On Wednesday, pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., breaking down doors and forcing their way into both the Senate and House chambers. MTPR’s Aaron Bolton spoke with Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester about what he calls an attempted coup.
Aaron Bolton If you could just walk me through your experience at the Capitol yesterday as the mob breached the doors of the Capitol.
Jon Tester I did not go to the joint session. I was in my office preparing remarks to be delivered after the Pennsylvania objection. And I was watching this on TV at the time as I was working here in the office. The mob was getting bigger and bigger. And then I saw them break through the line of the fences that they put up. And and pretty soon they were inside the Capitol. They had broken out windows using crowbars to, to, to, to break out windows or pull down doors or whatever would be. I found out since that when they hit the doors, they were using pepper spray to blast the cops to get in. And, and then I watched with total disbelief these terrorists on the floor of the United States Senate, a very sacred place for me personally, and, and watched them on the floor of the House, and watch them trample through the halls of the Capitol; and asked myself, oh, what the hell has this country become?
Aaron Bolton How do you view those who stormed the Capitol yesterday, in their actions?
Jon Tester It absolutely was a coup by domestic terrorists. This is a terrorist act yesterday. This was a direct affront to our nation, to our republic, to our democracy. And it cannot be tolerated, because if it is, this country is over with.
Aaron Bolton Has the language used by President Trump and some Republicans -- like 'stealing this election,' or the early notices that some Republicans put out saying they planned to object to the certification of certain states' elections -- fuel yesterday's attack on the Capitol?
Jon Tester It absolutely enabled it to happen. I think the fact that this president, even before the election happened, was talking about how this was gonna be a rigged election, and then continued to tell that lie -- a lie that has been defunct [sic] many, many times over through the courts. And I will tell you that what happened yesterday -- why it was a coup, what it was an affront to our democracy -- is we have been known as a country that has a peaceful transfer of power. But we've done it. We've done it for 240 years until this year. And then there was a coup attempt to try to install somebody who is not duly elected by the people into the presidency of the United States. And by the way, that coup attempt was led by the president of the United States, and enabled, at least on the Senate side, by 13 senators. And they need to be held accountable.
Jon Tester Senator Daines was one of the folks that said he was going to contest some of the election results in certain states. He changed course. But we also saw Matt Rosendale, a House representative, continue down that path. I just wanted to get your thoughts on both of those actions before the breach of the Capitol and after.
Jon Tester I don't think this is the Montana that I spent 64 years in, that they were representing or are representing. I will tell you that I think Senator Daines knows better. And I didn't think it was a smart thing to do when he did it, because of what could happen. And it did happen yesterday. I hope that he changes his course and and starts doing a better job protecting this country and not, not his party.
Aaron Bolton And in regards to Rosendale still pushing forward with objections after the breach at the Capitol; your thoughts on that?
Jon Tester I'll let his actions speak for themselves. I mean, I think it was poor judgment, but what can I say? I have damn little respect for people who wrap themselves in the flag and then try to burn this country down.
Aaron Bolton Did President Trump do enough to stop the attack on the Capitol yesterday?
Jon Tester I saw the police officers. They were outmanned and it took three hours to get enough people here to get this thing solved. And the president came out and said, oh, gosh, we like ... Like our boys in blue, you might go home. But the truth is, he also told he loved them. These are people that broke into the Capitol of the United States of America. These are people that took over the chamber and stopped the, stopped our democratic process of decision making with violence. One person ended up dead in the Capitol, another three or more outside the Capitol. This is, this is unacceptable. And what the president did yesterday is unacceptable.
Aaron Bolton From your perspective, should President Trump be removed?
Jon Tester Look, for the past four years, I have watched the president as he sought to divide this country and bring our democracy to its knees. Yesterday's insurrection was a clear continuation of that effort. But the fact is, I do not see a realistic path for his removal from office in the next two weeks.
Aaron Bolton Well, Senator, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
Jon Tester Thank you, Aaron.
Yellowstone Public Radio has reached out to both Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Republican House Rep. Matt Rosendale to ask similar questions. Neither have been made available for an interview.