One of the striking moments from speeches given by U.S. Senators once they reconvened after the mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists was finally cleared from the capitol building was the speech given by Utah U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, who admonished not just those who stormed the capitol but those whose lies led to this dark moment in our nation’s history.
“Those who choose to continue to support this dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as complicit in an unprecedented attack on our democracy. Fairly or not, they’ll be remembered for their role in a shameful episode in American history, that will be their legacy,” he said. “For any who remain insistent on an audit in order to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen, I’d offer this perspective: No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect to the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth!”
In both the runup to Wednesday’s events and in the days and weeks prior, Romney has done almost no other elected Republican has been able to do: Lay bare the cynical opportunism of Trump and his enablers who have resorted to spreading baseless lies about not just the election but their opponents.
“Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” he wrote in a statement Sunday.
The fact that many senators and representatives had a change of heart about the purported election fraud when their own personal safety was at stake, ought to be incredibly telling. This was and has never been about an earnest attempt to address the people’s “concerns” about election fraud but about wringing every last ounce of political juice from what has so far been an effective lie.
Of course, Romney’s words and stern looks aren’t enough for everyone to give up on the grift—a grift that led to several deaths on Wednesday.
As the Republican machine works to confuse the situation, so too have Alaska’s most conservative and conspiratorial legislators Wasilla Rep. David Eastman and Eagle River Sen. Lora Reinbold. Both have dutifully gone to social media to suggest that everything was actually a clandestine operation by anti-fascist bogeymen and claim that Trump had nothing to do with it.
Eastman, who ran off to DC after penning a blog post equating Trump’s loss to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, went to Facebook to claim that he saw no violence, that Trump supporters couldn’t have possibly been responsible for the violence and that Trump had no hand in inciting it.
“The 99% of those who took part in the various events in DC today, and who held vigil outside the Capitol Building peacefully while today’s votes were counted, should not be maligned for doing so,” he wrote, probably sometime after getting post-sedition slurpees. “If you think that the members of Antifa, or any other groups who were assaulting police officers at the Capitol today, were doing so because of something said by the president, then you know neither Antifa nor the president.
“I was present at the March to Save America today and heard everything in the president’s speech. There was no call to violence or lawlessness of any kind, and for the vast majority of those around the Capitol Building today, we were unable to see that violence of any kind had taken place.”
Eastman and Reinbold both got top billing on an amicus brief supporting Texas’ lawsuit attempting to invalidate the election results of several other states, an effort that Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy spectacularly failed to join after promising that he would’ve liked to overturn the election.
For Reinbold, Wednesday’s actions reminded her of when protestors interrupted a sham of a floor session held at the Wasilla Middle School and she ran to Facebook to suggest a connection.
“It’s very sad that the Capitol was stormed today, it’s a frightening experience. Sadly the state legislature got a taste of storming during the Special session in Wasilla in July 2019,” she wrote. “We were told ANTIFA was behind it but it may never have gotten investigated, so we don’t know the truth.”
Former Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts also dutifully got in on the action, using his newsletter to send out the following message imploring his followers to spread the lie:
“Just a quick note to make sure everyone knows that Antifa was behind the storming of the Capital today. Their plan worked, Trump was blamed and a lot of cowardly Senators decided not to fulfill their vow to protect election integrity and voted not to object to the illicit electoral votes. … the foolish liberals who only listen to the mainstream media are going crazy trying to blame Trump. It makes you wonder how long our nation will last with just under half of the country embracing foolishness. You know once you reject God the only direction is down.”
Why it matters
Their spouting of this kind of conspiracy isn’t particularly new to those who’ve paid attention to their social media, but everything takes on a new level of seriousness and deserves new attention in the light of the violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol. (Which, by the way, there is absolutely zero credible sources that suggest it was anything other than Trump supporters—some of whom are extremely recognizable and long-time members of right-wing spheres.)
The fact that they continue to spew such conspiracy to their audiences—especially when it led to the bloody end of one of their followers—is deeply troubling. The fact that they apparently see nothing wrong in Trump’s words—especially when they were apparently too much for the Trump cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, who’ve since tendered their resignations (are they Antifa, too?)—is deeply troubling.
They’ve built a brand on spreading these kinds of lies and fearmongering to their constituents and they, just like the president, cannot shrug away the responsibility for the results of their actions.
And don’t forget, the Legislature still stands without organization in either chamber.