- Some members of Congress did not realize just how bad the January 6 insurrection was during it.
- "We're learning how bad this is from people texting us, emailing us, calling us," one lawmaker told Insider.
- "Most of the really graphic stuff we didn't see till much later. There wasn't a sense of how bad it was," another lawmaker said.
Several members of Congress did not grasp just how bad the January 6 insurrection was while they were living through it, according to a comprehensive Insider report published Sunday.
Lawmakers were forced to halt certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 victory and evacuate the House and Senate when crowds of former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol nearly 10 months ago. Members then hunkered down in secure locations or sheltered-in-place in their offices until law enforcement secured the building.
But some lawmakers didn't witness the chaos that erupted that day. Instead, their knowledge of what was happening in real-time was limited to texts from people watching television and updates from law enforcement officials monitoring the situation, according to Insider's reporting.
"Interestingly, we did not have the television on. So we're learning how bad this is from people texting us, emailing us, calling us, in that room," Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia told Insider.
"We knew that there had been a large crowd that had gathered. We've been told to kind of stay away from the windows earlier on. And, you know, we started to hear – start to kind of get text messages and kind of see reports that there'd been bombs discovered," Republican Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan said.
After several hours, law enforcement cleared the building of rioters and lawmakers returned to the chambers to restart the presidential election certification process. The mood had shifted, but exactly what just happened was unclear for many lawmakers.
"There were some of my colleagues who were very traumatized by their experience. There were others of us who were very calm. And it was just steely determination that we were going to see this through," Connolly said.
"Most of the really graphic stuff we didn't see till much later. There wasn't a sense of how bad it was," Democratic Rep. Don Beyer told Insider.
GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he didn't learn that rioters had shouted racist abuse at Black police officers until a month later.
"Quite honestly, I didn't see the full extent of, you know, the repugnant racial slurs and that kind of thing until the impeachment trial," Johnson told Insider, referring to Trump's second impeachment trial on a charge of "incitement of insurrection." Johnson voted to acquit Trump.
The impeachment trial featured lengthy video montages of rioters breaking down the barricades of the Capitol, clashing with police officers, shattering glass windows, ransacking offices, and causing other damage to the building. Many rioters carried flags and wore clothing that depicted white supremacist and extremist symbols. Since then, several news outlets have compiled comprehensive footage of the deadly day.
Congressional lawmakers on a House select committee are currently investigating January 6 and the events surrounding it.