WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Members of the Maine Delegation were prepared for a long, pivotal day on Capitol Hill but perhaps not for what unfolded in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.
Pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building shortly after the joint session to certify the Electoral College votes convened, suspending the session. Dozens of people breached security perimeters at the Capitol and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the Rotunda.
Steve Abbott, Sen. Susan Collins' chief of staff, tells NEWS CENTER Maine he has been in contact with Collins and their staff. Abbott, who is currently in Maine, said they all are safe in Washington.
"They report that it has been as extraordinary as you would imagine and that the television pictures are accurately conveying the scene," Abbott said. "We are not divulging their location but they are all safe and accounted for and prepared to help the Congress carry out its Constitutional duty. We truly appreciate the many calls and messages that we have received concerned about our well being."
NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with Collins via phone Wednesday night. She said she was on the Senate floor listening to the debate on the first objection when members of the Capitol Police and the Sergeant of Arms ran onto the floor to remove the Vice President and Senate Majority and Minority leaders out.
"It is absolutely frightening and appalling," Collins said. "It's the equivalent of an insurrection. It is something I never thought I would see in the United States of America."
Collins said it's crucial Congress continue their work and "not let these violent protesters of succeeded in disrupting our constitutional duty to pound to all of the electoral votes and certify the results of the election."
"We cannot give in to mob violence," Collins continued. "This is un-American, it is wrong, and it must not succeed. So I will stay here for as long as I have to until we go back in possession and finish our work."
Listen to the full interview here:
Collins has maintained firm that she does not support Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election, and will vote to reject the objections in joint Congress.
"To give in to this attempt to disrupt the Constitutional duty that we have with each other in wrong and completely unacceptable. So I have urged the leaders to convene us no matter if it's in the middle of the night. We have to conclude our work," Collins said.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi earlier said “in consultation with Leader Hoyer and Whip Clyburn and after calls to the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Vice President, we have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use."
Officials said the Capitol building was secured after four hours of violent occupation.
Maine U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and his staff are also safe, according to staff spokesperson Nick Zeller via Twitter.
On Twitter, Collins said the violence on Capitol Hill Wednesday was "a dangerous, shameful, and outrageous attack on our democracy."
"But this attack will not deter Congress from performing our constitutional duty," Collins said. "We will affirm the certified results of the presidential election."
NEWS CENTER Maine also spoke with Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree who was not yet in the Capitol complex due to occupancy limits at the time protesters stormed in. Pingree said she sheltered in a safe location on the Hill during the violence.
“It’s pretty scary,” Pingree said via phone Wednesday afternoon. “This is America, you kind of don’t expect this level of violence or this level of insurgency.”
She said during Trump’s rally speech Wednesday morning, he encouraged his supporters to march on Pennsylvania Avenue. Later, after protesters violently clashed with law enforcement outside the Capitol, locking the building down and halting the vote to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory, Trump tweeted to “stay peaceful” and “respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue.”
“It's pretty unprecedented," Pingree said. "[It] does not feel like the United States of America and it's very frustrating to think this President doesn't understand the peaceful transfer of power and that's what we're witnessing right now."
"I just look forward to the day we can restore our democracy and remind ourselves that, you know, we're all in this together, and these are important principles to uphold. This is this just doesn't feel like America right now," she said.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Halsey Frank said: "Our democratic republic is designed to resolve contentious disagreements in a peaceful and orderly fashion. It accommodates differences of opinion, political speechmaking, and peaceful protest. It does not tolerate mob violence. Such violence is antithetical to our values and is a crime. If the District of Maine has jurisdiction over any of the criminal activity that took place at the U.S. Capitol yesterday, we will prosecute it."
During an interview with CNBC, Former Defense Secretary and former Republican Maine Sen. William Cohen said, "These people are not patriots, they're thugs."
"They wave the flag while they're shredding the Constitution," Cohen said of rioters at the Capitol. Cohen added that if Trump does not "step up," then he should "step down."
