Senator Heinrich Talks About Impeachment And Inauguration Prep

By:  Khalil Ekulona

Congress voted again to impeach President Trump, and law enforcement is preparing for potential violence at state capitals around the U.S. as we count down to Inauguration Day on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Martin Heinrich is now the senior senator for New Mexico, and he was one of the first lawmakers to see the mob make their way to the Capitol steps. KUNM's Khalil Ekulona caught up with the senator on Wednesday morning and asked him about the experience and what things are like in the building now.

HEINRICH: I had actually stepped out of the Senate chambers and gone downstairs to make a phone call in an office that I have in the basement of the Capitol. And so I sort of caught all of this before most of my colleagues because capitol police were in the process of carrying in one of the first injured officers, someone who had been pepper sprayed in the face, and radios were going off left and right as the initial surge beyond the barricades was occurring. At that point, I actually went back upstairs to the floor to let my colleagues know what was going on outside.

KUNM: How did your colleagues react when you told them the information of this mob approaching?

HEINRICH: I think people had a hard time processing the idea that the Capitol was going to be breached. And I was pretty adamant that the situation was already out of control and that Capitol Police just didn't have the numbers to address it. But within you know, minutes, Capitol Police were securing the senate floor shutting all the doors and sort of planning next steps. By that point, the situation had everyone's attention.

KUNM: What consequences should President Trump the participants in the mob and any complicit officials face for their actions?

HEINRICH: Well, I think in particular, anyone who participated in breaking into the Capitol perpetrating the violent acts that we've all seen in the videos need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This was violent. This is seditious, you know, I certainly think that the president should pay a price for this. But I think what is much more important, even than the accountability is we need to begin focusing on making sure that the inauguration is a success.

KUNM: Given that, have you all been briefed at all by Capitol Police, by the FBI about security measures that are going to take place for the inauguration?

HEINRICH: Yes, there was a conference call yesterday, and there are ongoing conversations. I will say that what we're expecting for the inauguration is a very different situation than what we saw on the sixth [Jan. 6]. The National Guard presence is becoming quite robust.

KUNM: Now, back here in New Mexico, we are not immune to these events. Last year, we had activity from militia groups and organizations like Cowboys For Trump, is that something you're keeping an eye on?

HEINRICH: Absolutely. That's all I'm gonna say.

KUNM: Any preparations made currently to deal with activities and groups like this? 

HEINRICH: There are extensive activities going on to make sure that we are as aware as possible of all of the organizations and individuals who have expressed views that put people at danger. There is an incredible amount of coordination going on right now. These are issues that I've had conversations with the governor about, as I think everyone is taking this very, very seriously. And I think that is absolutely appropriate. 

KUNM: The House votes on impeachment, but the trial is held in the Senate. Majority Leader McConnell says through aides and news reports that he's very much in favor and pleased that there is going to be a second impeachment of the president. Have any of your Republican colleagues expressed a similar sentiment?

HEINRICH: I think there are Republican colleagues who have been highly critical of the president. Whether that translates into a conviction on impeachment? I don't know.

Most of my conversations have, frankly, been focused on the inauguration and on security matters. There are still incredibly dangerous videos circulating online seeking to incite armed—you know, I fall into the trap of calling them protests, but none of these were protests, right? So we are still seeing online activity that is potentially very dangerous. And because of the committees that I sit on, and the members that I know personally on the Republican side of the aisle, the vast majority of my conversations have really been focused on making sure that we don't leave any stone unturned.