Rep. Roger Williams reflects on Capitol storming
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, on the day of the event denounced the storming of the U.S. Capitol by protesters during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote of November’s presidential election and labeled the protestors cowardly.
“I’m doing fine and my office is doing fine,” Williams said the day after the event. “We’ve found ourselves right in the middle of political history again I think. I go back to the baseball game.”
The baseball game Williams referred to involved a 2017 practice of the House’s Republican baseball team in preparation of the annual game between Republican and Democratic House members. Williams suffered injuries during the incident and four, including Williams’ then-legislative correspondent Zach Barth, were shot.
Williams was also present Wednesday as protestors stormed the Capitol.
“We were beginning roll call [on certifying the Electoral College vote] and got to Arizona when Ted Cruz [objected to accepting the certified results of the slate of electors from Arizona], which meant we had to adjourn to debate.” Williams said. “So I left there and went up to my office because I needed to be there for five or 10 minutes.
“When I got up there everything started happening. I was in my office with my staff when they announced that we were going into lock down. So what happened was we locked our door and shut our windows. I have a window that overlooks the Supreme Court. We got our protective masks out. We’re trained to do all this if something like this ever happens and were ready to evacuate if we had to.”
Williams and his staff remained in place throughout the event but also remained safe.
“My office is on the seventh floor so nobody ever got up there,” Williams said. “Long story short, I was not in the well when the protestors got in. I had just left about five minutes before. So I was in my office with my staff and we were doing what we’re told to do, trained to do if we ever have an issue like this, which we’ve never had before. We stayed in lock down I’m going to say probably four hours.”
Williams said he felt concerned but not scared during the riot.
“I didn’t feel they would make it to the seventh floor,” Williams said. “It’s interesting though, what did cross my mind during all of this was the baseball shooting, it kind of brought that back to me personally.
“But, we didn’t fear for our lives or safety. We felt we could take care of ourselves if we had too. And we do trust the Capitol police. The do a great job.”
Congress reconvened to complete their joint session once police cleared protestors from the building.
“Which I thought was very important to show the world that you can’t knock us off our game,” Williams said. We went back in and began the roll call again then the debate and yeah, finished about 3.30 a.m.”
Williams subsequently called the attack a “cowardly” and “heinous act” of violence in attempt to stop the democratic process and characterized those who committed the acts “domestic terrorists who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“That’s a good question,” Williams said when asked who he thought the rioters were. “Everybody is blaming everybody right now. The main thing we’ve got to understand, whoever they were, they’re domestic terrorists. That’s the bottom line.
“Whether they’re Trump people, whether they’re ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter, whether they’re Boy Scouts for crying out loud, you can’t condone this. And we don’t condone it.
“That’s why in America we have, should have, ability to agree to disagree and have a debate and come up and appreciate everybody’s decision. But what we saw Wednesday is not acceptable.”
Williams joined several other Republicans in voting in favor of objecting to accepting certified results from the slate of electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania but Congress ultimately confirmed the Electoral College vote and declared that Democratic candidate Joe Biden will take office on Jan. 20.
“Well, there’s going to be a smooth transition, which is what America does,” Williams said of incoming President Biden. “We’ve gone through the process and Biden and [Vice President Kamala Harris] will be sworn in. I think what we need to do as Republicans, what I want to do, is to get prepared to get our message out there and get the House back in 2022. Get the Senate back too and move on, not look at 2024 but 2022, which is where we need to win again and I think where our focus needs to be put. We need to be looking forward to getting the House back in 2022.”
That, Williams said, will be here before we know it.
“I think the Democrats are going to do some things that I think are a wrong move,” Williams said. “If they start trying to raise taxes or start trying to quash freedom of speech or want to start downsizing the military. If they start wanting to give money to illegals I think that’s going to hurt them and we need to be able to show what we stand for and get the House back. That’s what I’m going to be working on.”
Williams, among other things, said he likely won’t vote in favor of distributing $2,000 checks to many Americans, a proposal favored by President Trump as well as several Republicans and Democrats that failed in December with many Americans receiving $600 checks instead. Revisiting the $2,000 proposal is rumored to be back on the table with Biden coming in and with Democrats having won the House and Senate.
“I voted on the first level of $600 in December,” Williams said. “I didn’t vote for $2,000. We just can’t afford it. And the main thing about the $2,000 is that it wasn’t targeted. It went to everybody and I didn’t like it, and it did increase the deficit even more.
“They’ll bring that back up. I’ll look at it. I’m for getting money into people’s hands and getting it out of the government’s hands. If people have money, Main Street America, they’ll get return on the investment. As with the government, there’s no return on investment. It just goes in a dark hole, pays interest on this debt, which at some point we’ve got to get serious about.”
Williams said Democrats may be in for a surprise now that they’ve won Congress and the presidency.
“When you don’t have the controls of the car it’s a lot easier to tell somebody how to drive,” Williams said. “But all the sudden, when you’re driving that car, you’ve got to make decisions whether to turn left or right, stop or whatever and it’s a little different. And the Democrats are going to see that come Jan. 20.”
Williams also commented on the aftermath of Wednesday’s Capitol riots, something many blame on Trump supporters while others question.
“I think it’s a dark side for both parties,” Williams said. “Both sides need to build from this, get confidence and get the anger out of this sport of politics. We’re so driven by anger right now and it’s horrible. Me, being a business guy, I relate everything to business. What would I do in my business? And we’re not running a very good business right now. We’re not taking care of customers. We’ve got a great product but we’re not selling it.
“So I think both parties have to take a look at themselves and be big boys, big girls about it and agree to disagree but not blow everything up.
“I hope we do that, but I’m not so sure that we can. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’m always willing to make a deal. I don’t give up my core values but gosh, we’ll make a deal.”
That said, Williams said bipartisan efforts he helped spearhead last year such as increased funding for broadband and Save Our Stages, a bill to aid live music and performance venues struggling in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic provide some hope toward the future.
“I think there’s some things that should be common ground,” Williams said. “One of which is infrastructure. I always go back to that. Having a strong economy should be common ground and not picking winners and losers. We can do those sort of things and get out of the gotcha mentality. “
Williams admits, however, that division remains a major concern.
“Both sides are really passionate and that passion is not going away,” Williams said. “I think it’s important that Biden and Trump begin to direct that passion the right way where it’s not destructive but constructive. Maybe that will tone folks down. I mean nobody’s more passionate about getting conservative control of the White House, Senate and the House than I am. But I think we do better with our words than our fists.
“We’re praying for all who got hurt and killed Wednesday. We lost a policeman and that should never happen in this country and just goes to show how important and great our law enforcement officers are and how we need to support them.”