Subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts for the full episode.
After the insurrection on Jan. 6, Democratic Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who heads the subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police, was “fucking livid.” He claims he’d been expressly assured the day before—by both the sergeant at arms and the then–Capitol Police chief—that his colleagues and their staffs were safe. And yet, the deadly riot that could have endangered their lives was allowed to unfold the way it did. Ryan is attempting to get to the bottom of this chaos right as he also prepares for this week’s inauguration, where Joe Biden will be sworn in as president. But if the Capitol invasion proved lawmakers weren’t as safe as they’d believed they were, how can they be assured Wednesday’s transfer of power will go smoothly? To take stock of the aftermath of the riot and the anticipation of the inauguration, I spoke with Ryan on Tuesday’s episode of What Next. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Rep. Tim Ryan: I don’t have any clue what the Capitol is going to look like now. My sense is it’s going to have a much bigger perimeter, more checkpoints—it’s going to suck. It’s going to be a whole different ballgame.
Mary Harris: We have just a day until the inauguration. Does all the planned security make you feel safer?
That’s a complicated question. My sense is the safety is going to be fine, with an extended perimeter, but I think a lot of us fear that some level of violence may still happen. You never can be completely sure, so you just say your prayers and keep your fingers crossed.
I keep thinking about Jan. 6. They said, We got the National Guard teed up, we’ve got all hands on deck with the Capitol Police, we got this outer perimeter. They made us all feel that we were prepared for what was going to happen, and we weren’t. Now look at this mess.
I ended up on the phone about two hours into the insurrection. I wanted to talk to the police chief and I ended up talking to the assistant chief—who’s now the chief—and I asked, what in the hell is going on here?
And what did she say?
The typical stuff: This is a fluid situation. We apologize. We’re trying to get things under control. We’re going to have the Capital cleared in the next 30 minutes. And then it became an hour, then an hour and a half, that kind of thing.
You know, they weren’t there for us. Rank-and-file cops said they were getting no orders, no clarity, no direction, that everybody was left to their own devices to do whatever they thought they could do to try to deescalate, I guess. One officer put on a MAGA hat and tried to start talking people down. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing, but who can judge? We weren’t in that situation. I think that’s an indication and an illustration of what a lack of leadership, what a lack of direction the rank and file were getting, that it came to someone trying to do something like that.
Subscribe to What Next
Get more news from Mary Harris and her team every day.
There is such a disconnect between the people who were scared, and concerned about how their colleagues were responding to the insurrection, and then what happened with the Republican caucus. We’re seeing allegations that Republican Congress members may have given people tours, and we saw GOP representatives insisting on bringing firearms onto the floor.
Well, there you have it. We’re already concerned about what happened, about members potentially being involved with the coordination of or at least helping with the rioters—we know you’re giving vocal support and tweets and social media support and all that. Now we have the mind-blowing need for magnetometers for members of Congress walking into the House chamber, because other members of Congress who may be tied to the tours and are certainly tied to the insurrection want to carry guns into the chamber.
We are on uncharted waters for sure. But when those members say they’re not going through those metal detectors, I mean, why? No one else in this place is carrying a gun, and we’re all worried about where they’ve been. The checkpoint is just an annoyance. You have to take your wallet out, let them look through it, and just walk through, because you’re part of a community here that needs to feel a little bit safer. This level of selfishness it takes to refuse that is what blows my mind—that tips people off that maybe there’s something more going on here.
Have you interacted much with your Republican colleagues since the breach?
You’ve got a lot of Republicans walking around the Capitol looking at their shoes. They don’t want to draw eye contact with anybody. I think a lot of them deep down know that that this went way too far, that they were perpetuating the big lie that this whole thing is built upon.
Is that enough?
No, no, no, it’s not even close, which is why I think we need to do something along the lines of a resolution that is very straightforward and clear—much like the impeachment resolution—and that says Joe Biden is the legally elected president of the United States, that there was no election fraud. Then, force Republicans in the House and in the Senate who voted to overturn the election to at least get them on the record on the big lie. I’m not optimistic about that as a full solution. I just think that’s a strategy.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of the donor class to move things along in D.C. I think the business community is doing a very good job of putting pressure on people to say Biden is the president. Even those businesses who donate a lot of money to Republicans are saying, You need to vote for this so we can get this country back in order, because now it’s starting to destabilize the whole country, which means it’s going to destabilize our opportunities to do business. I think it would also be important to have their support for a resolution.
I think you’re right that the business community is really important here in terms of getting people’s attention and changing politicians’ minds. At the same time. I wonder if you see that as a failure—the government wasn’t able to really hold itself to account, so now it’s on the business community to help do that. Or is that just the American way?
It’s maddening. I think it’s maddening that we have this concentration of power and money. This has been the issue that I’ve talked about most of my career. It’s all in the same hands. The concentration of wealth has led to the concentration of political power, and that’s why you’ve seen these huge rifts in society that created the breeding ground for a demagogue to come in and take advantage.
Are you going to be at the inauguration?
Yes, I’m planning on going. But I’m not 100 percent. I keep going back and forth with my wife—she has some concerns. I think it’s going to be safe, but I do know there are a number of members who won’t be going.
Subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts
Get more news from Mary Harris every weekday.