Wisconsin Political Leaders React to Capitol Storming
Though many supported Trump for years, all now condemn Capitol chaos he helped cause.
Members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation and other state political leaders offered sharp criticism of President Donald Trump encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and their subsequent storming of the building, including pushing over gates, overruning police, breaking windows and causing an exacuation.
The day began with Trump speaking to a “Save America March” protest crowd outside the White House in advance of the Senate meeting to certify the election results. Vice President Mike Pence, as leader of the Senate, was scheduled to confirm the Electoral College results confirming Joe Biden as the winner. The action, until 2020, has largely been seen as a formality.
But as Pence was on the floor and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a speech saying the results needed to be accepted, protesters clashed with the Capitol Police and shortly thereafter the Senate and House chambers were evacuated as a crowd broke into the building by force. Trump, in a tweet as the conflict escalated, said Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Mike Gallagher, a Republican House member from Green Bay, was among the first Wisconsin delegation members to denounce the storming and the subsequent inaction by the President. “The president needs to call it off,” said Gallagher in an interview with CNN. He said what was happening was a result of people objecting to election results and instilling a sense of false hope in fringe supporters. “Now we’re seeing the cost play out in real time.”
“We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now,” tweeted Gallagher. He compared what he was seeing to his time in Iraq as a Marine. He was the lone Republican House member from Wisconsin to publicly say he would not seek to overturn the election.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson, an avowed Trump supporter who has used his Senate committee to host an election inquiry, was using his Twitter account to encourage state legislatures to overturn their election results less than a day ago. After being escorted with his colleagues from the Senate chamber, he called for peace. “Please, if you are in or around the Capitol, respect law enforcement and peacefully disperse,” tweeted Johnson. The Senator had pledged to object to the election results.
Mark Pocan, a Democratic House member from Madison, accused Trump of “inciting domestic terrorism.” In a tweet from his Washington DC office, Pocan said “I’m safe, but this is a sad day for America.” He called it an “attempted coup” and posted a tweet that suggested (with ingenious brevity) that Trump be removed from office by the 25th Amendment.
“I am safe and sheltered but this is an incredibly disturbing and shameful moment for our country that was encouraged by the POTUS,” tweeted Representative Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) posted a similar tweet.
Representative Glenn Grothman (R-Fond du Lac) told Patrick Marley he originally wasn’t concerned. “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 said as images circulated on social media of individuals standing on the dais of the Senate chambers and windows being broken. But later he told the Journal Sentinel reporter that what was happening was an “embarrassment.” Grothman said his office does not overlook the Capitol.
“What needs to happen is people on both sides of the aisle, they need to start calling this out and make people stop it,” said Representative Tom Tiffany (R-Wausau) in an Associated Press interview. He compared the actions to protests in Minneapolis and Wisconsin in 2020. Tiffany had pledged to object to the election results.
Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted in objection to what he said was a riot. “All summer long, we spoke out against the riots and violence across America. It was wrong then and it is wrong today,” he said. But after initially discouraging a recount in Wisconsin, Walker has repeatedly tweeted that Trump’s legal team has “legitimate complaints” and a “valid case” in Wisconsin. Trump’s legal claims were repeatedly rejected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and US Supreme Court.
“Many of these folks are nothing but domestic terrorists, and many are criminals and trouble markers all acting in a manner opposite of patriotism,” tweeted Trump’s first White House chief of staff and Wisconsin Republican political operative Reince Preibus.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released a statement decrying “a fascist riot incited by a lame-duck President desperately and illegitimately trying to cling to power based on absurd lies about the election that amount to voter fraud McCarthyism.”
But conservative radio host Mark Belling wasn’t bothered by it. “Count me as unhorrified,” he said. “They’ve resorted to this because there’s nothing else to do.” Reporter Dan Bice paraphrased Belling’s response. “Belling describes what happened at the Capitol as a bungling, mostly peaceful protest by conservatives,” tweeted Bice.
The crowd had started to physically engage and overrun Capitol Police officers shortly after 1 p.m. “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” said Trump in a 2:38 p.m. tweet.
Trump, long after many had asked him to intervene, issued a pre-recorded message on Twitter at 4:17 p.m. “Go home, we love you, you’re very special,” said Trump in a double-edged, one-minute message mostly playing to protesters’ anger, saying the election was “stolen” and complaining about “fraud.”
This article will be updated as more information becomes available
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