Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, represents Illinois’ 17th District in the House of Representatives. The views expressed here are her own. Read more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)Brace yourself. You’re about to read a plea from a politician that has nothing to do with politics. I’m not going to throw around legislative terms or talk about parliamentary rule. Here’s why:
Cheri Bustos When there is nothing separating you from an armed mob except a door and a few brave cops, you are no longer a politician. You are simply a mom, a wife, a daughter and a citizen. Legislation is the furthest thing from your mind; all you want in that moment is to live. On January 6, as rioters stormed the US Capitol, heading to the House floor, my goal was to survive. It was that kind of moment. Primal.Read MoreI did what I could to help those near me. And I also listened to people like Rep. Ruben Gallego — not because we’re from the same party, but because he’s a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Iraq.I quickly realized I was too tall to hide under the seats. I learned in a hurry how to use a gas mask. We evacuated to the safest room we could find and tried to heed the very smart advice that my husband, a sheriff, texted me. He reminded me that the Capitol Hill Police were there to protect us, and that they would do so. He was very right about that. I feel sure they saved countless lives. I don’t think America yet fully comprehends just how close we came to seeing members of the US House and Senate kidnapped, held hostage or perhaps even murdered. But let me tell you, that was on the minds of every single member of Congress in the Capitol that day, from both parties. That mob had lethal intent.Impeaching Trump isn't enough All around me were Congressional staffers and colleagues desperately calling loved ones. Some were saying goodbye, just in case. Some were crying. Ashli Babbit, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was among the mob, was shot and killed mere feet away from where I had been sitting just minutes before — right outside the door I walk through each time I deliver a speech on the House floor. The next day, it was over… but not really. I still had to get home to Illinois. I walked through Reagan National Airport in Washington without my Congressional pin on. All around me were pockets of the very mob that had just threatened our lives at the Capitol. On the plane, they were vocal, chanting, fueled by hatred and dripping with rage. Mid-air, a woman stood up one row in front of me, took her mask off and yelled: “Patriots! Patriots! When you get home, storm the county GOP Party just like the Communists have stormed the Democratic Party! Keep this going! Don’t let it die!” She demanded everyone take off their masks, and her fellow rioters were happy to oblige. They turned their target on a passenger and began berating her, calling her a “Commie,” accusing her of “smothering babies,” all at the top of their lungs. We were not allowed to get off the plane when we landed. The pilot announced that law enforcement would be boarding soon. As soon as I could, I deplaned, went home and hugged my family. The urgent unanswered questions about the attack on the Capitol I have served my congressional district for four terms, flying from Moline, Illinois, to Washington, DC, hundreds of times. Never before has it been so hard to leave my family as it has this week. But the duty I have to the people I represent and to our nation must take precedence. And so, I am returning to the place where just days ago my life was in danger. Impeachment is a political act. And we’ll have to discuss it in those terms in the next few days. But what happened on January 6 was NOT a political act. It was a crime. Violent. Vicious. Premeditated. Lethal. Everyone who incited it and everyone who committed it are perpetrators. And calls for “unity” cannot be simultaneous excuses for this violence. To achieve unity, we must also deliver accountability and justice. I am not a prosecutor and cannot try Donald Trump in a court of law. Impeachment is the only means I have available to stop him from inciting further acts of mayhem, bloodshed and insurrection. That will guide my vote. And once it’s been cast, I will board another flight back home to Illinois — hopeful that our nation will never again be faced with the threat of death-by-mob-rule, hopeful that I can once again wear my Congressional pin in public spaces and hopeful that we are one step closer to making America safe from anti-democratic lawlessness.Get our free weekly newsletter
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You see, ultimately, it isn’t really Donald Trump we’re trying to root out here. It’s the disregard and disrespect for our democracy. In my view, to do so is the surest route to making America America again.