As rioters pounded on doors and smashed through glass windows at the Capitol last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says she worried that her own colleagues in Congress might divulge her location to the mob outside, putting her at risk for kidnapping or worse.
In the midst of the chaos, the lawmaker revealed on Tuesday night, she also experienced “a pretty traumatizing event” that left her fearing for her life.
“I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die,” she said, noting that she couldn’t get into specifics for security reasons. “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.”
Those revelations came in a hour-long Instagram Live video that drew more than 100,000 viewers late on Tuesday, in which Ocasio-Cortez blasted the GOP for instigating the insurrection and alleged that some of her colleagues hold white supremacist beliefs.
Ocasio-Cortez is the latest Democratic lawmaker to divulge disturbing new details about the riot, suggesting that the violent scene was even more dangerous than it initially appeared.
As the pro-Trump rioters streamed into the Capitol on Jan. 6, lawmakers were told to take refuge in a protected “extraction point.” But Ocasio-Cortez said she did not feel safe doing so “because there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers, and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera.”
“So I didn’t even feel safe around other members of Congress,” she concluded. She did not say where she took shelter instead.
Ocasio-Cortez didn’t name the lawmakers she thought might jeopardize her safety, but she is not the first to suggest that some members of Congress could have deliberately put others at risk.
Her comments came hours after Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., alleged in a Facebook Live broadcast that some of her colleagues had helped protesters perform “reconnaissance” by giving them Capitol tours the day before the riots. One freshman lawmaker, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., is also facing criticism for tweeting about the location of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while the Capitol was under siege.
Several Democrats have also described facing a different kind of safety risk while sheltering from the mob in a cramped, windowless room: Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks, potentially exposing colleagues to the coronavirus. Two Democrats who stayed in that room have since tested positive for the virus.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a close ally to Ocasio-Cortez and one of a handful of Black women in Congress, said that she had similar reservations about the sheltering plan. “The second I realized our ‘safe room’ from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
The second I realized our “safe room” from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited. Furious that more of my colleagues by the day are testing positive.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) January 12, 2021
Ocasio-Cortez told her Instagram Live viewers that it was “not an exaggeration” to say that many members of Congress were “nearly assassinated.” She described what she called “acts of betrayal” by some members of the Capitol Police who appeared to side with the mob, saying that to run for safety and “not know if an officer is there to help you or harm you is also quite traumatizing.”
Ocasio-Cortez reserved particular anger for Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for challenging the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory, saying that they “do not belong in the United States Senate” and should resign if they are not willing to accept the results of a democratically-conducted election.
“This isn’t about the truth to them,” she said. “This is about whether they want to be president in 2024. Let me give you a sneak peek: You will never be president.”
The second-term congresswoman, who was among the first lawmakers to call for President Trump to be impeached for inciting the riots, also denounced members of his administration who resigned rather than invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him.
“Those five people’s blood is in your hands,” Ocasio-Cortez said, referencing the deaths of a Capitol Police officer killed battling the mob, as well as one rioter who was fatally shot by police and three others who died of medical emergencies.
Throughout the live broadcast, Ocasio-Cortez spoke candidly about the toll that the violence at the Capitol took on her mental health, and said that she will likely seek counseling to help process the trauma.
“My body and my brain have been out of work,” she told viewers, adding that for two days after the riots, “I just slept a lot more than I usually sleep, and that to me is telling me that my body is going through something and my brain is trying to heal.”
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