WASHINGTON — Members of the House of Representatives and their staffs received a memo from the attending physician on Sunday morning that said “many” of them “may have been exposed” to the coronavirus during the violent riot that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday. The exposure took place as House members and staff were evacuated to secure locations as supporters of President Trump breached the Capitol and ransacked offices in an effort to stop the certification of Trump’s election loss.
“On Wednesday January 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in [a] room located in a large committee hearing space. The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection,” Dr. Brian Monahan wrote in the memo.
Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol immediately following a rally on the National Mall where the president reiterated his false claim that President-elect Joe Biden did not win last November’s election.
“I know everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol Building to peacefully, patriotically make your voices heard,” Trump said.
Trump’s rally and the subsequent breach of the Capitol took place as Biden’s victory was being certified by a joint session of Congress. The certification was interrupted for several hours as Congress went on lockdown and House and Senate members were evacuated to secure locations. The deaths of five people have been tied to the violence, including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was reportedly struck by a fire extinguisher, and Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter who was shot by law enforcement. Biden will take office on Jan. 20.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly dismissed the risks of coronavirus, which has killed more than 370,000 Americans, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Many Republican members of Congress have refrained from wearing masks, which experts recommend to stop the spread of the virus. Large numbers of the rioters who raged through the Capitol were also not wearing masks. Experts have previously expressed concerns that the riot could prove to be a “superspreader event.”
In the aftermath of the storming of Capitol Hill, Democrats have begun efforts to impeach Trump for inciting the riot. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., began updating articles of impeachment while she was in a secure location during the riots. A source told Yahoo News that Omar plans to formally introduce her articles of impeachment in the House on Monday. Articles of impeachment have also been drafted by a trio of Democratic congressmen, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Another source said Cicilline was planning to formally introduce those articles on Monday as well.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and top figure in the party’s congressional leadership, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday and declared that the party is “united in demanding and seeking” Trump’s immediate removal. Jeffries said he hopes Trump will resign or that Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet will invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. The 25th Amendment provides procedures for the replacement of the president in the event of death, resignation or incapacitation.
Describing Trump as an “existential threat to our democracy,” Jeffries urged Republican senators to return from their scheduled recess and back his ouster if the president is impeached by the Democratic majority in the House.
“Every hour that Donald Trump remains in office presents a danger to the American people,” Jeffries said, later adding, “He still has the nuclear codes. That’s a frightening prospect.”
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