Texas politicians in both parties pleaded for peace Wednesday afternoon after supporters backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the Electoral College certification of his reelection defeat.
"I like many people voted for President Trump in the 2020 election and hoped for a different result," tweeted U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin. "But violence and destruction is not the way to express your grievances. This is disgraceful and has to end."
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, was more succinct in a tweet, saying, "Stop this bullshit right now."
The fracas began shortly after some GOP lawmakers, led by Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, launched a dispute to the certification of Arizona's electoral votes. Over the ensuing hour, scenes emerged of Trump supporters storming barricades, breaching the Capitol and even reaching at least one of chambers.
By early afternoon, proceedings in the Capitol ground to a halt as security rushed Vice President Mike Pence out of the U.S. Senate chamber and the building was placed on lockdown. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, ordered a curfew starting at 5 p.m.
Reports from the scene show Trump supporters swarming the hallways of the Capitol carrying pro-Trump paraphernalia —just steps from where lawmakers were meeting. Lawmakers and reporters described hundreds of pro-Trump supporters barreling past fence barricades and clashing with officers. Some demonstrators also mobbed the second floor lobby just outside the Senate chamber while law enforcement officers attempted to guard the chamber doors.
"I'm currently sheltering in place. The Capitol building has been breached and both chambers are locked down," wrote U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso. "This is the chaos and lawlessness @realDonaldTrump has created."
Amid the chaos and confusion, several Republicans encouraged Trump to rally his supporters to tamp down on the violence.
"Mr. President, get to a microphone immediately and establish calm and order. Now. And work with Capitol Police to secure the Capitol. It's the last thing you'll do that matters as President," tweeted U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin. In a subsequent interview with The Texas Tribune, Roy, who noted he and his staff were safe, called on the White House to "take action immediately" and for the president to "speak and tell people to retreat from the Capitol."
"Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW," Cruz wrote on Twitter, adding that violence is "ALWAYS wrong" and that "those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support."
Among those in Washington Wednesday was Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spoke at a pro-Trump rally outside the White House before Congress began the Electoral College certification process. Last month Paxton led an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in four battleground states.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paxton called for calm from both his official and personal Twitter accounts.
"I am sorely disappointed today in the certification of the election, but I don't believe violence is the answer," Paxton said.
The Republican Party of Texas also condemned the violence. Its chairman, Allen West, was a vocal supporter of Paxton's lawsuit and suggested secession by "law-abiding states" after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the suit. West has also appeared at "Stop the Steal" events following Trump's reelection defeat.
Perhaps the strongest condemnation among Texas Republicans in the House came from former Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes. He wrote in a tweet: "This is an attack on our democracy and domestic terrorism to try to stop certifying elections. This should be treated as a coup led by a president that will not be peacefully removed from power."
There were also denunciations from Texas Republicans who had resisted objecting to the Electoral College certification, including Roy.
"To those storming the Capitol — I am on the House floor and I will not be deterred from upholding my oath, under God, to the Constitution by mob demand," he wrote. The Austin-area Republican made his disdain for Wednesday's events clear, telling the Tribune he didn't think Congress "should be going down this road" of objecting to the certification and calling for criminal action against members of the mob who breached the Capitol.
"People need to go jail," Roy said. "They need to go to jail for a very long time."
As of 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, there was a notable silence from U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, a staunch pro-Trump Republican who was the subject of a censure resolution from Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, after Gohmert warned of post-election violence following a string of court losses by Trump and his supporters.
Texas Democrats, meanwhile, were explicit in linking the harrowing scene to Trump's refusal to accept the election outcome and belligerent rhetoric.
"This is what Trump wanted," tweeted U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. "Trump's sedition: determined to keep us from doing our constitutional duty."
In an interview with C-SPAN, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the pro-Trump rally that took place earlier Wednesday likely "sent a strong message to a lot of the folks here." Cuellar then reprimanded Trump for being "quick to call the National Guard ... and other folks to certain places when the left was protesting," but not responding as fast to condemn his own supporters.
Trump previously called on his supporters to rally in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. At a protest earlier in the day, Trump acknowledged that rallygoers were going to march toward the Capitol to encourage lawmakers not to certify the vote.
"I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically, make your voices heard today," he said.
Trump later encouraged his supporters to remain peaceful.
"No violence!" he tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!"
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.