TULSA, Okla. — In his first interview since thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters protested, and eventually rioted at the U.S. Capitol last week, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford spoke to KRMG about what he saw.
Thousands had gathered in Washington D.C. the morning of January 6th to take part in a Pro-Trump rally, to hear the President speak while also protesting the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election.
At the same time, Senator Lankford was about to speak on the floor of the Capitol as Congress was beginning the process of counting Electoral College votes when he said he could hear a buzz among his colleagues.
“As I started there was a little bit of a buzz among members around me with some other members saying on Twitter that they’re hearing [the rioters] were pushing through the Capitol,” said Lankford.
Senator Lankford was mid-speech when he was told the room would be evacuated. About 15 minutes later, Lankford was escorted out of the room by Capitol Police.
“I could hear on the backside doors as we were evacuating out people actually beating on the doors,” said Lankford. “[they were] trying to get into one side as they were taking us out from the other side of the chamber.”
Lankford said he could hear chants of “where are they?” as he moved through the Capitol, and admits he was afraid.
“When you realize there are protestors in the building and you see the security move in and the way that they did, you understand there are apparently threats that are out there and this is serious,” said Lankford.
The term ‘insurrectionists’ has been used to describe those who broke into the U.S. Capitol building. When asked if he would agree with the term, Lankford did not go as far as to say those participating in the riots had the intention of taking over the government but “it was pretty close.”
“They were trying to say ‘the government isn’t going in the direction we want, and so we want to try and come through,” said Lankford.
Lankford condemned those who took part in the riots and praised the Capitol Police Officers who were on duty that day.
“There’s some pretty heroic actions that were happening from the Capitol Police. The police I talked with mid-way through the day, that had blood pouring from their head and all kinds of injuries on them, would tell you this was a very serious day. As we know we’ve had a Capitol Police Officer lose their life. We had some of the people who were in that riot lose their life. This was a very sad, disappointing day for America,” Lankford told KRMG.
Senator Lankford did not put the blame for the riots on President Trump, he believes the responsibility belongs with those who did the rioting.
“I always put the responsibility on individuals that actually commit acts of violence. Whether this was in the summer when we saw people smash windows while they were having peaceful protests for police violence. The vast majority of people were peaceful. At the end of the day, every person is responsible for their own actions. I don’t care what someone else said,” Lankford said.
But he also admitted the President did play his part.
“The President was unwise, to say the least, to challenge a group to say ‘come to Washington D.C. on January 6th.’ And then to use terms in the rally like ‘let’s go fight for the Capitol’ or ‘I’m going to march down there with you.’ Some of those things could be called inciting a riot in that sense. The President wasn’t down there smashing windows, but this was a crowd exceptionally loyal to him, and they were coming to do what they, I assume, felt like that was what he wanted to happen,” said Lankford.
Senator Lankford went on to say most of the people involved in the protests at the Capitol were not there to riot. And while most of the people involved in the violence were Trump supporters, he also claims some who may have instigated the violence were members of the terrorist group ANTIFA.
“There were thousands and thousands of people who were there and didn’t break into the building. There were people who came to fly a flag and to be able to make a statement. But there were people in the crowd with very different plans. There were ANTIFA members there, no question. But I also have no question that the vast majority of those who were actually in the building and smashed through the building were not Antifa members, they were Trump supporters. That doesn’t describe the majority of Trump supporters that were there [outside of the Capitol] but you can’t deny that there were folks that were there, that are very passionate about the President, that did something incredibly foolish, dangerous, and illegal,” Lankford told KRMG.
Lawmakers of both parties raised the prospect of ousting President Donald Trump from office, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if he wasn’t removed, the House may move forward with a second impeachment.
Senator Lankford told KRMG he would not support any effort to impeach the President.
″I have been really disappointed in the conversation to say, ‘well let’s just do an impeachment hearing right now.’ To me, that’s the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the fire. That we are already this divided. The House is talking about delivering [articles of impeachment] to the Senate the day before President Biden takes office, then we’d then start impeachment hearings for President Trump at that time. This becomes a really divisive issue that we’re already in, becoming even more divisive. If there’s any way to turn the volume down, we need to find a way to turn the volume down.”
Lankford believes the country needs to move on and try to work past a dark chapter of America’s history.
You can listen to the full interview with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and the KRMG Morning News here.