Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin had a very close look at Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In a widely circulated photo, Mullin can be seen just feet from where rioters are trying to break into the House chamber, telling them to stop.
A few minutes later, Mullin was present when a Capitol police officer fatally shot a woman who was part of a mob pushing through another door to the chamber floor.
In a triage area for law officers in a nearby office building, Mullin said he encountered a young officer whose eyeball had been completely gouged from the socket.
“I’ve seen stuff like that before, but I never thought I’d see it on U.S. soil in the United States Capitol,” Mullin said Thursday by telephone.
Mullin said there is a lot of blame to go around for what happened, but as he has throughout the past four years, he deflected criticism of President Donald Trump, who some say incited the violence.
“We all (have responsibility),” he said. “The media has responsibility, the Republicans have responsibility, the Democrats have responsibility. Those who post the most ridiculous things on social media … have responsibility.
“No one is to blame here. We are all to blame.”
Asked if that included himself, who with Oklahoma’s other four House members joined the long-shot effort to discredit Democrat Joe Biden’s election to the presidency, and around which Wednesday’s rioters rallied, Mullin repeated that everybody bore some responsibility.
One person he wasn’t inclined to blame was Trump.
“Some people are saying the president is responsible. Absolutely not,” he said.
“At the same time, we’re all responsible for our actions.”
When it was pointed out that Trump took no action to quell the violence until hours after it began, Mullin said: “I wasn’t really paying attention to that because I was in the thick of it. No one can put the blame for this solely on the president.”
He said police told him those entering the Capitol “broke away” from the main body of pro-Trump demonstrators and attacked police “with evil intentions in their eyes.”
Mullin does indeed seem to have been in the thick of it. He said he had moved to the area where rioters were trying to break through a barricaded door when the intruders smashed a glass pane.
“They used a glass punch,” Mullin said. “It sounded like a gunshot when it went off.”
In fact, Mullin said, he first shouted “Shots fired! Shots fired!” then realized they weren’t.
“I started shouting ‘Those aren’t shots! Don’t fire!’ because the Capitol police were getting ready to fire through the door.
“I started talking to the rioters on the outside of the door, saying, ‘You almost got shot. Is it worth it?’ They stopped beating on the door and we started having a conversation, then an antagonizer came to the door and started saying his choice words, like ‘This is our house, this is our house, we’re going to take the house away from you.’
“I said, ‘This is our house, too, and we’re going to protect it. Are you willing to risk your life for it?’”
The woman killed, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, was in the forefront of a group who burst through another door, Mullin said. She was shot by a Capitol police officer, he said.
“We didn’t have enough people to keep one door shut, much less two,” Mullin said. “A lieutenant went over there — I know there will be questions about use of force, but there was a mob trying to break through that door and a lot more people were going to die if they came through.
“She was the first one to come through that door, unfortunately,” Mullin said. “(The officer) had to make a split-second decision. In my opinion, he had to do what was necessary to protect people’s lives.”
After the shooting, Mullin said, the rioters near the door dispersed and the chamber was cleared.
Throughout his four-term career, the Westville Republican has been quick to lambaste Democrats and others with whom he disagrees and to warn against overheated partisanship. He continued in those directions Thursday.
“We need to learn to debate better,” Mullin said.
“Two, we need to learn how to take a deep breath and ask ourselves whether this is what politics has come to.
“Three, are all of us that are in politics, are we fanning the flames or are we trying to level people’s heads a little bit? Are we trying to say those catchy phrases that get a few more likes on our social media posts? Are you trying to get one of those cute little clips to post on your social media platform? Or are we going to start having civil conversations again and sometimes agree to disagree?”
Earlier in the week, Mullin told supporters he would join formal protests of several states’ electoral votes, but he also told them success would take a miracle.
Wednesday’s riot took care of even that slim chance. Delayed by the attack, Congress verified Democrat Joe Biden’s election in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Mullin continues to insist there are unresolved issues about the presidential election, but conceded they might not have made a difference in the outcome.
“I believe in being adamant,” he said. “You know how hard-headed I am.”