WASHINGTON, D.C. (WECT) - As a protest turned into a riot at the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday, Congressman David Rouzer was in his office watching the scene unfold on C-SPAN.
Rouzer announced his intentions ahead of time that he planned to vote in favor of an objection to the electoral slate confirming Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Rep. Rouzer tells us he believes President Trump’s rhetoric may have been a ‘contributing factor’ to Wednesday’s incident but he does not feel personal liability.
“We have a government in place to protect our God-given rights, to protect us from mob rule and when you have an assault on the capital like this, all of that comes crumbling down,’ Rep. Rouzer said. “The assault on Wednesday is not reflective of our republic. It is not reflective of the great men and women who are contributing members of this great nation.”
WECT caught up with Representative David Rouzer (R) of North Carolina’s 7th district to talk through what happened Wednesday, whether he ever considered changing his vote, and who he feels is responsible for the transgressions against our democracy’s sacred ground.
Below are his responses:
Q: How are you feeling about all that’s happened in Washington over the last 36 hours?
“I think I’m probably feeling like everybody else is. We’re all still in a little bit of a state of shock over what occurred on Wednesday. Just a very, very dark day in American history. Just really awful. I don’t think any of us ever anticipated that we would ever see a run on the Capitol, an assault on the Capitol...very unfortunate, and really quite honestly, disgusting. We are all working to sort through this and pull together. What happened on Wednesday is not reflective of who this country is by any means.”
Q: Describe what it was like to experience [the mob infiltration of the U.S. Capitol].
“It was very disturbing. It was shocking. None of us would ever expect to have American citizens assaulting the U.S. Capitol.”
Q: Were you surprised the group was able to get past Capitol police and make it inside?
“That was the biggest shocker. I think all of us were shocked that these individuals could just storm right on into the Capitol. We don’t yet have an answer on exactly how that happened. I’m sure the Capitol police and other authorities have a pretty good idea and know where the weak points are at this point because I’m sure they’ve been studying it the last 24, 36, 48 hours. The rest of us are anxious to hear exactly how that happened and why that happened.”
Q: Will you feel safe in that building going forward?
“Oh absolutely. There are a number of law enforcement, National Guard, that are here. There’s no sense of any safety issues whatsoever.”
Q: There are members of both parties now who have said outright that they believe President Trump is responsible for inciting what happened Wednesday. Do you agree with that sentiment?
“I was disappointed in the President’s speech that day, very disappointed and I think it was potentially a contributing factor. You know, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not an analyst of what goes through peoples’ minds and what triggers these types of raw emotions in this type of lawlessness. Let me also say, though, that there were a lot of people that were peaceful protesters.”
Q: What do you wish he had said? What would you rather have heard?
“I wish his tone had been much more appropriate. I wish he had said, ‘You know there’s a constitutional debate taking place in the U.S Capitol today. There are competing views...both of them have a tremendous amount of merit...and whatever the outcome of today is, I accept that outcome.’ That’s what I wish he would’ve said.”
“Wednesday was really sad and a very tragic day for a number of reasons but it was also a tragic day because it totally distracted from what was taking place on the house floor, which was a legitimate debate about the constitutional issues as it relates to slates of electors.”
Q: Do you believe the election was stolen?
“I would not use the term stolen. I do think in every election there’s a certain amount of fraud and I do believe that with the changes that were made to election laws and outside of the scope of the law, quite frankly, in some of these states, that it opened up the potential for that much more fraud then you would usually see.”
“When you have roughly 40% of the country that does not believe an election is legitimate, it significantly accelerates the distrust in the legislative body, the presidency, in our government institutions of all sorts. So, election integrity really is the fundamental issue that is of concern here. Because if you do not have election integrity, people feel like you don’t have a country.”
Do you feel the rhetoric from the President has helped or hurt the objections?
“Well it’s absolutely hurt the objections. What happened on Wednesday changed the whole nature and the scope of the environment that we were in.”
“There have been objections all throughout history following a presidential election to an individual or several different states’ slates of electors. This is not a new process....I feel like there are a lot of people who feel like this is new and that this was an effort, a coup, but it wasn’t. It was a constitutional debate over individual slates of electors based on what we believe were violations of the U.S. Constitution that occurred in these respective states.”
Q: Was there any point on Wednesday after the assault where you considered changing course and not voting to object?
“No, I did not consider changing course because fundamentally and constitutionally, I was correct.”
Q: Do you feel any responsibility for what happened based on the information that was available and out there going into this week and how do you respond to those who do accuse you of being either partially responsible or complicit and in some instances are calling for resignations?
“There was no inciting rhetoric from me. In fact, I was on a talk radio show prior to the events of that day and I specifically told the audience—and I’ve said this in all of my other public comments as well when I’ve had that opportunity—that don’t expect that there’s going to be any change in the outcome of the presidential election. But there is a key constitutional concern here that a number of people are concerned about, including myself.”
Q: How do you hope to address [rebuilding trust] moving forward?
“That’s a long-term project for all of us. You know, we didn’t get to this point in this country overnight. The frustrations that people feel have been building for decades and I think one of the things I try to do....I try to be very honest and candid about what I think and why I think what I think. I try to be very honest and candid about why I vote the way I do. I think more members, not only of Congress but in all elected officials, I think we all have to do a better job of being even more transparent than we are.”
As a final remark, Rouzer said:
”What we witnessed on Wednesday is not reflective of who we are. We are all shocked and terribly dismayed at what occurred. We’ve all got to come together. We’ve got to come together and support each other and learn to listen to each other rather than talking past each other; that’s how you rebuild trust.”
[EDITORS NOTE: Our 35 minute interview shortened for length and transcribed for you here.]