24 hours after a pro-Trump mob angry over the presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop a joint session of Congress from finalizing Democrat Joe Biden's victory, it was a very different scene: the crowds were gone, the Capitol was fully secure, and members of Congress, having completed their constitutionally prescribed Electoral College vote tally very early in the morning, were heading home with a lot to process.
Every person who was on Capitol Hill Wednesday when the assault occurred will have a story to tell, but for at least two members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation, the stories are dramatic and dangerous
Rep. Markwayne Mullin's story was captured, in large part, in a series of photographs taken in the House chamber during the siege. Mullin, (R) OK-2, can be seen hunkered down with law enforcement, whose guns are drawn and pointed at the door.
"The idea was just to assist," Rep. Mullin said in an interview Thursday. "To assist those law enforcement. My theory was, we are all going to go home together."
Rep. Mullin was in the chamber in order to participate in the debate over the certification of the state of Arizona's electoral votes. Like each member of Oklahoma's House delegation, he had decided to join scores of other Republicans in challenging the results of several battleground states.
The debate, scheduled for up to two hours, had been underway for about 15 minutes, Mullin said, when he noticed unusual activity among the Capitol Policer officers and heard traffic on their radios.
"I’d say it was just a matter of minutes before we started hearing the noise outside and everybody jumped and got pretty excited pretty quick," Mullin said. "That’s when I went to the door, that could either be an entry point or a choke point, and there was a lot of us that decided that was going to be a chokepoint."
Mullin said he and a couple other lawmakers stepped up to help. One way he did that, he said, was to engage with the rioters at a critical moment when police were on the verge of opening fire.
"And I said, 'Is this worth it? You almost got shot! You almost got shot!' And at that time they quit beating on the door," Mullin recalled.
Representative Stephanie Bice was also in the House chamber, wanting to listen to the debate over the Arizona vote, but instead having to take cover because of people purportedly wanting to protest the whole election.
"This was not a protest, these were folks that were intent on being destructive," said Bice, (R) OK-5.
In order to social distance with more than 100 people in the chamber, Bice was taking in the proceedings from the balcony. She said she first knew something was amiss when she looked down and realized Speaker Pelosi and other leadership were gone. Police soon addressed them over the loudspeaker, she said, telling them the Capitol had been breached and that should shelter in place.
Bice said she wasn't scared for her own safety, but was scared for the nation.
"This was really, in my opinion, an assault on democracy," Bice stated. "And to see people scaling the walls outside, being destructive in the chamber, being destructive in offices was really disheartening."
One person was shot and killed, but Mullin said it could have been much worse, and he has some advice for those still upset over the election.
"Be passionate about it, but be reasonable, too," said Mullin. "You're responsible for your own actions. Period. And we need to take a look in the mirror and take a deep breath."
Both the House and Senate are in recess until January 20, a date that's taken on even greater significance after yesterday's attempt to disrupt the transfer of power, as that's the day Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the nation's 46th president.