The rioters didn’t shoot any lawmakers, but Wild was close to real danger. A screaming mob had forced its way into the Capitol on the west side, and more people were climbing through the broken windows of the east entrance. A group led by a man in a QAnon T-shirt chased a police officer up to the second floor, chanting and demanding to speak with senators. Some wore tactical gear—helmets, armor, and black masks covering their entire face. It was easy to miss them with all the coverage of the costumes and poop-smearing and poses struck in Statuary Hall, but they were there, these military-styled men, carrying blunt instruments and fistfuls of zip ties, better known as flex cuffs, capable of restraining hostages. At least one was an Air Force combat veteran, The New Yorker reported. They seemed to act with purpose and knew their way around the Capitol. One carried a semiautomatic weapon and 11 Molotov cocktails. Later, police officers found the two pipe bombs. The devices were outside the buildings housing the Democratic and Republican National Committees, just blocks from the Capitol. Federal agents discovered a truck full of rifles, shotguns, and bomb-making supplies parked outside the RNC headquarters.
“We are lucky, more than anything else, there wasn’t a large death toll,” Peter Simi, an expert on extremist groups at Chapman University, told me. “It could have been far, far worse.”
Rioters could have set off these bombs, used the flex cuffs to take lawmakers hostage, or set up a kind of kangaroo court for the politicians they consider to be traitors to the MAGA cause, Simi said. “The idea of taking folks who have committed treason prisoner, those are ideas that are widely circulating in [far-right] circles,” he said. “All the Democratic lawmakers and any of the Republicans that have criticized Trump or not fully supported Trump would be eligible.” A Reuters photographer on the scene said he heard at least three different rioters say they wanted to find and hang Pence, who supported certifying the results of the election.