Wisconsin's congressional representatives condemned Wednesday's hours-long siege of the nation's Capitol by pro-President Donald Trump extremists that left at least one person dead and set back the official certification of the November election.
Repeatedly urging the president to call off his supporters and help restore order to what one Republican called a "banana republic," the lawmakers had been poised to count the electoral votes and make President-elect Joe Biden's win official. But instead, they were largely holed up in their offices for hours after the Capitol was breached by a violent mob earlier in the afternoon, leading to the evacuation of the House, Senate and Vice President Mike Pence.
The building was eventually declared secure, paving the way for the electoral vote count later in the evening. But the events left at least one woman dead after she was shot inside the Capitol building.
Trump, who earlier in the day stoked tensions among his backers at a rally near the White House, has still not conceded the election and encouraged Republicans and Pence to object to the certification of the contest and overturn the results, something Pence rejected in a statement this week.
In a video message Wednesday afternoon, which Twitter later removed, Trump continued to promote his baseless claims of widespread fraud while directing his supporters to leave the Capitol, adding: "We love you, you're very special, you've seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil, I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace."
Wisconsin's congressional representatives decried the chaos at Capitol Hill to varying degrees in videos posted online and comments to reporters.
Calling the series of events "banana republic crap that we're watching happen right now," U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher said what's happening shows "the cost" of his GOP colleagues' plans to object to the Electoral College certification and "telling thousands of people that there was a legitimate shot of overturning the election."
"We have got to stop this," he said in video remarks. "Mr. President, you have got to stop this. You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off. This is bigger than you. It's bigger than any member of Congress. It is about the United States of America, which is more important than any politician. Call it off, it's over."
The Green Bay Republican, who has said he wouldn't object to the counting of electoral votes, had said the planned objections from fellow Wisconsin Republicans U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany and others were "going down a dangerous path of vast federal overreach."
Fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, one of three GOP congressmen from Wisconsin who haven't publicly said where they stand on the certification vote, urged individuals still at the Capitol to "immediately leave" as he condemned "the reprehensible actions of criminals" from within the building.
"As I said about the protests throughout last year, those wishing to express their First Amendment rights need to follow the law," the Janesville Republican said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who's planning to lead the Democratic defense of Wisconsin's ballots if the state's electoral votes are specifically challenged once the vote occurs, slammed the actions of the mob as a "coup d'état." Still, he said he was more worried about what precedent it sets for the future.
"Donald Trump is not going to win today, we all know that," the La Crosse Democrat told reporters in a Zoom call from Washington, D.C. "There's wide bipartisan support opposing what some of our colleagues are attempting to do."
"But I'm worried about tomorrow and what the next authoritarian wannabe who takes a run at our Constitution is going to accomplish based on the precedent that's being set today in our nation's Capitol and the next couple of months following this election."
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, went further, calling for the invocation of the Constitution's 25th Amendment that would remove Trump from office. If not that, she wrote in a tweet, Congress should impeach and convict Trump, adding: "13 days is far too long for Trump to remain in office."
Meanwhile, Madison-area Democrat U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan in a video message called Wednesday "a sad day for America" and slammed Trump for "inciting domestic terrorism."
In a separate text message, he also dismissed some Wisconsin Republicans' comparison of the mob to the protests surrounding the passage of 2011 Act 10 in Wisconsin, which effectively ended collective bargaining.
"A President inciting domestic violence and the disruption of the approval of the electoral college 'trumps' anything," he wrote in a text. "Ridiculous comparison."
Saying he wasn't on on the House floor when it was evacuated because he was preparing his remarks for the certification vote, Pocan told a reporter he still heard "lots of sirens and blasts for the last several hours" from his office.
It remains unclear when the certification vote will take place in both houses. Pocan in a later video message said he hoped Congress would work throughout the night to sign off on the election results, saying: "We can't let an attempted coup stop the important business of the federal government."
With the electoral count was put on hold for hours following the pro-Trump extremists' occupation of the Capitol, at least one Congressional Republican from Washington state has said she would no longer contest the election results.
Still, Wisconsin's Johnson and Tiffany have signaled they continue to plan to contest the votes. Johnson, R-Oshkosh, told CNN that he would not object to Wisconsin's vote (though he's pursuing other states' electors), while Tiffany, R-Minocqua, said he planned to target the state, telling USA TODAY that challenges over the election's legitimacy aren't "why we saw this protest, why some people turned violent."
Back in Madison, a handful of Trump supporters gathered outside the statehouse Wednesday afternoon, holding signs backing Pence and the president (as well as one reading: "I proudly support our police") and shouting exchanges with others driving by.