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Congressman McCaul talks barricading himself in his office during the Capitol riots—and what happens now
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, spent the afternoon of Jan. 6 barricaded in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building, with a sofa and a baseball bat as protection against what he called the terrorists on the other side of the door.
"It was a really dark day for the United States," he told Austonia.
As Congress prepared to vote on whether to certify the results of the November presidential election, former President Donald Trump had spoken that morning to a group of supporters at "Save America" rally at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House, where he repeated baseless claims that the election had been "stolen" from him. Afterwards, thousands of attendees marched to the U.S. Capitol, where they breached police lines and scaled the walls of the building itself.
"The members were evacuated off the floor. The alarms went off," McCaul said. "I barricaded myself in my office, which is right off the Capitol. The terrorists, if you will, (we) could hear them outside of my office trying to get in. So we barricaded the office with a sofa, and all I had, really, was a baseball bat to protect myself and my staff."
Capitol police were soon on the scene. "The mob were dressed in kind of paramilitary-style uniforms. The Capitol police came up and there was a big skirmish between the two," McCaul continued. "We want to thank the Capitol police for saving us."
Nearly three hours after rioters began to clash with police on the Capitol steps, the D.C. National Guard was sent in as reinforcement, and congressional leaders were evacuated from the Capitol complex. By 8 p.m. Congress had reconvened—and four people were dead.
McCaul spoke to Austonia about his experience at the Capitol that day, as well as his thoughts on impeachment, the inauguration and border security. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.
After the riot
After the deadly riot, McCaul voted against objecting to the electoral votes of two states: Arizona and Pennsylvania. The majority of House Republicans, however, voted differently. Of the 211 Republican members, 121 objected to Arizona's votes and 138 to Pennsylvania's. But they were outnumbered by Democrats, and by 4 a.m. both the House and Senate had voted to certify the votes of the Electoral College, validating then President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
"It's not our job to overturn or second guess the certificates if they're authentic," McCaul said. "The states have certified. The Founding Fathers gave the states that power, not the federal government or Congress."
Despite breaking with his caucus on certification and condemning Trump's behavior leading up to the riot, McCaul opposed impeachment on the grounds that the process had been rushed. "We have not been given the time to truly look at the facts and the evidence before this impeachment was hurried to the House floor," he said in a Jan. 13 statement. "We haven't been given the opportunity to hear from a single witness, or hold even one hearing."
McCaul did admit to doubt. "I don't know what's out there, what decisions were being made with respect to the use of the National Guard to protect the members of Congress," he told Austonia, adding that the Senate trial may uncover answers to these questions. But he also has reservations about whether the trial should move forward at all. "I think the country, to be quite honest with you, is ready to move forward with the new administration and not live in the past," he said.
It remains to be seen whether Trump will face consequences as a result of the riot, but McCaul is optimistic that some of the rioters will. This session, he reintroduced a bill that would allow the Justice Department to charge individuals with domestic terrorism, which would carry corresponding sentencing of up to life in prison or death. "(The riot) was definitely an act of domestic terrorism, and I think we need to address that," he said, adding that he thinks the bill failed last session because of a focus on international terrorism. "But I think what happened on Jan. 6 has changed everything."
A new administration
McCaul was at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, one of several he has attended during his 16 years in office. "This one was obviously very different in the sense that we have a global pandemic, and we were at the United States Capitol, which was under attack just a few days ago," he said.
Although there was heavy police presence and no crowd, the ceremony was similar to past inaugurations in other ways. "It's really the day our nation comes together as Americans first to honor the peaceful transition of power that we've done for over 200 years," he said. "So it has a very sacred feeling to it."
McCaul is serving his eighth term as the representative of the 10th District of Texas, which spans from Central Austin to the northwest Houston suburbs. He ranks middle-right in terms of ideology and high in terms of leadership, according to the Congressional tracking site GovTrack. He is married to Linda Mays McCaul, whose father is the billionaire founder and former chairman of Clear Channel Communications, now iHeartMedia. They have five children.
Prior to holding elected office, McCaul served as the chief of counter terrorism and national security in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas and as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice. As a self-described supporter of the DOJ and intelligence communities, he stressed the importance of nonpartisanship in those areas.
"You have political appointees, but you don't want to inject politics in our federal criminal justice system. Our intelligence community should be protected from that as well," he said. "I hope the Biden administration will move forward in that way of thinking."
McCaul has a balanced view on the issues of border security and immigration reform. "Trying to tackle immigration reform is very difficult, and it brings out the best and the worst in people," he said, adding that he believes any policy needs to combine technology, infrastructure and manpower. "We need to know who's coming into this country to be able to control and protect Americans."
Where many Republicans flaunt their ideological rigidity, McCaul believes that the two parties can—and should—work together. He is hardly a centrist, however. A FiveThirtyEight analysis found he voted in line with Trump 93.6% of the time.
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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