By STEFAN MODRICH
Troy Nehls surrendered his badge and gun upon his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, but the new Republican U.S. Rep. for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District and former Fort Bend County Sheriff put his law enforcement training on display to the world Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol following a break-in at the Capitol complex by rioters who were protesting the Nov. 3 general election loss of President Donald Trump to Joe Biden, disrupting and delaying the legislative certification process that ratified the ballots cast in the Electoral College by each state.
“It was very, very wrong, it was criminal,” Nehls said of the violence at the Capitol. “I wasn’t happy with anything that I saw that afternoon in our nation’s Capitol building.”
After a rally hosted by the outgoing president Wednesday in Washington, a group of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, breaking into the House chambers and the offices of elected officials, according to multiple reports.
“This really never should have happened,” Nehls said. “It should have been avoided.”
Images of Nehls, wearing a royal blue shirt with his back to the camera, showed him brandishing a piece of broken Capitol furniture and talking to rioters on the other side of a door alongside Capitol police, who had their guns drawn.
Nehls said the 117th Congress was about an hour into its opening session when uniformed personnel and plainclothes personnel “rushed in” and escorted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi off of the House floor and began to secure the doors to the House chambers.
“(Rioters) started banging on that door, and they attacked that door violently,” Nehls said. “They were trying to either kick it down or knock it down, do whatever they could.
“One of the plainclothes police officers said ‘Sir, you have to go.’ I said, “I’m staying right here sir. Respectfully, I’m not leaving. I’m standing right here with these fine men and women in law enforcement.’ I wasn’t going anywhere.”
Peering over a large piece of furniture that had been turned on its side to barricade the door, Nehls said he made eye contact with one of the demonstrators on the other side.
“I said to the individuals on the other side that what they’re doing is wrong, it’s un-American,” Nehls said. “This is not the way we should be handling our differences.”
Next to Nehls in some of the widely-circulated photographs was Markwayne Mullin, a U.S. Rep. from Oklahoma.
At least 5 people reportedly died in the violence that occurred during the storming of the Capitol. Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer, was killed. So was Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran among the protestors attempting to force her way through the doors in a crowded stairway leading to a hallway with offices of elected officials. Several others were injured, according to multiple reports and a graphic video of Babbit’s shooting posted on Twitter.
Nehls said he and Mullin were two of the last lawmakers to leave the chamber, only doing so after law enforcement asked them to evacuate again after he heard the shot ring out that he believed was the one that led to the death of Babbitt.
When Congress resumed its certification of the Electoral College votes, Nehls voted to object to the results of the Arizona and Pennsylvania elections, the latter of which he said “had the most issues.”
No evidence of widespread voter fraud has been found in either state, and Biden’s victory was certified by Congress early Thursday morning.
Nehls said he flew home from Washington on Friday and will return to the Capitol on Jan. 13.
Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, was among several GOP senators who said they intended to object to the results of the election in some of the battleground states, and later decided to change her vote based on the events that had transpired earlier that day.
Former U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, whom Nehls succeeded, said that Trump’s comments before the storming of the Capitol following numerous failed legal challenges in several states “didn’t help the situation.”
Olson said he was worried about the entire Texas delegation when he saw the news of the rioters breaching the interior of the Capitol. He said he sent Nehls a text and praised him for his actions in the House chamber.
But Olson didn’t lay any blame at the feet of his former GOP colleagues.
“It was a done deal, the protestors knew that, Mr. Trump knew that, my colleagues knew that,” Olson said. “I don’t think it’s their fault per se, the people have a choice. For some reason, those thugs, they are thugs, thought they could invade our Capitol, our seat of democracy and a symbol of American freedom.”
When asked if he considered changing his vote for similar reasons, Nehls said he would not change his stance on principle because of the precedent he believes it would set.
“When you get individuals, groups, big or small,” Nehls said, “And they go out there and start rioting and destroying things, committing violent acts, criminal acts, if we are all the sudden now going to change our position or change our vote because of a group of individuals whether they’re a mob or not, I mean, then next thing you know, that’s what you’ll be doing in the future.
“They’ll say, ‘All we have to do is go downtown and create some havoc and we’ll get these guys to change their vote.’ I don’t operate that way. I could never operate that way. I was set with that decision to object with Pennsylvania, and nothing was going to change that.”
Nehls, a staunch supporter of President Trump, said he did not expect that the president’s supporters would turn violent in the manner that they did at the Capitol.
“I would have never thought that the people that came to support President Trump to protest, whatever they were there for,” Nehls said. “The thousands of them there (in Washington). I would have neve thought they would have ever taken it to this extreme. … It’s a sad state of affairs. It was a very sad day, a black eye on America, on our institution.”