An Anoka County businessman who said he drove with four friends to Washington, D.C., last week to support President Donald Trump now has a much different view of what happened during the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
"I fully expected a positive experience, and it kind of went off the rails," said Scott Rothmeyer, 51, of Nowthen.
He said the experience has left him no less devoted to the now twice-impeached president, but more fearful for civility in the country and for his own well-being after what he saw.
The U.S. House impeached Trump on Wednesday for inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol last week, leaving five people dead, including a Capitol police officer and a demonstrator. Ten Republicans joining Democrats in making Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice.
"There were definitely people there who came ready to fight," Rothmeyer said, "to breach the Capitol, go in and cause a problem ... not realizing that their decision would be viewed as treasonous."
Rothmeyer said he was not aware of the mayhem inside until he saw Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed inside the Capitol, in a gurney pushed past him amid the crowd.
"They ran right by me, that's when I realized something was going on more than a rally and a march," he said.
Rothmeyer was at Trump's White House rally earlier in the day on Jan. 6 and said he believed Trump would head to the Capitol when the president told supporters "after this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you."
It did not appear Trump joined them at the Capitol.
Despite the impeachment ruling, Rothmeyer said he does not believe Trump said that he wanted the Capitol overrun by a mob.
"He said that we have to be tough. ... Not that people need to break into the Capitol," Rothmeyer said.
Rothmeyer said he is troubled that "people are really upset with anybody who was at the Trump rally."
He declined to share a photograph of himself at the rally for this article, saying he was concerned for his safety and how he would be perceived for his unsupported belief that the election was stolen from Trump. However, an article in the Elk River Star News featured Rothmeyer and a friend pictured at the Rally under the headline "Marching into U.S. History."
"I don't want to be portrayed as a villain," he said. "It's a very strange time right now. ... I am not an unhinged person."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482