Rep. Cori Bush on Republicans Who Fueled Attack on Capitol: “That Blood Is on All of Their Hands”

Bush spoke to The Intercept about her resolution to investigate members of Congress who sought to overturn the election results.

Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Cori Bush poses for a portrait after beating incumbent Rep.William Lacy Clay in their primary election, in St Louis, Missouri, U.S. August 5, 2020.  REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant - RC2V7I9LTQWC
Cori Bush, then Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, poses for a portrait in St Louis on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

Rep. Cori Bush’s first resolution in Congress calls to investigate and potentially expel Republican members who upheld Donald Trump’s lies disputing the results of the presidential election, inciting a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday that left five people dead.

The freshman member from St. Louis — who was a leader of the 2014 protests for Black lives in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown — announced the resolution on Twitter on Wednesday evening, hours after hundreds of Trump supporters breached security at the Capitol and before the building had been secured.


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The resolution, the full text of which was shared exclusively with The Intercept, calls on the House Ethics Committee to investigate and issue a report on whether Republican members violated their oath of office by seeking to overturn the results of the election, and whether they should face sanction — including removal from the House. The measure names Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., as well as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., as leading the more than 140 members who “have taken unprecedented steps to defy the will of the American people” by voting against Wednesday’s Electoral College certification. Bush plans to introduce the resolution Monday if Congress decides to reconvene instead of continuing their planned recess.

In an interview on Friday, Bush told The Intercept that she had been contemplating the resolution even before her official swearing-in last Sunday. “We need to hold our Republican colleagues accountable for what we feel is an attack on our democracy,” she said.

It’s not unheard of for members of either party to object to certifying the results of a presidential election. Some Democrats have objected to certifying the results of several presidential elections over the last two decades, including in 2017. But the Republican Party’s near-total adherence to the lies and incitements to riot precipitating Wednesday’s events was unprecedented in every way, from the monthslong building of a conspiracy to weeks of reporting that armed Trump supporters would physically try to stop the certification. More than 140 Republican lawmakers said they would object to certifying the results of the presidential election, with several withdrawing their objections after Wednesday’s attacks. Ultimately, eight senators and 139 members of the House supported one or more objections.

Bush’s resolution places Wednesday’s attacks in the context of historic attempts by the GOP to disenfranchise Black and brown voters — particularly in states where they were instrumental in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. It also lays out how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic hit those communities hardest, complicating mail-in voting while Republicans spread misinformation and tried to discount ballots. The measure describes GOP efforts to reject the vote as “a continuation of Jim Crow era measures to suppress Black, Brown, and Indigenous voters.”

“Whereas efforts by Members of Congress, regardless of party, that seek to undermine our democracy, disenfranchise Black, Brown, and Indigenous voters, erode faith in the Federal Government, and attack the popular will of the American public without merit must be condemned, and those Members should be held accountable for their actions,” the resolution reads.

Bush’s fellow progressive Squad members — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, and Mondaire Jones — are among the measure’s 32 current backers. The resolution’s other co-sponsors include Reps. Barbara Lee, Marie Newman, Mark Pocan, Bill Pascrell, and Bobby Rush. Justice Democrats, the group that supported several Squad members in their runs for Congress, backed the measure, as did Brand New Congress, Ady Barkan’s Be A Hero, Mijente, and the Center for Popular Democracy.

Bush’s resolution comes amid calls for Trump’s removal from office, either through the 25th Amendment — an unlikely scenario that would require leadership from Vice President Mike Pence — or impeachment by the House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and on Friday, Pelosi said if Trump “does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action.”

Shortly after Bush announced the resolution Wednesday, some on the left raised concerns that it could be turned around to expel Democratic members in the future. On Twitter, HuffPost reporter Daniel Marans quoted an anonymous senior figure at a progressive organization as saying, “It’s incredibly dangerous for the left to start advocating for legislators to be expelled based on how they cast their votes on a matter that is duly before them.”

Bush responded to those concerns and spoke about how the resolution came to be in a conversation with The Intercept. The transcript below has been slightly edited for clarity.

What does it mean for you, being who you are and coming from where you come from, to have this happen in your first week in office? 

