Rattled by his experience of being locked in the House chamber as a mob breached the U.S. Capitol, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson is calling on Congress to advance articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and bring to justice the rioters who threw the seat of government into disarray earlier this week.
In an emotional interview in his office late Friday, the Lithonia Democrat recounted being trapped on the balcony of the House chamber along with several dozen other members of Congress, staffers and journalists as police officers barricaded the room and drew their guns to prevent the violent mob from entering.
“We were basically sitting ducks,” said Johnson, who had been social distancing as the chamber was debating an objection to Arizona’s Electoral College votes.
In the moment, Johnson was in self-preservation mode, thinking about how he could get out of the room safely and his moral responsibility to others. But the eight-term congressman said he’s become even more traumatized in the days since as pictures showed some rioters carried rope, zip ties and flex cuffs — suggesting they could have taken hostages.
They “could have strung somebody up on one of the railings of the Capitol, had them hanging off to the railings of the House,” said Johnson, who compared that possibility to the lynching of Black people during the Jim Crow era.
Johnson said Capitol Hill’s security team “failed us,” given that Trump had for weeks been urging his followers to mobilize against Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. He said Congress must take action to find out what happened and who is responsible, and hold those involved accountable.
Five people — four rioters and one U.S. Capitol Police officer — have died as a result of Wednesday’s events.
Johnson said Trump deserved to be removed from office, if not through the 25th Amendment, then articles of impeachment. (Vice President Mike Pence reportedly told advisers he was not open to invoking the amendment.)
The congressman called Trump “delusional.”
“He is impulsive. He is acting like a lunatic, and he’s got his hands on the nuclear codes,” said Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment, “It doesn’t get more serious than that.”
His comments came hours after House Democrats huddled to discuss advancing such articles, despite there being only 12 days left in Trump’s presidency. Late Friday, they began circulating a four-page draft that charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” and cited the president’s phone call last weekend with Brad Raffensperger in which he urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state.
Party leaders suggested that impeachment proceedings could begin as soon as next week.
Three Georgia Democrats have so far announced their support: Johnson, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, described the effort to oust Trump as a “coup attempt.”
“This Hail Mary attempt to remove President Trump is another attack on the Silent Majority that Democrats have always looked down upon,” said Greene, one of Georgia’s newest members of Congress.