WASHINGTON — More than 370 Democratic congressional aides issued an unusual public appeal on Wednesday, imploring senators — in some cases their own bosses — to convict former President Donald J. Trump for inciting a violent “attack on our workplace” that threatened the peaceful transition of power.
In a starkly personal letter, the staff members describe ducking under office desks, barricading themselves in offices or watching as they witnessed marauding bands of rioters who “smashed” their way through the Capitol on Jan. 6. Responsibility, they argue, lies squarely with Mr. Trump and his “baseless, monthslong effort to reject votes lawfully cast by the American people.”
“As congressional employees, we don’t have a vote on whether to convict Donald J. Trump for his role in inciting the violent attack at the Capitol, but our senators do,” they wrote. “And for our sake, and the sake of the country, we ask that they vote to convict the former president and bar him from ever holding office again.”
A copy of the letter, including the names of the signatories, was shared with The New York Times before its release on Wednesday, four weeks after the attack and days before the Senate’s impeachment trial.
The letter, while in no way binding, underscored the remarkable dynamic surrounding Mr. Trump’s trial, in which many of the witnesses to and victims of the “incitement of insurrection” he is charged with are among the closest advisers to lawmakers who will decide his political fate. Congressional aides often provide counsel behind closed doors to the elected officials they serve, and many are authorized to speak on those officials’ behalf. But exceedingly rarely do they publicly express their own views — much less push for so stark a political and constitutional remedy as conviction in an impeachment trial.
Among the signatories were press secretaries, schedulers, committee staff members and advisers from the House and Senate, though relatively few were from the upper echelon of chiefs of staff or committee staff directors. They included Drew Hammill, a deputy chief of staff for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as communications aides closely associated with lawmakers who have been involved with Mr. Trump’s impeachments, such as Shadawn Reddick-Smith, communications director for the House Judiciary Committee; Gabby Richards, communications director for Representative Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania; Anne Feldman, communications director for Representative Jason Crow of Colorado; and Daniel Gleick, communications director for Representative Val Demings of Florida.
The letter’s organizers solicited support from Republican aides, offering to include language to assuage their concerns about retribution from bosses or harassment on social media. But despite tentative interest from some, people familiar with the effort said, no Republican aides ultimately signed on.
As public attention has zeroed in on the stories of their more recognizable bosses, congressional aides who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 have privately struggled for weeks to make sense of what they saw in the usually staid halls of the building. Unlike their bosses, they typically have few outlets to publicly share those experiences.
In the letter to senators, the aides refer to Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died after his encounter with the mob as “one of our co-workers who guards and greets us every day.” The letter also says that many of the signers had come of age in the era of mass school shootings “post-Columbine” and had been trained in how to respond.
“As the mob smashed through Capitol Police barricades, broke doors and windows, and charged into the Capitol with body armor and weapons, many of us hid behind chairs and under desks or barricaded ourselves in offices,” they wrote. “Others watched on TV and frantically tried to reach bosses and colleagues as they fled for their lives.”