POLITICO, RENUKA RAYASAM, MYAH WARD
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a former CIA operations officer, spoke to Nightly about how her day unfolded. She called from a secure location as she awaited the next steps for the Electoral College certification. Her account has been edited:
I knew today was not gonna be an easy day. I had instructed my team that unless they have a need to be on Capitol Hill, I didn’t want them coming in. I instructed my staff that anyone who was, to dress in jeans or workout clothes so that up until the point where they’re presenting their bags, they aren’t necessarily identifiable as Hill staffers. They just look like people.
So I was just wearing black pants and a black turtleneck with a blazer, although I was wearing a hot pink blazer. Once it became clear that there was a problem, I took off the blazer because I don’t wanna be the one in the hot pink shirt.
We got alerts that Cannon was being evacuated. Then we got an alert that the Capitol compound was under lockdown and no one could leave, no one could enter. At one point in time, Capitol police somewhat unceremoniously led the Speaker out and then led House leadership out. And that’s when it became clear that things were really escalating.
@sarahnferris, 1:14 p.m.: WOW Hill staff just got this alert
“Madison: EVACUATE. Proceed to your designated assembly area. USCP”
It’s never ideal to see the Speaker whisked away. So it was clearly indicative that there was a problem.
Then from there, we were told to get our gas masks ready. They had deployed chemical irritants in Statuary Hall is what we were told. We wanted to make sure we could be evacuated through potential chemical irritants. So first it was, “Put them on.” And then it was, “You don’t need to have them yet.” It was a little bit of a process.
At one point, it started getting really pretty tense because there were people banging on the House door, the chamber door. They broke through glass. The Capitol police have barricaded the door with benches and tables, and barricading with benches and tables clearly isn’t an everyday protocol. That’s not great. And then they’re telling us to get down.
Everybody was getting down. And trying to make sure everybody was listening to the officers who were working to make sure that they were helping to get — you know there were members of the press there as well — to get people out. So we spent some time on the floor, and then ultimately when they had secured a route out for us, we got out of there quickly and made our way to another secure location.
I’m in a secure location now. Maybe three hours ago, they said it would be an hour before we got out.
Some people are chit chatting. There is a lot of pacing. I think everybody seems to be in pretty good spirits. Somebody found that they have come through with pitchers of water, so we do have water. If you’ve heard me somewhat rudely chewing — I’ll be honest, one member has walked through with a box of chocolates and has given everybody a little chocolate. So I did get a little chocolate, which was lovely, and I couldn’t even wait to consume it. But you’ll forgive me.
I’m in the same place as Liz Cheney and Hakeem Jeffries. I’m getting it directly from the leadership of the caucuses. They’re just sort of figuring out where they can do this. The way you stand up to those who would wish to undo our democracy is by affirming that our democracy cannot be deterred and that we, as lawmakers, cannot be threatened out of doing our jobs and our duty.
It’s a shameful day. This better be our rock bottom.