Oklahoma members head to safety as Capitol is mobbed
Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation sheltered in the Capitol complex and other locations while mobs of people protesting President Donald J. Trump’s election defeat stormed the House and Senate chambers.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford was speaking on the Senate floor when Capitol police began evacuating the chamber as the mobs stormed the building.
“Protesters have charged the Capitol and have surrounded the Senate chamber,” Lankford tweeted. “They have asked us to stay inside.”
When the Senate reconvened Wednesday night, about six hours after the riot, Lankford resumed his remarks, which had been aimed at challenging the Electoral College votes cast by Arizona, one of the states that Trump lost. Lankford was one of 11 senators who called for a special commission to study allegations of fraud, an effort Lankford conceded on Saturday was "a Hail Mary pass."
He conceded Wednesday night that the commission wouldn't be established and that Congress would certify the Electoral College votes making Democrat Joe Biden the next president of the United States. He voted not to uphold a challenge to Arizona's electoral votes, reversing his previous position.
"And we will work together in this body to be able to set a peaceful example for the days ahead," he said.
In an interview late Wednesday, Lankford acknowledged that the vote challenges were futile from the beginning. He said he and some of his colleagues decided after the rioters took over the Capitol that their consciences wouldn't allow them to have "any part of this."
"I support as I said in the speech, the facts have got to get out," Lankford said. "But I can’t in good conscience take a vote tonight that also does in any way an affirmation of what happened today."
- Related to this story
- Article: Manufacturers group calls for Pence to invoke 25th Amendment removing Trump from power
- Article: Pro-Trump rally in OKC has much different feel than Washington, D.C.
- Article: 'Violence never wins': Congress reconvenes to continue Electoral College count after pro-Trump riot at Capitol
- Article: Inhofe describes chaos as Trump rioters mobbed Capitol
- Article: Sen. Jim Inhofe says Mike Pence told him he was hurt that Trump turned on him
- Article: After riot, most Oklahoma lawmakers still vote to reject two states' electoral votes
- Article: US Capitol quiet after night of unprecedented assault: 4 dead, 52 arrested, FBI seeking information
- Article: Amid recriminations, Lankford, Bice say they weren't trying to overturn Biden's election
- Article: President Trump won't attend Joe Biden's inauguration
- Article: Rep. Tom Cole: Impeachment of Trump would mean more national trauma
- Article: Trump bears some responsibility for encouraging mob, Oklahoma lawmakers say
- Article: How Oklahoma teachers talked about the Capitol riot with students
- Article: OKC council candidate posts pro-Trump rhetoric; has never voted in a city election
- Article: Republican blocks House from bringing up 25th Amendment bill, forcing vote
- Article: House passes measure calling on Pence to invoke 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office
- Article: Cole speaks against resolution urging Pence to invoke 25th Amendment
- Article: Pence refuses to invoke 25th Amendment
- Article: Rep. Tom Cole opposes impeachment of Trump, calls for healing
- Article: Inhofe withholds comment on House impeachment case, cites upcoming trial
- Article: Oklahoma legislators advised to avoid the Capitol this weekend due to possible protests
- Article: Donald Trump impeached for 'incitement' of mob attack on US Capitol
- Article: US Capitol siege has echoes of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building
- Article: Skydance bridge in Oklahoma City glows red, white and blue, honoring inauguration
- Article: Watch Garth Brooks singing 'Amazing Grace' at President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony
- Video: Pro-Trump rally in OKC had much different feel than Washington, D.C.
In an interview, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe said he was in the chamber when Lankford was speaking on Wednesday afternoon when security hurried through the chamber, saying, “Evacuate, evacuate immediately, people are coming in with guns.”
Inhofe and other senators were being escorted to a Senate office building, but he broke off to go to his own office to be with his staff and one of his daughters who was visiting, he said.
Inhofe said he watched on television as rioters rifled through the desks of senators, including his own.
Asked about Trump’s role in the riot, Inhofe pointed to a “fiery” speech the president made repeating his allegations that the election was stolen.
“I think that a lot of people believed it and responded in a violent way,” Inhofe said.
A photo taken inside the House chamber showed Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, crouched among the seats as government agents pointed guns at the doors.
In an interview on ABC, Mullin said, he saw several Capitol police officers injured in a triage area. He called the actions "sickening and sad."
Some of those who stormed the building "were just looking for a fight," Mullin said on ABC.
"This is a different group of people," Mullin said. "The ones that attacked us had evil in their eyes."
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, tweeted, “My staff and I are safe inside the Capitol Complex. I thank the Capitol Police who are risking their safety to protect my colleagues and our staff.
“I unequivocally condemn the violence and riots seen today in and around the Capitol, and I pray for the restoration of peace.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, said the congresswoman was safe in an undisclosed location.
Congress had just begun the process of certifying the Electoral College votes from the states. Some Republicans had launched a challenge to the certification of Arizona’s votes and planned to do the same with other swing states lost by Trump.
Lankford, Bice and Mullin are among the Republicans siding with the challenges, which have been encouraged by Trump.
After being evacuated, Lankford tweeted, “Peaceful demonstration is an American value — violent destruction is not. Attacking police and destroying the Capitol is never a pursuit of truth and freedom. Never.”
That tweet received hundreds of replies, with many accusing the senator of being responsible for the rioting by supporting the effort to challenge electoral votes from some states.
Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, a Democrat, responded to a Lankford tweet, saying "We are thankful that you are safe. As you shelter from this mob of insurrectionist please reconsider your position which contributes to the false narrative that is spread by a deeply flawed President intent on burning the house down as he exits."
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, a Republican, tweeted during the siege on Wednesday, "Today’s events are the unfortunate but inevitable consequence when elected officials fail to stand for truth."
Holt on Tuesday thanked Inhofe for refusing to support challenges to the electoral votes. Inhofe is the only member of the seven-person, all-Republican Oklahoma delegation who has announced opposition to the effort.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, announced Wednesday that he would support the challenges. Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Tulsa, is supporting the challenges. Lucas has not announced a position.
Cole released a statement Wednesday evening, saying, “I am outraged by the lawless protests that unfolded at the United States Capitol today. While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views and peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive and violent activity. Such shameful behavior runs contrary to upholding and respecting the constitutional rule of law and threatens the preservation of our great Republic. This is not the American way."
Trent Shores, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, based in Tulsa, tweeted that he would prosecute anyone from his district who "traveled to DC to commit these violent criminal acts ... We take an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign & domestic."