‘This has to be rooted out.’ Rep. Rosa DeLauro playing key role in congressional review of insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

Daniela Altimari, February 3rd, 2021

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who spent part of the afternoon of Jan. 6 clutching a gas mask as armed Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, is playing a key role in the congressional effort to investigate the insurrection.

DeLauro is the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, which is reviewing the responses of several of the law enforcement agencies involved in defending the Capitol.

“It could have been prevented, it could have been stopped,” she said of the attack, which left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.

“Those who are responsible need to be accountable,’’ said DeLauro, a Democrat from New Haven. “This has to be rooted out.”

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The committee held a lengthy bipartisan briefing last week on the role played by U.S. Capitol police, the FBI, the U.S. Park police and the Department of Justice, among other law enforcement agencies. (The committee is charged with overseeing the agencies’ budgets.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to investigate the security breach at the Capitol. His report, which is expected later this week, will provide the appropriations committee with recommendations of how to address security at the Capitol.

DeLauro said she left the meeting convinced that the attack was preventable. “The agencies that had the responsibility to safeguard the Capitol failed,” she said Monday.

“The intelligence community [had] ample evidence [that] an angry mob was descending on Washington and the focus was on Congress,’’ she said.

Trump supporters descended on Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was set to count the Electoral College votes. That’s typically a noncontroversial process that marks the end of the presidential election, but this year, those supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to derail the effort. They were motivated by Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen and the results were rigged in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

DeLauro was inside the House gallery with her Connecticut colleague, Rep. Jim Himes, when the crowd breached the building, which houses both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“We were there listening to the debate,’’ DeLauro recalled, “and saw that the speaker, the vice president and the majority leader were evacuated from the chamber and Capitol police came in and they told us … to be calm.”

Initially, police said the debate could continue. But 5 or 10 minutes later, they returned to the podium and said the building had been breached, DeLauro said.

Members were ordered to grab gas masks from under the seats in the chamber. DeLauro, who has served in the House since 1991, said she did not even know the seats were equipped with gas masks.

Police began evacuating DeLauro and other lawmakers, a process that took a while because doors had been sealed off for safety reasons and members had to make their way around and under ropes. Her colleague, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, compared the grim ritual to a game of limbo.

By this point, the rioters had made their way to the doors of the chamber and and broke the glass of the windows, DeLauro said. A plain-clothed security officer pushed furniture against the doors, she said.

“They had their guns drawn and they said to us, ‘hit the floor,’ ” DeLauro said, “so we crouched behind the seats of the gallery and were there for a while before we could get out.”

At one point, she heard a loud banging on the ceremonial doors leading to the chamber, and did not know whether it was the insurgents or the police.

Eventually, members were led out by law enforcement. DeLauro said she was struck by the image of “the rioters spread eagle on the floor with Capitol police, with guns hovering over.”

The harrowing experience is fueling her determination to seek answers, she said. “We can’t get to any kind of healing unless we can address what happened,” she said.

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