.

Due to the drawing of districts following the 2010 U.S. Census, Muskingum County is split and residents, depending on where they live, have either one of the two aforementioned representatives.

Both of Ohio’s U.S. Senators, Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D), made clear before Wednesday that neither of them would contest the vote.

While rare, and often lacking the necessary momentum to move forward, votes have been contested before such as in 2000 following issues within counties in Flordia having complications with hanging chads on voting cards.

In many cases, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives will object but lack a sponsoring Senator, which is required to allow further discussion on the topic.

In 2004, Democrats were able to delay the final certification process by objecting to Ohio’s selection of electors alleging “numerous, serious election irregularities” that led to an alleged “significant disenfranchisement of voters.”

That issue was overturned by a full vote of each chamber of Congress.

This year was different however in that while Democrats controlled the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate likely would have been split on partisan lines leaving Vice President Mike Pence in a precarious position to overturn the election.

Had that occurred on Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives would have chosen the next President and Vice President of the United States, however, each state would each only receive one vote, likely securing the next term for the incumbents, President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence.

The last time Congress selected a president was in 1877 soon after the Civil War.

As history would have it however while the certification process was ongoing individuals began to storm the U.S. Capitol.

During that siege, Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers were overrun as large groups broke past barriers and onto the Capitol steps before breaking windows and doors to gain access to the physical building.

One concerning sign of trouble, individuals chanting their intention to hang the Vice President on Capitol Grounds as they advanced, coincided with a noose and structure that had recently been constructed nearby.

Secret Service quickly extracted the Vice President and within the following minutes other congressional leaders, such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D), was taken away to a secure bunker under the Capitol Building.

Some members, including local representative Johnson, were unable to escape, forced to shelter in place as attackers got closer.

In an interview shortly after the incident, Johnson spoke on Fox News about his experience.

According to Johnson, during debate security came in and took Pelosi as well as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R) out of the House Chambers.

Soon after, security informed the representatives that the capitol had been breached and asked them to remain quiet.

Tear gas was being deployed in the Capitol rotunda and members were instructed to reach under their seats and retrieve masks.

The special CBRN Escape Hoods, designed to protect wearers from chemical, biological and radiological events was one of many security enhancements installed after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In a photo retrieved by Y-City News, Johnson can be seen sitting on steps in the House Chamber holding his escape hood.

“You could actually hear the beating on the door,” said Johnson, who spent a large portion of his career in the U.S. Military.

Johnson elaborated to the host on Fox News that the door that was being attacked was the very one the President of the United States would enter through when coming to present the yearly State of the Union address.

Soon after members were also extracted from the chamber, while Johnson didn’t disclose where he was taken, other members he was near reported being taken to an underground bunker beneath the Capitol building, which until that day had yet to been publically proven to even exist.

Both Balderson and Johnson issued public comments, like many of their colleagues, condemning the act of violence and destruction.

Balderson, who did not respond to a request for comment from Y-City News on his experience during the siege, said he was deeply disheartened by the violence that occurred.

“While I am a firm believer in the First Amendment and Americans’ right to protest, what our nation has witnessed on Capitol Hill today is not protected by the First Amendment,” said Balderson in a written statement. “These behaviors are deeply un-American and threaten the very foundation of our Republic.”

Following his statement, Balderson issued another letter Friday where he called for a full investigation into how the events Wednesday were allowed to transpire and request for assurances that they would never occur again.

Johnson, like Balderson, thanked the heroic actions of Capitol Police and gave their sympathies to the family of Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed Wednesday.

Following the events Wednesday afternoon, Congress reconvened and finalized the certification of the election.

The siege caused many representatives who had previously said they would contest the election to cease their objections citing the need for a peaceful transition of power.

Johnson however continued to object to the certification of both Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s certifications citing what he said he saw as an unconstitutional act in those states.

Further explained during his interview with Fox News, Johnson said his constituents felt their voices were being silenced by officials and judges in other states.

“It was not about an attempt to overthrow or overturn the electoral college election,” said Johnson. “It was about bringing light to the fact that some states had violated their own constitution and that is wrong.”

Citing Trump as the reason for the siege on the Capitol, almost every digital account held by the president was suspended or removed.

Most notably his Twitter account, which had the largest following, was one such account taken down, often the president’s chosen medium of communication.

Multiple members of his cabinet and staff resigned in protest, with the possibility of the invoking of the twenty-fifth amendment being enacted by the Vice President being alleged to be considered by Pence.

Sunday evening, Pelosi said the U.S. House of Representatives would move forward on Monday with a resolution giving Pence 24-hours to take control of the presidency.

If action is not taken, Pelosi said the House would move to impeach Trump by mid-week.