After two months of throwing kindling on President Donald Trump’s fire of lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, Republican lawmakers saw the consequences up close Wednesday when rioters stormed and seized control of the U.S. Capitol to thwart the final certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November vote.
The lawmakers explicitly or implicitly endorsed Trump’s fabrications about election fraud, then learned that you reap what you sow. They embarked in their own effort to overturn an election that court after court has validated. But when thousands of Trump diehards who had been egged on by the president at a Wednesday morning rally at the nearby National Mall violently invaded the Capitol, the lawmakers didn’t like it.
The Mob swarmed the building as Congress debated an objection to Arizona’s 11 electoral votes being awarded to Biden ― the start of a broader scheme orchestrated by a handful of Republicans to dispute the outcomes in several states that Biden won.
As Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) spoke on the Senate floor about the need to give voice to believers in Trump’s “rigged” election falsehoods, rioters began breaching the Capitol, abruptly halting the proceedings and forcing the Senate into a recess. A parallel debate in the House similarly came to a quick end and the chamber was emptied.
Reports soon surfaced of an armed standoff between Capitol Police officers and mob members on the House side of the building; pictures quickly circulated of officers guarding the doors to the chamber’s floor with guns drawn. A woman was shot inside the Capitol and was pronounced dead at a local hospital hours later.
With the Capitol on lockdown, Vice President Mike Pence and House and Senate were evacuated from the building, some wearing gas masks after tear gas was fired by police. As rioters rampaged through parts of the Capitol ― including the Senate floor ― and broke into offices ― including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) ― the Republicans who spent weeks helping foment the rage finally began to offer (tepid) condemnations of the madness.
Before the unprecedented assault on the Capitol, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, the first Senate Republican to say that he would attempt to invalidate the results of key swing states that Biden carried, had saluted a crowd of demonstrators supporting his effort outside the Capitol Wednesday morning.
From our Francis Chung, Sen. Josh Hawley greeting protesters in the east side of the Capitol before riots began. pic.twitter.com/I8DjBCDuoP
— Manuel Quinones (@ManuelQ) January 6, 2021
A few hours later, he called for an end to the violence he helped incite, declared that those attacking the police must be arrested, said Congress should “finish its job” ― a job that despite his efforts will end in the certification of Biden’s election.
Statement from Senator Josh Hawley:Thank you to the brave law enforcement officials who have put their lives on the line. The violence must end, those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted, and Congress must get back to work and finish its job
— Senator Hawley Press Office (@SenHawleyPress) January 6, 2021
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who after Hawley took the lead in the decertification push signed onto it with 11 other Senate Republicans, tweeted that the rioters were “hurting the cause”:
Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The Constitution protects peaceful protest, but violence—from Left or Right— is ALWAYS wrong.And those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 6, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who on Sunday announced his support for the effort in the House to overturn the election, suddenly became concerned about other parts of the Constitution.
.@GOPLeader responds to the breach of the Capitol:"This is so un-American… I could not be sadder or more disappointed at the way our country looks at this very moment…This is not the American way. This is not protected by the First Amendment. This must stop now." pic.twitter.com/b7lt5DPY7c
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 6, 2021
What is unfolding is unacceptable and un-American. It has got to stop.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 6, 2021
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a staunch Trump ally known to traffick in conspiracy theories, had raised the objection to the counting of his state’s electoral votes early Wednesday afternoon, helping kick off the debate that began in each chamber. He baselessly asserted the Arizona results were illegitimate. A few hours later, he was worried that the protesters who came to support his cause might be getting “carried away.”
Ok. I said let’s do an audit. Let’s not get carried away here. I don’t want anyone hurt. We are protesting the violation of our laws. We are builders not destroyers. BLM burns and loots. We build. If anyone on the ground reads this and is beyond the line come back. pic.twitter.com/cSu6CLKbby
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) January 6, 2021
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who led the GOP decertification effort in the House and has continually claimed that the election was stolen from Trump, called the riot he’d helped incite “senseless.”
Congressmen safe (as far as I know).As strong supporter of Rule of Law, I hope EVERYONE who illegally breached Capitol is prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.Quite frankly, I am surprised by the constraint of Capitol Police.Senseless. Achieves nothing productive.
— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) January 6, 2021
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a newly installed lawmaker who during the 2020 campaign gained national attention for her embrace of the nonsensical Q-Anon conspiracy movement was among many House Republicans on board with the decertification attempt, urged the rioters to keep up the fight to overturn the election, but to do so peacefully.
A message from the Capitol. Be safe. Be smart. Stay peaceful. Obey the laws. This is not a time for violence.This is a time to support President Trump and support election integrity.God bless! pic.twitter.com/CtgktgQK9z
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) January 6, 2021
Rep. Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican who was an early challenger of Biden’s win of his state, issued a similar plea.
We know there is a lot of anger over this election and what’s happening in America, but this is not who we are. We resolve our disputes peacefully under the rule of law. This must stop now. My staff and I are safe and thank the Capitol Police for their bravery.
— Rep. Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyPA) January 6, 2021
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and several other Senate Republicans who joined the doomed Hawley-Cruz crusade, joined them in insisting the promoting violence was not that they had in mind:
The Capitol Police have acted with incredible professionalism. I sincerely thank them for their service and condemn all lawless activity.
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) January 6, 2021
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.):
I condemn any kind of violence and intimidation. This is unacceptable.
— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) January 6, 2021
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.):
To the protestors that have breached the Capitol building: you are disrupting the democratic process. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is violence. This is a crime. It must stop.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) January 6, 2021
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.):
Call it what it is: An attack on the Capitol is an attack on democracy. Today we are trying to use the democratic process to address grievances. This violence inhibits our ability to do that. Violent protests were unacceptable this summer and are unacceptable now.
— Senator Cynthia Lummis (@SenLummis) January 6, 2021
And Sen. Bill Haggerty (R-Tenn.):
I have always believed in peaceful protesting. What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence. I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop.
— Bill Hagerty (@BillHagertyTN) January 6, 2021
For all of the imploring expressed in these and other tweets, the insurrectionists sacking the Capitol were inflamed by the lies spoken by Trump and backed by these members of Congress.
Trump in his Wednesday remarks had directly told his listeners to go to the Capitol to help stop Congress from affirming Biden’s victory in the electoral vote.
Previously, he had infamously said, “We’re going to have to see what happens,” when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
The answer is clear now. He wasn’t, and a core of GOP lawmakers who now may want to absolve themselves will be forever linked to consequences of that.
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