WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi harshly criticized former President Donald Trump on Wednesday for the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred almost one year ago.
“I’ll never forgive the former president of the United States and his lackeys, and his bullies that he sent to the Capitol, for the trauma that was exerted on our staff,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference in the Capitol, referencing the hundreds of pro-Trump rioters who overwhelmed law enforcement and stormed the building.
Pelosi said that younger congressional staffers have been especially shaken by the day’s violence, which left several people dead.
“You cannot erase that,” she said.
Prosecutors have filed charges against more than 700 people for taking part in the violent attack on the Capitol, which sought to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the previous November’s presidential election.
Pelosi added that she was “very proud” of the work being done by the congressional committee now investigating the Jan. 6 attack. That committee is presently seeking information regarding how involved Trump and his close associates were in planning the nearby morning rally against the election’s certification. By afternoon, the rally became violent, with pro-Trump forces attacking police officers and ransacking the Capitol.
Trump and his Republican supporters have adamantly denied knowing about the attack in advance. Some, including the former president, have downplayed the attack itself, with one Republican member of the House of Representatives calling it a “normal tourist visit.”
The speaker’s remarks came as House Democrats grappled with how to sanction Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., for launching a series of Islamophobic attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. Last month, they censured Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for sharing an anime video in which he was shown killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
On Wednesday, several hundred congressional staffers, including dozens of Muslims, sent House leaders a letter in which they described the feelings of fear and anxiety that Boebert’s comments had caused. Some Democrats want Boebert stripped of her committee assignments, an issue Pelosi avoided in her Wednesday remarks.
“The responsibility is on them,” Pelosi said of Republican leaders, even as she blasted the “disgraceful, unacceptable behavior” of GOP members, a likely reference to Boebert and her allies.
On Tuesday, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.; Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; and Gosar held a press conference to call attention to what they describe as unjust treatment of jailed Jan. 6 insurrectionists, whom they have consistently defended.
“We are going to take power after this next election,” Gaetz said at one point, referring to the most pro-Trump elements of the Republican Party. In an exchange with Yahoo News, he entertained the idea of installing Trump as the House speaker should the GOP retake that chamber in next year’s midterms (congressional rules stipulate that the position need not go to an elected member of the House).
Pelosi also used her Wednesday press conference to remember former Sen. Bob Dole, who died on Sunday at the age of 98. On Thursday, Dole will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. A stalwart conservative, he nevertheless represented a sobriety and decorum that are all but gone from Capitol Hill.
“He was a person,” Pelosi said, “who taught everyone here about dignity, duty, integrity and patriotism.”