U.S. Rep. Roger Williams called the rioters who stormed the nation’s Capitol building Wednesday, Jan. 6, “domestic terrorists who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Republican lawmaker, who represents Burnet County, was in a joint session of Congress when a mob stormed past barricades to enter the building. The goal was to block a ceremonial certification of electoral votes in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate defeated the incumbent president in an election that had already been certified and declared fair and correct by a long list of officials from both parties.
Williams said he supported objections to the election but was not seeking to overturn results, despite his vote later that day to examine the ballots in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
“I voted to basically check the two states out,” he said, adding that he questioned new rules implemented in some states that extended access to mail-in voting.
As a former secretary of state, Williams said he worried that mail-in balloting could lead to fraud. He pointed to how the state of Texas handles its elections with limits to mail-in (or absentee) balloting, although Gov. Greg Abbott did extend mail-in voting for the 2020 presidential election to three weeks from two weeks to allow greater access. What did not change was who was eligible to vote by mail. Under Texas rules, a voter must fit one of four categories to qualify for mail-in voting: they will be away from the county on Election Day or during early voting; are sick or disabled; are 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or are in jail.
While he objected to certifying the Arizona and Pennsylvania Electoral College votes, Williams fully accepts the election results.
“Joe Biden will be the next president,” he said. “And we will have a peaceful transition on the 20th.”
Inauguration Day is Jan. 20, 2021, on the grounds of the Capitol building.
On Jan. 6, the joint session of Congress had just split up with the House and Senate going to their separate chambers to argue the merits of the Arizona objection when insurgents breached security. With the building in lockdown, Williams and his staff stayed safe in his office.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Williams said.
He said it brought back memories of the June 2017 shooting during which a gunman opened fire on members of the congressional team’s baseball practice. A team coach, Williams was present when the shooting injured one of his then-staff members, Zach Barth.
“Yesterday’s cowardly attack on our American democracy was a heinous act,” he said in a statement released Thursday, Jan. 8. “While Congress attempted to execute their constitutional duty to debate and vote on the certification of the electoral college, violence interrupted the proceedings in an attempt to stop the democratic process.”
Though the 2020 presidential election didn’t turn out like he had hoped, Williams said he is looking forward to working with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wherever possible.
He does not, however, support a call to impeach President Donal Trump for a second time or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office in the waning days of his presidency as called for by Democrat leaders in the House and Senate.