Panic buttons in the congressional office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., were removed, without explanation, some time before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last week, according to her chief of staff.
Sarah Groh told The Boston Globe that, during the Jan. 6 riot, she looked for the buttons in the office as she and her colleagues attempted to barricade themselves inside. Pressley's office confirmed Groh's account to NBC10 Boston.
“Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit,” she told the paper. According to the Globe, Groh had not been been told why the buttons had been removed, though she had used them before.
Later Wednesday, Pressley announced that her husband, Conan Harris, tested positive for the coronavirus. He was in lockdown with Pressley and Groh. Other members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus in the wake of the lockdowns as well.
Pressley noted in a statement that some of her Republican colleagues refused to wear a mask in a secure room where many of them were taken during storming of the Capitol. The space was crowded, she said, and the congressional physician has told representatives that they may have been exposed to the virus there.
The Republicans' "arrogant disregard for the lives of others is infuriating, but not surprising, and we are seeing the consequences of it daily, as several of my colleagues—and now my husband—test positive for COVID-19," she said.
Pressley confirmed that she, Harris -- who has mild symptoms of the virus -- and close staff will stay in isolation, but that she will continue to perform her congressional duties during the impeachment.
In an interview with NBC10 Boston Monday, Pressley described the experience she and her husband had during the attack on the Capitol.
"Barricaded in my office, sitting or lying on the floor, in the dark, with a gas mask in my hand, alongside my chief of staff, my husband, another member and their aide," Pressley recalled.
Groh told the Globe she was “deeply concerned" about the panic buttons' apparent disappearance because she felt "the heat was being turned up in terms of the rhetoric and Trump’s aims to incite violence.”
Pressley's office said new buttons have been installed since the Capitol riot, but that the originals' disappearance is under investigation.
"Our staff has used these devices before and they are regularly tested and maintained. The matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation," a representative for Pressley said in a statement.
Groh's is one of many troubling accounts of Jan. 6, when thousands of rioters rampaged through the congressional buildings, killing a Capitol police officer and carrying zip ties as they hunted for members of Congress and occupied the Senate chamber.
New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill claimed Tuesday she witnessed lawmakers giving "reconnaissance" tours just a day before last week's attack on Capitol Hill that left five people dead.
House Democrats on Wednesday were moving swiftly to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time, a week after he encouraged loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results before the riot.