In the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the second impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Michigan GOP Congressman Peter Meijer says lawmakers are taking steps to ensure their safety amid the expectation that “someone may try to kill” them.
Joined by Michigan Rep. Fred Upon, Meijer was one of only 10 Republican House representatives to support the second impeachment of President Donald Trump on Jan. 13. The Congressman says he feels “terrible” that some of his constituents are disappointed in his vote, but it was important to him to hold Trump accountable for his role in the Capitol riot.
“At the end of the day, this was a vote of conscience,” Meijer said during an interview on MSNBC Thursday morning. “I believe that in order to have accountability, we first must reckon with what happened. And that is why I voted to support impeachment.”
On Jan. 6, a mob of pro-Trump rioters invaded the Capitol while Congress members were meeting to count electoral votes and affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. In an attempt to overturn the results of the election, extremists -- some armed -- stormed and looted the Capitol buildings, forcing lawmakers to flee in search of safety and in fear for their lives.
Five people have reportedly died during or as a result of the chaos at the Capitol. Though the president has since called for non-violence among his supporters, he claims that he had no role in provoking the violent insurrection that shook Washington and the nation. However, in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 certification vote, Trump encouraged his supporters to descend on Washington, D.C., promising a “wild” rally in support of his baseless claims of election fraud, despite his own administration’s findings to the contrary. Speaking for more than an hour to a crowd on the Ellipse, Trump encouraged supporters to “fight like hell” and suggested that Republican lawmakers would need “more courage not to step up” and overturn the will of voters to grant him another term in office. He also suggested he would join them in marching on the Capitol.
Rep. Meijer says that he decided to support impeachment on Wednesday after Trump “continued to fail to take any sense of accountability, or acknowledge he may have been responsible -- or even, at least, partly responsible -- for the horrible events we saw on January 6.”
Though he did not specifically say he has received death threats, Rep. Meijer said Thursday that threats did not factor into his decision to support the second impeachment of the president.
“I think you have to set that aside,” Meijer said of any threats. “I don’t believe in giving an assassin’s veto, an insurrectionist’s veto, a heckler’s veto. If we let that guide decisions, then you’re cowering to the mob. That’s the definition of terrorism, is trying to achieve a political end using violence.
“When it comes to my family’s safety, that’s something we’ve been planning for, preparing for, taking appropriate measures,” Meijer added. “I have colleagues who are now traveling with armed escorts out of the fear for their safety. Many of us are altering our routines, working to get body armor ... It’s sad that we have to get to that point, but our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”
In preparation for expected protests leading up to and on Biden’s Jan. 20 Inauguration, protective fencing has been constructed around the Washington Capitol, in addition to 20,000 National guardsmen lined up, armed, around its perimeter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned of protests planned in all 50 states ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
In Michigan, six-foot fences have also been constructed around the Capitol Building in Lansing in an effort to prevent demonstrators from storming the building -- again. Just last spring, a group of armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol Building and yelled at members of security outside the legislative chambers to be let inside.
The Michigan Capitol Commission has unanimously voted to ban the open carry of firearms inside the building, but some officials argue that new rule is not enough to protect the Capitol and those working inside. Still, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the state is prepared to take action should a threat arise.
“I’ve got confidence in the work that we are doing, and we take it seriously,” Whitmer said. “It’s not to say there is an impending threat, but simply that we are prepared to respond accordingly.”
Meijer says that he and other lawmakers are trying to keep a low profile and remain alert during a time where it feels as though anything could happen.
“... there’s a feeling that there’s not control here, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Meijer said Thursday. “We weren’t expecting for the Capitol to get overrun for the first time in 200 years, so it’s an unprecedented environment with an unprecedented degree of fear, of divisiveness, of hatred...we have to account for every scenario.”
All of Michigan’s Democratic representatives voted to support impeachment Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly did not rule out that he might eventually vote to convict the now twice-impeached President Donald Trump, but he also blocked a quick Senate impeachment trial.
Minutes after the House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach Trump, McConnell said in a letter to his GOP colleagues that he’s not determined whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate’s upcoming proceedings. The House impeachment articles charge that Trump incited insurrection by exhorting supporters who violently attacked the Capitol last week, resulting in five deaths and a disruption of Congress.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.
McConnell’s openness was a stark contrast to the support, or at times silence, he’s shown during much of Trump’s presidency, and to the opposition he expressed rapidly when the House impeached Trump 13 months ago. McConnell will be Washington’s most powerful Republican once Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, and McConnell’s increasingly chilly view of Trump could make it easier for other GOP lawmakers to turn against him.
McConnell’s burgeoning alienation from Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the GOP’s long, reflexive support and condoning of Trump’s actions was eroding.