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder today released the following statement:
“I am stunned, saddened, and maddened as I join so many voices condemning the violence today in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Capitol,” said Mayor Kate Snyder. “Peaceful transfer of elected leadership at all levels of government is a core tenet of our democracy, and what we have seen and experienced today threatens, indeed dismantles, this American principle. While peaceful protest is an American right, violence and destruction is not. I join all levels of elected leadership upholding our shared commitment to democratic elections and peaceful transfers of power as anything less undermines our fundamental American values.”
Maine Gov. Janet Mills released a statement Wednesday condemning the violence and destruction at the Capitol:
“Like many Americans, I condemn the violence and destruction occurring at the U.S. Capitol. Our country has conducted a free and a fair election in which the American people have spoken, and now the peaceful transfer of power – a hallmark of our democracy – must proceed. I do not believe what we are seeing today is sanctioned by most Americans; nor do I believe it represents the true character of the American people. But it is a clear and troubling reflection of our fractured nation. The violence must end, and all leaders, of every political stripe, including the President, must forcefully denounce these actions and defend our democracy. All Americans, regardless of politics, must work to restore the honor, decency, and integrity that is truly reflective of the character of our people and our country.”
The Maine GOP condemned the violent protests in a Tweet: "We believe in peaceful protest. The activity seen at the United States Capitol today is completely unacceptable and an affront to our Republican values. Republicans believe in law and order, our constitution, and our country, not rioting and violence."
Maine Sen. Angus King released the following statement Wednesday night:
Today’s violent insurrection at the Capitol is an unspeakably sad moment for our nation – one I never thought I would see in our country. In the face of this unprecedented, despicable display, Congress will now reconvene and complete the people’s business, count the properly certified and authenticated electoral votes, and affirm the undeniable fact that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election fair and square. But the work to address today’s riots, and their threat to our democracy, has just begun.
My colleagues who have remained silent during the past several months, or who have actively abetted the President’s unremitting campaign to delegitimize the election, must now speak the clear and honest facts: this election was fair, as has been confirmed by the President’s hand-picked Attorney General, the nation’s top election security agency, and Secretaries of State in each of our country’s 50 states and the District of Columbia. By continuing to sow disproven seeds of doubt, they are fanning the flames of division and hatred that engulfed our body today; to protect our nation’s democratic values, we must all fight to defend faith in our nation’s elections.
President Trump cannot be verbally or silently enabled any longer by my good faith colleagues – whomever does not speak out is complicit. It is crystal clear that his current agenda is not to serve the nation in the slightest, but to serve and elevate himself. In doing so, he poisons the political debate and incites violence by continuing to repeat baseless accusations which undermine the elections that are the heart of our democratic system.
Sadly, the tragic events of this day were entirely predictable. When people are fed a consistent and increasingly inflammatory diet of manifestly untrue statements and baseless conspiracy theories, it is no surprise that they would eventually turn to violence. The responsibility for what happened at the Capitol rests squarely on the shoulders of Donald Trump.
As the Prophet Hosea said long ago, ‘they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind,’ and that is exactly what happened today.
The violent, anarchist criminals who defiled the Capitol Building and threatened both public officials and law enforcement officers need to be arrested, prosecuted, and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. No person should feel empowered to engage in these violent acts without facing grave consequences.
“Today is one of the darkest days our democratic system has faced. Tomorrow, and every day after, must be better, because the freedoms enshrined by our founders are not self-perpetuating; their vision, and our Constitution requires each of us to put the long-term health of our nation above short-term political interests. If we are to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people does not perish from the Earth, we need to protect it in word and deed. We must move forward together – not as warring factions, but as one nation.”
Maine Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau:
Former Maine Speaker and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Sara Gideon said in a Tweet that what is happening at the Capitol Wednesday is "a terrifying attempt to thwart our democracy and a heartbreaking moment for our country."
Former Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin:
Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage:
This story will be updated.