It’s what I’ve been, I feel, being prepared for all of this time. I just didn’t know it. But from the perspective of the protesters, to be here, and I understand that when I’m at home that I have security challenges because of who I am — but I was told that when I was here on Capitol grounds, I was safe. I was told that I didn’t need extra security. And that’s not what happened the other day. And then also, just looking at it from the side of the protester, I saw things happening that I know that I myself could not have gotten away with and have been brutalized for less. So it was very difficult. Then now I have to work here, and so does my staff. And I want all of us to feel safe.

Where were you when the Capitol was breached on Wednesday? 

I was on my way back to my office, or I had just stepped in my office, one of the two. Probably on the way to the office by the time the footage came out. I was in the Capitol at first; I was in the House gallery actually listening to debate. And I just decided that it was time to get up. You know, I just felt like, “Get up, and go check and see what’s happening outside.” And so I did. Went to the second floor to see what was happening outside, and I was seeing Trump flags coming. At first I couldn’t see the full flag, and then I started to see the full flag, so that meant that people were approaching. So my chief and I, we immediately got on an elevator and left and made it back safely to our office.

What was going through your head when all of this was happening?

I still was just thinking that, you know, it’s protest. That they’re going to just be out here for a long time, in the cold, and they want to make their voices heard, they want to be on camera, they want to not take what they feel is an injustice toward them lying down. So OK, I get it. But when I started to see them coming through the doors — I made it back to my office and I looked up at the television and we started to see people coming through those doors. Then my thoughts were, OK, if they made it through those doors, they can make it through ours.

Can you tell me when and how the idea for your resolution came about? Is it something you were thinking about before entering Congress?

Personally, I started thinking about it before we were sworn in. We were thinking about just making sure that something — that there was some type of consequence. And so we kind of played around with what we thought that that should be for a few days. And then once we were sworn in, we pretty much had the idea, like this is what we need. We need to hold our Republican colleagues accountable for what we feel is an attack on our democracy.

What has the response been from other members of Congress?  

“We need to hold our Republican colleagues accountable for what we feel is an attack on our democracy.”

We have had great response, from not only freshmen Congress members but also senior Congress members. We have people who are part of the Progressive Caucus, people who are a part of the Hispanic Caucus. And people signed on fairly quickly. To be a freshman and to be on my third day that day, and to see other Congress members who felt the same way and were willing to publicly say that, that blew me away. And I felt like, OK, we are on the right track. Like this — we are on the right track. And not only me, but so many others that are working on whether it’s articles of impeachment or just other resolutions, it’s needed right now. And we can’t wait. We have to do it right now, in this moment.

You include the context of Covid-19, voter disenfranchisement, and the impact this has on Black, brown, and Indigenous communities. This is not language we are used to seeing in congressional bills. Why was that important for you to include here?

Because I’m not like other Congress people. I am someone who is straight from the movement, the movement to save Black lives. I’m from the Ferguson uprising. And so I’m not the typical Congress member. But I feel like that is why I’m here. Because we have legislation that talks around us. We have legislation that affects people who are outside — they’re just not as connected to people like me. We don’t reach far enough to be able to help people. And so we wanted to make sure that this legislation is reflective of who we are, my experiences. When I think about what our core values are in this office, our work is to do the absolute most for every person in our district, starting with those who have the very least. This is how you do it.

After you announced the resolution, some raised concerns about free speech, including that the resolution could be turned around on Democrats in the future as a way to penalize them for making unpopular votes. What do you say to that criticism? 

I say that right now we need to move, and we need to move quick. I say that the fact that we have support from other Congress members who are more seasoned than I am, that understand the ramifications of this, I feel like that is why we need to move forward. And I do, I understand that we want to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in a position to where this can then be turned on us later. But if we don’t do something right now — because before Donald Trump was even inaugurated in 2016, I wanted him out. You know? So before he even took the seat, I was ready for him to go. Had I been in Congress then, I would’ve been calling for his impeachment immediately. So I wouldn’t have been one of the ones that had to go back and forth, and sit on the sidelines, and we’re gonna wait, and all the waiting happened, and then it finally happened. And so I believe the same thing here. Donald Trump has only a few days left in his seat. And when we talk about those Republican members of Congress, their work is happening right now. So we have to do that right now.

