The U.S. Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, usually abuzz with school groups and tourists, resembled the barracks of a military installation. Replacing the
The U.S. Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, usually abuzz with school groups and tourists, resembled the barracks of a military installation.
Replacing the usual hustle and bustle were sleeping National Guardsmen, some using camouflage blankets to block the sun coming in through the windows. Lawmakers, staff and members of the press tip-toed past the snoozing guardsmen, including some audibly snoring. Groups of troops made a home in the massive rotunda and near two entrances of the building, including the entrance typically used by the president-elect on inauguration day that just one week ago was targeted by rioters last week.
The heightened security comes as the House prepares to impeach President Donald Trump a second time Wednesday for his role in the riot that left five people dead.
In another Capitol transformation, the vote for impeachment this time will assuredly not fall along party lines. Five Republicans so far, including the No. 3 House Republican Rep. Liz Cheney have said they will join with Democrats in voting to impeach the president.
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The grounds of the U.S. Capitol, normally open to the public and a popular running and biking route, were surrounded by a tall metal fence, with dozens of National Guardsmen standing at the perimeter cradling their rifles.
Police officers and large dump trucks blocked intersections for blocks surrounding the building, a stark contrast to security in the area last week when a mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol.
At an entrance where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi normally enters, Guardsmen lay asleep beneath a bust of President Abraham Lincoln. A plaque above them commemorated soldiers who had been quartered at the Capitol at the beginning of the Civil War
Groups of soldiers walked around the grounds, and others unloaded riot gear, pistols, and rifles in the Capitol plaza.
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Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., led Guardsmen around the building on a tour, discussing the building’s history. Mast, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, lost both legs during the conflict.
The remnants of last week’s attack could be felt throughout the building. Plywood covers several windows on the first floor of the building where pro-Trump protesters broke in. In the basement, a large memorial was erected to thank Capitol Police for their service. Flowers, along with large and colorful posters from lawmakers, staff and children line the walls of an underground tunnel connecting the U.S. Capitol to House office buildings.
“Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid,” reads one poster from 8-year-old Syd in Virginia.
“We are forever indebted to our Capitol Police officers for making the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Thank you for keeping us safe,” reads another message from Rep. Nancy Mace’s office.