Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

Subscribe

* indicates required

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier said he is still working through some of the things he saw on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. by supporters of President Donald Trump.

“I think we came dangerously close to losing American democracy on Wednesday,” said DeSaulnier, a Democrat from Concord, during a 50-minute town hall event Tuesday streamed on his Facebook page. “I don’t think it could have happened without the President of the United States.”

DeSaulnier, whose District 11 includes most of western and central Contra Costa County, voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday, joining every Democrat in the House of Representatives and 10 Republicans, after last week’s violent assault on the Capitol that left five people dead and dozens injured.

Before DeSaulnier left to attend a House Committee on Rules meeting and vote to ask Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, he answered several questions about the assault on the Capitol, about Trump, and about where America goes from here.

He described being in the Capitol that Wednesday, watching what at first appeared to be a “peaceful march of people (wanting) to express their political views,” but changed after a closer look showed many of the marchers were angry.

“I think we came dangerously close to losing American democracy on Wednesday.”

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier said he and other elected officials and staffers were soon told to shelter in place in their offices or wherever they were, and an hour or so later were evacuated from the Capitol to a “safe location” before returning later to complete certifying the Electoral College votes to make Joe Biden the next president.

When a viewer of DeSaulnier’s virtual town hall asked if it was in the Democrats’ best interests to impeach Trump, even if it is ultimately unsuccessful, DeSaulnier said it is a matter of principle.

“What does it tell future presidents if we don’t hold (Trump) accountable?” said DeSaulnier.

DeSaulnier said he believes it is possible the impeachment process could extend past Trump’s departure date on Jan. 20, which would mean a Democrat-controlled Senate would be taking that vote. But not all experts agree on whether such a vote can take place after the impeachment target is already out of office, as no court has definitively ruled on that.

Answering a question about dealing with the political “radicalization” of segments of the American population, be it right- or left-leaning, DeSaulnier said the seeds of radicalization will always be lurking unless this nation solves its deep-seated racism and economic inequality issues. This past summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and unrest are a manifestation of this, DeSaulnier said.

As for economic inequality, “The concentration of wealth is perverse in this country, and we’ve known for a long time that this would be a problem,” he said.