On October 30, Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, provided testimony in a Colorado trial centered on preventing former President Donald Trump from appearing on the Colorado primary ballot. This testimony took place via video conference and revolved around Mr. Swalwell’s account of the events that unfolded on January 6, 2021. On that day, he was present at the Capitol as the Electoral College votes were being certified, and he played a role in commencing the proceedings by leading the pledge of allegiance.
During his testimony, Mr. Swalwell emphasized the significance of President Trump’s tweets on that fateful day, linking them to concerns about the safety of those present in the chambers and the integrity of the ongoing certification process. He asserted that they perceived the President’s tweets as a potential threat to the Capitol.
The legal case was initiated by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning organization representing six Colorado voters. Their argument hinged on the contention that President Trump’s actions amounted to an “insurrection,” rendering him ineligible to hold elected office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
In 1865, the 14th Amendment was ratified, which grants citizenship and equal rights to all born or naturalized in the US. It also included a provision prohibiting those who engaged in “insurrections or rebellions” against the nation from holding office unless approved by two-thirds of Congress.
Several states had previously dismissed 14th Amendment cases seeking to exclude President Trump from their ballots, and similar trials were scheduled, including one in Minnesota beginning on November 2.
Mr. Swalwell, with 11 years of congressional experience, highlighted that the joint session for vote certification takes place on January 6 following the swearing-in of the new Congress on January 3. He noted that the vice president presides over this ceremonial session, where any objections must be raised by both the House and Senate, sparking a debate.
According to Mr. Swalwell, it was his understanding that President Trump’s legal options for challenging the election had already been exhausted in December 2020. He described a troubling atmosphere on the morning of January 6, witnessing signs reading “Stop the steal” and individuals in tactical gear, which raised concerns about the day’s trajectory.
Mr. Swalwell recounted watching President Trump’s speech with Democratic colleagues and claimed that the former President had inflamed his supporters. He suggested that the events of January 6 were a culmination of what he had observed in the streets and during the speech.
He further asserted that President Trump seemed to direct an enraged crowd toward the Capitol, causing panic among his colleagues. During the certification process, only a few members were present on the floor, primarily from states anticipating challenges. The order followed the alphabet, starting with Arizona. Phones were out, and the members were vigilant, given alerts of potential pipe bombs.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was escorted away from the podium by her security detail. Still, the debate continued for about 30 minutes before a Capitol police officer informed them of unauthorized individuals inside the building, tear gas being deployed, and the need to prepare gas masks. This revelation left Mr. Swalwell and others in disbelief as they hadn’t known gas masks were stored under their seats.
As rioters pounded on doors, Mr. Swalwell observed Republican colleagues barricading the back doors with furniture. Eventually, they were asked to evacuate, but some members on the third floor were still stranded when all those on the floor had exited, taking approximately 10 to 15 minutes to evacuate everyone.
After being evacuated to a different room, police officers provided updates every 15 minutes. They discussed the possibility of buses for evacuation, but Rep. Adam Schiff suggested staying to certify the votes in the event of a coup. Vice President Pence had conveyed his intent to continue certifying the votes and had been seen as having the authority to object to electoral ballots from the states.
During the evacuation holding period, Mr. Swalwell and Judiciary Committee members discussed procedures to ensure President Joe Biden’s inauguration could proceed. A week later, articles of impeachment were introduced, with Mr. Swalwell serving on the impeachment manager team. The Senate vote on whether President Trump had committed insurrection fell short of the required two-thirds majority by ten votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that this acquittal did not absolve President Trump from being held accountable through other legal means.
During cross-examination, Mr. Swalwell faced questions regarding a personal injury lawsuit he had filed against President Trump in Washington. Defense attorneys raised the possibility of bias, suggesting a favorable outcome in the Colorado suit might benefit Mr. Swalwell’s case.
Mr. Swalwell acknowledged President Trump’s exercise of First Amendment rights in his speeches that day, which included phrases like “fight like hell,” commonly used in political discourse without advocating violence. He also mentioned seeing President Trump’s posts calling for peace, although they did not entirely quell the situation at the Capitol.
Before Mr. Swalwell’s testimony, Officer Daniel Hodges had described his experience in the crowd outside the Capitol.