A lockdown was imposed at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, in response to a mob of hundreds of pro-Trump extremists who stormed the building. Freshman U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, who represents New Mexico’s northern third congressional district, was inside with her colleagues conducting the people’s business of certifying the electoral college results. Hours later, KUNM’s Khalil Ekulona checked in with the representative.
TERESA LEGER FERNANDEZ: Right now I am in a safe place within the Capitol Complex, but not in the Capitol. We are locked into offices in what we believe is a building that has been secured. I have my youngest son with me and a few staffers, and we're all safe.
KUNM: That's good to hear. Now, tell me about the atmosphere when this all broke out, what was your reaction? And how did your colleagues react?
LEGER FERNANDEZ: I woke up this morning, pretty excited about today. One, it was New Mexico's birthday. I knew I was going to come in and exercise my constitutional obligation to certify the results. We knew it was going to be a long day, because there were those who were going to attack the election and attack the certification.
We did not expect that the Capitol itself would be attacked, that there would be physical violence—attack—on the Capitol, which is an attack on our democracy. Because what they did through this violent means was interrupt our ability to conduct the people's business, which is certifying that election.
And so we were taken aback, I think. We were surprised that there was this breach and that there was this storming. I am calling it not a protest, because these people who have stormed, this is a mob, and this is terrorism. Because they are attempting to achieve through violence what they were not able to achieve in November in the elections,
KUNM: The larger picture of these violent acts, who do you feel is responsible? What must be done about this?
LEGER FERNANDEZ: President Trump called upon them to go to the Capitol. President Trump has been attacking the election. He has been attacking our democracy. We need to acknowledge that that's where the blame lays.
We also need to acknowledge that he has been enabled by others in making these attacks. This is an understandable outcome when you look back at the rhetoric that has been used, the attack on truth, on integrity, on anybody who would oppose what he wants. It's not just Trump. It's all of those who fell in line to do his bidding.
KUNM: There's a member of our delegation here, Rep. Herrell, who supports the fight to overturn the election results. As you're watching all of this unfolding, going through this, have you had a chance to talk to her about her position? Do you have any words for her?
LEGER FERNANDEZ: I am hopeful that all of those who were supporting the overturning of an election in which 160 million people participated that they will now reconsider their actions, that they will reconsider the words that they were using this morning when the debate was started. I am hoping that they will reconsider that and say: Our duty to the Constitution, our duty to democracy is stronger than our allegiance to this man.
KUNM: Do you feel that this mob today, showing up at the Capitol, do you think it really does change the minds of your GOP colleagues who are protesting this election? Do you think it will?
LEGER FERNANDEZ: I am hopeful that the culmination of this violence and this terrorism, that it will cause many Americans to say, 'We must pull back, and we must see what it's good in all of us. And we must see that we have more important work to be done.' That the work that we need to do is about: One, bringing our country together but focusing on what we need, fighting the pandemic, bringing us out of this economic recession. That's what New Mexicans want.
We are dying in New Mexico. We are losing our homes, our jobs, our businesses, and that's what we are supposed to be doing here in Washington. So I'm hopeful that the events of today will have us all—including those colleagues who are attacking our democracy and elections—to reconsider their position.