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'You Could Smell The Tear Gas': OC Reps Describe Being At US Capitol During Storm

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) - Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) was on the House floor Wednesday when the mob that stormed the Capitol tried to barge in, but he said many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues joined together. Correa said it was "just like a movie."

He said he dropped off his family Wednesday morning at the airport in Baltimore and took a train to the Capitol.

"There must have been 60 to 70 (President Donald) Trump supporters on that train," he said. "They were very respectful, very quiet, just going to support the president."

Then, as they made their way to the Capitol, "Trump and his son whipped them up, saying, `You have to defend them,"' Correa said.

Later, when he was in the House chamber, "I looked up, hearing people banging on those chamber doors."

"I saw something I never saw before," he said. "I saw Democratic congress members, Republican congress members, joining hands and helping the more senior members of Congress evacuate, helping ladies get through that area and getting ready to defend that castle in case of a breach. I saw unity, unity of purpose, unity of Americans."

Then, security advised the congressional members to take cover, and if they sensed tear gas to not look up, Correa said.

"They said everybody get out, we're about to use tear gas, there are tear gas masks under your seats," Correa said. "I never knew we had tear gas masks under our desks, but I looked and there was a package. We grabbed one and we're walking around with it. You could smell (the tear gas)."

As the mob tried to push its way into the chamber, Correa said there was a sense that, "We were ready to hold the line. I don't know what would have happened but you saw Democrats and Republicans ready to kick some ass."

Correa said he saw security "grabbing very priceless desks, probably antiques, using them as reinforcement to stop the doors from opening and the guns were drawn everywhere."

Correa said he expects a push to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. He called on his congressional colleagues such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to "stop the fiery speeches. I would ask them in their conscience, what are you going to do now? Isn't it time to stop playing politics with these divisive themes that are essentially destroying the nation?"

Correa said he was "more determined than ever" to finish certifying the presidential election results.

"I don't want to leave until we finish our job," Correa said.

Correa praised local police for their restraint.

"If they started opening fire on those crowds how many people would have died?" Correa said. "Thousands, if not hundreds."

Rep. Mike Levin (D-Dana Point) said he arrived early Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, expecting a long day of debates about the presidential election and heeding warnings about protests, but never expected the scale of the violence that erupted.

"I followed the guidance provided by the sergeant of arms to come to my office early this morning, knowing the situation was going to be a difficult one," Levin said Wednesday.

"We knew we would have votes on three states to be contested," Levin said. "I got here early and we were told to stay in your office because of the public health recommendations, which suggested we shouldn't have too many people on the floor at any given time so it was significantly limited. So I remained in my office and waited for the debate over Arizona and for a vote to occur, and, obviously, we never got there. They had to recess because the protesters had breached (the Capitol)."

Levin said the insurrection was "truly disgraceful. What can I say? I never thought it would happen."

The congressman said he and his colleagues have all been "sheltering in place, waiting for further instructions. No one gets in or out of the (Capitol) complex. It's a very difficult situation."

Levin condemned the violence.

"It's not who we are as Americans," he said. "We are better than this. We can disagree all we want, have passionate disagreements, but we should never resort to violence over our political differences."

He added, "Those who resorted to violence must be held to account. It's just unacceptable."

Levin praised local law enforcement's response.

"I think they did their best with the resources they had," Levin said of District of Columbia police. "Hats off to Capitol Police, who keep us safe every day around here. And D.C. Metropolitan police do a great job as well. But we're talking about thousands and thousands of protesters and the fact of the matter is the National Guard should be here."

Levin said he was mostly "just sad. Sad for our country, sad this group has decided to undermine decades of peaceful protest, traditions of peaceful protest."

Levin said it was acceptable to have passionate disagreements over politics, but, "The fact that this has happened is awful."

A spokeswoman for Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) said the congresswoman was "safe and sheltering."

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Huntington Beach) who announced Wednesday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantining, sent out an announcement on Twitter saying, "Violence is never, ever the answer. As Americans, we are blessed with the right to make our voices heard in support of our democracy, but turning to violence is always wrong. I am praying for the Capitol police today, and am thankful for their work to keep us safe."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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