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'The Doors Were Literally Being Battered Down': Rep. Peter Welch Describes U.S. Capitol Insurrection

A masked Rep. Peter Welch speaks in a selfie video from the House Chamber
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On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Peter Welch shared a video update from the House Chamber over Twitter.

Updated 7:25 p.m.

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch was among the lawmakers evacuated from the U.S. Congress' House Chamber Wednesday after pro-Trump extremists breached the Capitol building.

Welch told NPR that while they were leaving the chamber, he heard a "crashing sound" as people tried to force their way inside.

"And then I saw our Capitol police guns drawn, trying to find things that they could put against the door to hold back the incoming mob," Welch said. "And then the urgency that they displayed on their faces, again all the guns drawn, telling us to stay low, be on the floor."

In a subsequent conference call with reporters, Welch recounted more details: "The doors were literally being battered down."

In a tweet later in the afternoon, Sen. Patrick Leahy confirmed that he was unharmed.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' son also tweeted that his father was OK.

vpr-news-bob-2way-welch-capitol-breach-20210106.mp3
VPR's Henry Epp and Bob Kinzel discuss Rep. Peter Welch and his evacuation from the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.

The mob stormed the Capitol as Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, and in an interview with VPR, Welch said he and other lawmakers would return Wednesday night as soon as the building was secure.

During the conference call, Welch laid the blame of Wednesday's unrest and violence at the feet of President Donald Trump, continued to made baseless claims about the legitimacy about November's election.

"[Trump] bears maximum responsibility," Welch said. "This is a crime … it was incited by President Trump."

Welch, when asked by reporters, said he would support Trump's immediate removal from office, but the congressman admitted that it wasn't likely to happen. Instead, Welch said "we just gotta hang on" until President-Elect Joe Biden takes office later this month.

"This is a moment of great peril for our democracy," he said. "My hope is that we will find it in our soul to take on the challenge to revive our democracy."

Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that Trump was "directly responsible for the chaos" and "has made it clear that he will do anything to remain in power."

On Wednesday evening, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, also blamed Trump for the insurrection.

"The fact is the results of this election have been validated by Republican governors, conservative judges and non-partisan election officials across the country," Scott wrote. " There is no doubt that the President’s delusion, fabrication, self-interest, and ego have led us – step by step – to this very low, and very dangerous, moment in American history."

The governor called for the president to resign or be removed by his Cabinet, or by Congress.

Some other Vermont Republicans voiced their condemnation of the insurrection Wednesday. Vermont House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy released a statement saying she is "embarassed for not only our national party, but also our nation."

McCoy called the day's events abhorrent and disgraceful, and said those in Washington "have a responsibility to reign in the recklessness that has been promoted, incited and encouraged from among the most important offices in the nation."

Republican Sen. Joshua Terenzini of Rutland was at the Statehouse Wednesday being sworn in for his first term what should have been a joyous day. He said he was troubled by what he saw pro-Trump extremists doing at the U.S. Capitol.

"If you look at my Facebook, I'm getting beat up pretty good by the conservative right flank of the party right now, for me coming out an hour ago against this," Terenzini said. "So I do not condone this. I know many of my colleagues do not support this behavior. I stand with peaceful protesters, and this is counterproductive ... and I think it's a black eye on our country's history today."

A group of Rutland Republicans had encouraged members who could not go to Washington to gather in front of the Vermont Statehouse Wednesday. The small group gathered as the Legislature convened for its 2021 session, then left before pro-Trump extremists in Washington stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The scene in Montpelier was in contrast to other, more violent events that unfolded at a few other Statehouses around the country.

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