Wisconsin Congressional delegation responds to violent pro-Trump mob storming U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As Congress met in a joint session Wednesday to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election, several of the state’s Republicans planned to join the effort to object to that result because of baseless claims of fraud. 

But as the process was just beginning, a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building — forcing the building to be evacuated. 

Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the 13 senators who planned to join the effort to overturn the election results urged rioters to peacefully disperse on Twitter. 

“Please, if you are in or around the Capitol, respect law enforcement and peacefully disperse,” he wrote. “The Capitol Police have acted with incredible professionalism. I sincerely thank them for their service and condemn all lawless activity.” 

Johnson, in an interview with WISN News, said he doesn’t think his efforts to overturn the election has anything to do with the violent mob storming the Capitol in order to overturn the election. 

“No. I’ve heard people say that, and I just reject that quite honestly,” he said.

Nonetheless, Johnson changed his plan to object to the certification of the election. ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen,’ Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday of the effort to challenge the electors. ‘I’m certainly not going to do it.’ 

Rep. Tom Tiffany, another Wisconsin Republican who planned to object to the results of the presidential election, also condemned the violence. 

“Peaceful protest is a constitutionally guaranteed right and that right must be protected for all Americans. Violence is unacceptable,” he tweeted.

In an interview with the Associated Press about the crowd of angry and violent conservatives wearing MAGA hats and waving Trump flags, Tiffany said both sides need to calm down. 

“What needs to happen is people on both sides of the aisle, they need to start calling this out and make people stop it,” he said.

While eventually telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the actions of rioters were an “embarrassment,” Rep. Glenn Grothman initially downplayed the seriousness of the event. 

“I’m in my office and it looks pretty serene outside my office. So maybe it’s bad but I always think they exaggerate these things, you know,” he told the Journal-Sentinel. “I’m not concerned at all.”

Kenosha-area Rep. Bryan Steil tweeted on Tuesday that “any form of criminal activity in Kenosha must not be tolerated,” in response to the decision by the county district attorney not to charge the police officer who shot Jacob Blake in August. 

On Wednesday, Steil tweeted a statement in response to the violent riots of right-wing extremists at the U.S. Capitol. 

“I condemn the reprehensible actions of criminals inside the United States Capitol today and I thank law enforcement for their efforts to maintain public safety,” Steil stated. “As I said about protests throughout the year, those wishing to express their First Amendment rights need to follow the law. Anyone not authorized to be in the Capitol needs to immediately leave.” 

Newly sworn-in Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, did not make a statement until after 7 p.m. — six hours after the rioters first stormed the Capitol. Fitzgerald’s response was so delayed that the building had been secured and Congress had reconvened by the time it was released.

In his statement, the previous state Senate Majority Leader said he was safe and thanked law enforcement for its work.

“My thanks to law enforcement for their efforts to restore order and I strongly condemn the violence that was inflicted on the men and women of law enforcement doing their duty,” he said. “It is my hope that the House will soon resume debate on the electoral ballots in order to uphold our constitutional responsibility. We should not be further delayed from addressing this serious issue due to today’s lawless acts.”

Fitzgerald later voted with the objectors not to certify Arizona’s Electoral College votes.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican who had condemned plans to object to the election results but previously spread baseless claims of election fraud, was the most outspoken Republican in the state’s congressional delegation. 

“This is insane, I’ve not seen anything like this since I deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008,” Gallagher said on CNN. “This is America and this is what’s happening right now. The president needs to call it off. Call it off; it’s over. The objectors need to stop meddling with the primal forces of our democracy. There’s a cost. They think they’re just having a protest debate and they can get away with it because it’s not actually going to overturn the election.”

The state’s Democratic representatives were more outspoken. 

“I am safe, but it’s disgraceful that our country has to experience this violence because of Trump’s lies, conspiracies and un-American attacks on our Democracy,” Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin tweeted. 

Rep. Gwen Moore placed the blame for the day’s events squarely on President Trump’s shoulders. At a rally earlier on Wednesday Trump had urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. 

“I am safe and sheltered but this is an incredibly disturbing and shameful moment for our country that was encouraged by the POTUS,” she tweeted

In a day that should have been one of celebration, according to Rep. Ron Kind, the rioters had attempted to stop the peaceful transition of power. He added that he wouldn’t cede “any ground to these hooligans” who were storming the Capitol because of the rhetoric and actions of Trump and his Republican allies. 

“What did they expect to happen?” Kind said in a virtual press conference. “They have unleashed dark forces on our society.” 

Rep. Mark Pocan was forceful in his condemnation of the mob, calling the attack on the Capitol a coup attempt. 

“Donald Trump needs to be presidential for once in his presidency. Admit you lost, and call off the domestic terrorism you’ve incited,” Pocan tweeted. “I think we need to call this what it is. An attempted coup.”

In response to what he called a coup, Pocan called for more drastic measures in Trump’s final two weeks holding office.

Yes, we should impeach him. But I don’t have much faith in the @SenateGOP to defend our democracy and remove him,” he tweeted. “Invoke the 25th amendment and he can be gone in hours. His conduct is unbecoming a President.”

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