“They put us in danger to save face.”

Why can’t we make sure — because we also can’t set the precedent that if you do this, we’re gonna worry about what happens in four years or eight years. Your work was right now. The work that you did to try to steal an election, that election was now. The people who were hurt a couple of days ago, those who lost their lives, they lost their lives in the now. So you deserve the consequences now. That is why we are calling for this investigation into the Republican efforts to overturn this election. People died. And [Republicans] put the lives of all the lawmakers that were here, our staff, they put us in danger. And they put us in danger to save face.

So when I think about protest, as someone who’s been in hundreds of protests over the last few years, we were protesting to save lives. They did this the other day protesting to save face, and those Republicans helped to embolden — those Republican Congress members helped to empower them to be able to do it. So much so that one Congress member even talked about how their constituents were outside. Now true enough, any of us could have had constituents outside. I get that. But to stand on the House floor and to say that, and to say, “Those are the people that I represent. They need to have their voices heard.” Are voices being heard in us storming the U.S. Capitol, breaking windows, taking over offices, putting lives in danger, and being what caused four people to actually lose their — no, five now — to lose their lives? That blood is on all of their hands. And that’s why we’re also asking for leadership, we’re calling on leadership and my fellow colleagues to join us in calling for the initiation for this formal process to remove members. We want them removed.

I want to ask you about what you just said about the constituents. Because these members say they have a duty to do something about their constituents’ mistrust in the electoral process. What is your response to that defense? 

“The same things that they criticized us for — protests, being off work, covering our faces at a protest, trying to come into a building — all of those things, now it’s OK for them to do.

[Laughs] There is probably no other group with their feet on the ground in the United States that has more of a mistrust to this process than the Black community. Because of all that we’ve gone through through the years since we were stolen and brought to this country. At least those of us, our ancestors that were. So to then feel like you have been disenfranchised because your favorite TV character, President Donald Trump, did not win — even though he lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, even though he has tried over and over again to force this through even in the courts, and he has not been successful, and even though the 14th Amendment stands on our side, they continue to feel like this is what they should be doing. And I push back, because you didn’t stand with the Black community. In ’65? Where was all of this in ’65, in ’64, in ’63, in ’62? Where was this? Where was this when, ever since the Voting Rights Act — especially since 2013, the way that the Republicans in all of these various states have been working to gut the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — where this uprising then?

The issue is, when it comes to Black and Brown and Indigenous peoples, when it comes to our vote, it’s OK to invalidate our votes. Because it is always OK to them to silence us. Now when it’s turned around, and they feel like they’re the ones being targeted, or they feel like it’s some type of injustice against them, now the same things that they criticized us for — protests, being off work, covering our faces at a protest, trying to come into a building — all of those things, now it’s OK for them to do. And, to take it a step further, fight police officers. The same police officers who they said we should be obeying, and our issue is we don’t know how to listen or obey. The same police officers that I cannot take my — I cannot take my hand, pick up a finger, and touch a police officer with that one finger. But yet and still, they can fight the police on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Ilhan Omar has drafted articles of impeachment, so have Reps. Lieu, Raskin and Cicilline, but with Congress being adjourned, they’ve been unable to introduce them. There’s been some debate within the caucus over reconvening to take action over Wednesday’s events — and your resolution would be a part of that. What have you and your colleagues discussed on the issue of impeachment? What do you expect to hear from Speaker Pelosi on this today?

I want to move forward with it. I totally support what my colleagues are working on right now. If we have to stay to get this done, I am all for it. What I’ve been hearing is, I have colleagues who are saying like, “We need to do this right now.” They’re like, “We need to do this today. We need to get this done. Like let’s get to work.” And that’s been probably what I’ve heard the most: that people not only want it, but they want it now. I’m expecting to hear from the speaker that that is where we’re going. I know that because the 25th Amendment may not be able to be possible, so this I believe is our road.

We have to do something. We cannot allow Donald Trump to leave office after this egregious act happened, and for that to not go down in the history books that we, as lawmakers, that we didn’t stand against this. Because our people need that — not only us, our people need that. And history needs to show that there was a consequence to his actions. Not only just the blood on his hands.

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