BY KEVIN FREKING and ANDREW TAYLOR, Related Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The scene within the U.S. Capitol appeared jarringly disconnected. Contained in the Home chamber, the nation’s lawmakers spoke with solemnity about democracy, the rule of regulation and the phrases of Abraham Lincoln as they undertook a vote to take away the president from workplace.
They wore masks, a rule imposed by Democrats, as a measure of the pandemic that continues to ravage the nation.
However solely steps away, outdoors the chamber doorways, there was the look of an armed encampment.
The Home impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting an rebel on the house of the department of presidency created in Article I of the Structure contained arresting reminders of the violence and loss of life wrought only a week in the past and the fears that the Capitol wanted enhanced safety to forestall it from taking place once more.
The place guests as soon as walked, a whole lot of Nationwide Guard members camped out, defending lawmakers nonetheless reeling from final week’s violence and getting ready for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The Capitol grounds have been wrapped in fences, and scores of different regulation enforcement officers and troops stored a watchful eye.
A reproduction of the dome that stands atop the Capitol, the Statue of Freedom, resides within the Capitol’s customer heart. Beneath it, troopers slept on marble flooring whereas others huddled to debate their marching orders for the day.
They massed collectively from one finish of the enormous corridor to the opposite and their numbers made it unattainable to observe the indicators calling for social distancing. To guard from COVID, they wore masks, and to guard from potential violence, they stockpiled riot shields and gasoline masks.
Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, a navy veteran who misplaced each legs within the battle in Afghanistan, was shocked on the sight and that so many troopers have been deemed essential to preserve the Capitol protected.
“It is as unhappy as something could make me on this world,” Mast stated as he gave a few of them a tour.
The Capitol at all times sees stepped-up safety precautions main as much as an inauguration, but it surely not often seems just like the nation is on a battle footing.
However together with the indicators of concern, there have been additionally indicators of gratefulness for these defending the Capitol. A tunnel resulting in Home workplace buildings has develop into a makeshift tribute to members of regulation enforcement who protected the Capitol when a violent mob overran the constructing in an try and derail the certification of Electoral Faculty votes within the presidential election. Greater than 50 law enforcement officials have been injured within the assault, together with 15 who have been hospitalized. One was killed.
“Thanks for protecting my mommy protected,” stated a poster with smiley faces and stars and signed by “Clair Age 8.”
The thanks indicators poured in from all ranks and political events, together with a letter from the workplace of Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We’d not be right here with out you,” stated one other poster signed “thanks from AOC,” the initials for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-N.Y.
Exterior of the Capitol, members of the Nationwide Guard — many carrying semi-automatic assault rifles — are supplementing the work of the U.S. Capitol Police, forming perimeters round every of the workplace buildings that lawmakers and their staffs use when not within the Capitol for votes. The variety of entrances into the buildings has been dramatically diminished and people approaching should current a credential to get in.
The tensions have been additionally obvious contained in the Home chamber. Starting Tuesday, lawmakers needed to stroll via a metallic detector earlier than being allowed to enter the chamber. Members of Congress have beforehand loved almost free vary on the Capitol, in a position to bypass safety screening stations at most entrances to the constructing. Within the Home chamber, there have been Capitol Cops and civilian door screens however no screening stations. Reporters needed to do the identical to enter the galleries above the chamber.
As the controversy over whether or not to question Trump ensued within the afternoon on the Home ground, one aspect referred to as for unity, the opposite accountability. It’s very a lot unclear whether or not both will occur.
“It is a second of fact my associates,” stated Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “Are you on the aspect of chaos and the mob, or on the aspect of constitutional democracy and our freedom?”
“If we impeached each politician who gave a fiery speech to a crowd of partisans, this Capitol could be abandoned. That’s what the president did, that’s all he did,” stated Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
No. 3 Home Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who created a tempest contained in the celebration by declaring she would help impeachment, rapidly left after casting her “aye” vote. However one other GOP impeachment backer, John Katko of New York, lingered for a bit close to a desk with a terminal that retains a tally.
Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the vote and introduced the tally — however solely after ready for California Democratic ally Maxine Waters, a robust opponent of Trump, to solid the 232nd and last vote to question him.
As Pelosi introduced the vote rely, there was hardly a sound, a single clap from one or two within the viewers that was rapidly changed by silence as most members headed for the exits.
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