Hundreds brave Capitol Hill lines for Robert Mueller historic hearing
WASHINGTON – Out-of-town teenagers ditched their conservative political conference for a glimpse. Congressional interns camped out overnight to snag a seat. Tourists snapped photos and traded stories as they patiently stood in line for hours hoping for entry.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Capitol Hill testimony Wednesday before House lawmakers was a tough ticket to score judging by the hundreds who waited for hours to get into the hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building.
It was worth the wait for many – even if they didn’t get in.
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“I would love to be in there and to be watching,” said Jon Zierden, 24, a board game consultant from Minnesota, as he stood in line. “It feels historic and to be able to say I made my effort to be a part of that historic moment feels important.”
Zierden was among a group of spectators who hailed from Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and other parts of America to see the former FBI director discuss his two-year investigation into Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election and the role the Trump campaign might have played leading up to it.
They stood in lines that snaked through Rayburn and spilled outside, formed by folks who began congregating hours before dawn.
At one point, a throng of about 30 standing in front of an adjoining office building sprinted to get in line around 7 a.m. when they saw the Rayburn doors open. Screaming that they were there first, the groups ran past a silent protest holding a “Defend Democracy” sign.
Some wore shirts that read “Congress Do Your Job” and “#timetoimpeach.” Most had their phones out, memorializing the historic moment and recording the long lines and throngs of media clogging the hallways.
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“My feet are getting tired,” grumbled Rosanne Gerami, 18, a St. Louis University student who was visiting the nation’s capital when she decided she wanted to see the Mueller hearing. The line “is pretty long, but I’m hoping some people kind of give up and then we’ll get closer to the front.”
There were reds and blues. Conservatives and liberals. Old and young.
They watched the hearing on their phones and live-streamed the proceedings on their laptops. And they vented while they waited.
“Democrats will do almost anything to impeach Donald Trump,” fumed Joe Basrawi, 20, from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who left a nearby Turning Point USA conference to watch Mueller. “They’ll do absolutely anything. They’re spreading lies: ‘he’s a racist,’ ‘he colluded with Russia’ … I question every little thing that anyone says, because I know everyone’s lying. It’s politics. It’s media.”
As the hearing was about to start, a man screaming about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (jailed for crimes uncovered by the Mueller probe) was forcefully removed from the doorway of the hearing room.
“Now you all know the truth,” the unidentified man yelled as Capitol Police officers led him away.
Alethea Shapiro, 40, a mother of four from Long Island, had to watch the proceedings from an overflow room in Rayburn because she couldn’t get in despite having arrived in line at 2:30 a.m.
Sporting a ‘It’s Mueller Time’ shirt and toting a backpack festooned with buttons advocating Planned Parenthood and Elizabeth Warren, the self-proclaimed activist said she felt the moment’s gravity.
“I am here to witness history unfold at the Mueller hearing,” she said.
Contributing: Camille Caldera