‘Woefully unprepared:’ U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean on living through Capitol attack

Pa. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean spoke with Morning Edition’s Jennifer Lynn the morning after the attack at the U.S. Capitol.

Listen 5:57
In this image from video, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol early Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (House Television via AP)

In this image from video, Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol early Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (House Television via AP)

Many of us are still coming to grips with yesterday’s storming of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. by a mob of Trump supporters who interrupted the counting of electoral votes by members of Congress.

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, a Democrat who represents the 4th Congressional District, including most of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, spoke with Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn the morning after the attack, recalling the events of the day and what is next.

Good morning, Congresswoman Dean.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Good morning, Jennifer. Thanks for having me on.

No problem. After all that happened at the Capitol Building yesterday, Congress, including you, returned to get to work and certify the electoral votes in favor of Joe Biden. What kind of miraculous recovery was that to convene after such chaos in the chambers of Congress?

I think it was just steely determination. I spoke to Republicans on the other side while we were at a secure location. They shared that commitment to make sure that we return to the chamber as swiftly as we possibly could and fulfill our constitutional duty.

Did you speak during that process?

I did, yeah. I spoke on behalf of Pennsylvania. Our entire delegation did. We knew that among the state’s electoral slates that would be challenged, Pennsylvania was likely to be a real target. Certainly it was. So each one of the Pennsylvania delegation, the Democrats, spoke in opposition to the challenge.

Since yesterday’s events, you and others in Congress and elsewhere have been asking for the president to be removed from office. On Morning Edition this morning, we have just heard about the use of the 25th Amendment to accomplish this. Is this a serious path?

Certainly it is. If our founders recognized that there are times, there could be times, when the president is incapacitated or unable to fulfill his or her duties. Man, oh, man, haven’t we seen through the demonstration of the behavior of this president over the last four years and, of course, over the last four weeks or more that he needs to be removed? It’s just… There’s nothing else that we can say. He is incredibly, dangerously imperiling our country, our Constitution, literally lives. And so, yes, I call upon the removal of the president. I hope the vice president is very seriously considering that, alongside whatever secretaries are still acting on behalf of this administration, they must step up and do their duty.

So you’re OK. You’re doing OK. You’re exhausted, probably.

I am doing fine. A little tired, but I’m doing fine. Thank you for asking.

Are you concerned about the safety at the Capitol Building in Washington?

Certainly yesterday’s demonstration of the overtaking of our capital, I have to admit to you, I never thought that was possible. I know the security that it takes for me to walk through the gates. So we were, for whatever reasons, woefully underprepared. And I honor the Capitol Police and the city police and those who came forward, but we were woefully unprepared. I was in the gallery at the time that this broke. I attempted to go back to my office by way of the tunnels. My office is in [Cannon House] and early on in the process, I was stopped and told that Cannon has a bomb threat. Go back to the Capitol. I talked to my team and they said, stay in the Capitol, stay right in the Capitol. That’s the safest place for you. And I have to admit to you, I doubted it. And sure enough, we were up in the gallery and the infiltration of the Capitol took place. And we were all advised different steps we needed to take to get to safety. Stunning.

Could there be a probe into security?

Oh, I’m certain there will be. In remarks by top leadership, Republican and Democrat, everyone recognizes that this breach of security, a massive breach of security, and the loss of life will certainly be examined.

What was achieved by the insurgency yesterday?

I’m always an optimist, strange as that might sound after yesterday. I hope it exposes the extraordinary danger that President Trump is, but it’s not simply President Trump. It is those who stood by silently or as active vocal accomplices to put forward lies to the American people. The people who came yesterday, they were armed. They were armed with those nonsense, false, despicable flags. They were armed with weapons. But what they were really armed with were the lies told to them, disinformation fed to them over and over again, and they believed it. I hope that this exposes that our words matter, that the words of our leaders matter, and never again will we allow someone of such basic level humanity, if this president has any, to lead us again. And I hope that the other members of Congress who stood up for this president and mouthed his lies will recognize the shame and stop.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Thank you, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean.

Thank you.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal