Jan 6, 2022 - News

Revisiting the Jan. 6 insurrection, from Austin

Jan. 6 rioters storm the Capitol.
Protesters supporting U.S. President Donald Trump break into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In a sense, we were all there in Washington, D.C., that day a year ago.

  • Watching on television screens and cellphones, listening in on our car radios, our mouths agape, we witnessed a mob engage in hand-to-hand combat with police, break into the U.S. Capitol, hunt down lawmakers and threaten to execute the vice president.

Their mission: To prevent the certification of the election of Joe Biden as president.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, recalls peering out his office window and watching armed officers running toward the Capitol building. A warning blared over the speaker, telling lawmakers and staff to barricade themselves in their offices.

"It was an incredibly tragic and shocking day," he told Axios, adding that he's often reminded of Jan. 6 as he walks through the Capitol. "Every time I walk over there, past those places where the damages physically occurred, I'm reminded of it. Or walking up those steps or through those entrances and seeing those areas that were covered with people intent on assaulting the Capitol in a way that I never would've contemplated."

  • Doggett will participate in a candlelight vigil Thursday at the Texas Capitol to reflect on the attack and discuss the future. He said he fears "another coup attempt" in a different form: voter suppression.

"I think we'll be ready for any attempt to breach the Capitol again. But breaching our democracy is another matter, and it looks to me like the effort now is to ensure that there's less vote in the future," he said.

"I don't know anything more central to democracy than the peaceful transition of power and the willingness of the loser to accept the results and move on to the next election. And it's that very central feature that I think is subject to potentially another coup attack."

The table for insurrection had arguably been laid by, among others, Austin-area figures.

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spoke at a rally for Trump that morning, filed a lawsuit ​​in December 2020 to block four battleground states won by Biden from casting "unlawful and constitutionally tainted votes" in the Electoral College.
  • A retired Army colonel who runs a Dripping Springs distillery had circulated a PowerPoint deck about how to overturn the election and says he met with then-President Trump's chief of staff multiple times.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday said that more than 725 defendants in nearly every state had been arrested for their roles in the attack.

  • "So far, we have issued over 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, seized approximately 2,000 devices, pored through over 20,000 hours of video footage, and searched through an estimated 15 terabytes of data," Garland said.

Still, Doggett suggested more should be done "concerning the organizers of this."

  • "Not enough has been done in the Justice Department to go after those at the top," Doggett said.

He added that the U.S. House committee should move fast "it is apparent that should we lose control of the House, Republican leadership … will quickly put a stop to anything."

  • "I'd like to see the committee move more expeditiously, realizing that they need to avoid doing anything that would provide the least justifications for the claims of a witch hunt, which we know will be made anyway," Doggett said.

Republicans who represent the Austin area in Congress did not reply to our interview requests about Jan. 6 or said they were unavailable.

  • Sen. John Cornyn's office pointed Axios to comments he made to Houston Newsmakers in October.
    • "What happened on Jan. 6, and I was there in the Senate chamber, was wrong. It demonstrates what happens when you get a group of people together, a large mob, and really it's the lowest common denominator characterizes the whole effort."

What's next: A majority of Americans expect a repeat in the next few years of something like the deadly Jan. 6 attack — and just half say they now have faith in American democracy, according to a new Axios-Momentive poll.

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