Elected Officials Under Pressure Back Home after Capitol Riot
The Jan. 6 protest was attended by at least 19 state and local elected officeholders from around the nation and, in some cases, stormed the Capitol.
"Couy Griffin, the creator of a group called Cowboys for Trump, bragged in a video posted on Facebook that he had a "first row seat" to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and considered returning for another rally in which he pictured "blood pouring out of that house," said the F.B.I. Later, he told the F.B.I. that he hoped the next protest would be peaceful, but for the sake of democracy, there was "no option off the table."
He was arrested before he could, as he had anticipated, hold another rally on Inauguration Day. First, however, he returned to his post as commissioner for Otero County in southern New Mexico, where the campaign to oust him has now gained new traction.
Paul Sanchez, a Republican who leads a committee that seeks to recall him, said that Mr. Griffin "leaped right into sedition." "His focus isn't on Otero County at all."
That day, Mr. Griffin, who was accused of trespassing at the Capitol, was not unlike many others there: he had a strong loyalty to former President Donald J. Trump and a conviction that the election had been rigged. He is also among at least 19 elected officials from around the nation now under increased political scrutiny back home because they attended the rally of the president and, in some instances, stormed the Capitol building along with a mob that turned aggressive in its attempt to avoid the vote that would make the election official of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'
Their opponents say that government officials had a clear obligation not to support the false claim by Mr. Trump that the election was stolen.
State and local leaders, including some allies of former President Trump, have been trying to distance themselves from local officials involved in the weeks after the riot. Local Republican groups have condemned respondents in several cases. Many elected officials are under pressure to resign, some of whom gathered in Washington that day but never reached the Capitol. At least one state senator has apologised and stood down for his role.
"The issue is, how do you support someone who shows the kind of judgment" to engage in the Jan. 6 activities, asked Nick Corcodilos, a former Republican mayor in Clinton Township, N.J., who left the party around 2014. How does one judge someone who attends a rally where his supporters, his audience, are encouraged by a president to go to the Capitol building and commit violence? ”
As for one of the local county commissioners from Mr. Corcodilos who posed on Jan. 6 in front of the Capitol: "That's not someone I want to run my county or represent me."
In addition to Mr. Griffin, among those who stormed the Capitol were a West Virginia state senator and a town meeting member from Massachusetts. Earlier in the day, the crowds included a state representative from Missouri, a City Council member from California, a state senator from Virginia, and an incoming Nevada assemblywoman at rallies urging Congress to reverse the Electoral College vote.
The Democratic attorney general has now promised in New Mexico to demand the impeachment of Mr. Griffin, and his fellow county commissioners, two Republicans, have called on him to resign. The Republican state chairman has said that Mr. Griffin "does not represent" the state party.
Nevertheless, it does not appear that Mr. Griffin, who was kept in solitary confinement after refusing to take a coronavirus exam in a prison in Washington, plans to leave his post voluntarily. In an interview, his lawyer, David Smith, said he had "no reason to think he's going to resign from the commission."
Derrick Evans, a newly elected West Virginia House of Delegates member who filmed himself entering the Capitol, was among the most high-profile participants in the riot. A Republican, Gov. Jim Justice, called Mr. Evans a "absolute idiot" and "disgraceful" his behavior. Roger Hanshaw, the West Virginia House Republican speaker, said Mr. Evans will "need to answer his constituents and colleagues about his involvement in what has happened."
He resigned three days later.
Mr. Evans said in a written statement, "I take full responsibility for my actions, and deeply regret any hurt, pain or embarrassment I may have caused my family, friends, constituents and fellow West Virginians."
Some Republicans have been cautious to balance with criticism of those who invaded the Capitol their continued support for Mr. Trump. Roman Stauffer, acting chairman of the Republican Party of West Virginia, said state leaders have condemned Mr. Evans' conduct. He also said his office had received "a tremendous amount" of messages calling on the state party to affirm Mr. Trump's support, but Mr. Evans had not received any.
"There are West Virginians who care deeply about President Trump, and here in West Virginia, President Trump will continue to be an influential voice in our party," Mr. Stauffer said. He said he hoped that the "actions of Mr. Evans would not reflect on the thousands of other West Virginians who support the President."
A petition that has received about 1,700 signatures in Natick, Mass., calls for the ouster of Suzanne Ianni, an elected member of the Town Meeting, for her role in the riot. But Jonathan Freedman, the chairman, said in a statement on behalf of the town select committee that Ms. Ianni should not be recalled unless she was sentenced to jail for a felony conviction. He said in an interview that the board would not take a stance on whether she had to resign.
For their role in the events that day, even some elected officials who did not reach the Capitol on Jan. 6 are facing indignation. Justin Hill, a Missouri state senator, said he traveled to Washington to hear Mr. Trump speak and to talk with Missouri Republican Representative Jason Smith about opposing the results of the Electoral College. Mr. Hill had missed his own swearing in ceremony in the process.
He said that he was disappointed that the media gave the impression that he was "at the riot," when he just attended the speech of the former president, he said. "That was absurd," he said.
A Republican, Mr. Hill, also noted that some demonstrators marched to the Capitol from President Trump's rally but did not reach the house. He said, "It is their right to petition their government." It is their right to go to the Capitol to march. I believe those who have broken the law ought to pay the price for their bad choices.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which funds Democratic candidates around the country for state legislatures, has called for his resignation, along with that of at least 16 other elected Republican state senators or legislators, including Amanda Chase of Virginia, a state senator also running for governor.
Recently, Ms. Chase was censured by the Senate of Virginia, in part for comments she made against those who stormed the Capitol.
"These were not rioters and looters," she said earlier this month on the State Senate floor. "These are patriots who love their country and don't want to turn our great Republic into a socialist nation."
The resolution passed by the Senate acknowledged, among other provisions, that Ms. Chase expressed support for the rioters, "propagating unfounded claims about the nature of the events, the identities of those who took part, and the validity of the presidential election." In a statement, her "selfishness and constant need for media attention" was blamed by Republican leaders in the Virginia Senate.
But Ms. Chase, who spoke on the morning of Jan. 6 at a rally at the Capitol, seemed to take the criticism as a sign of pride.
In an interview, she said, "They're not going to muzzle me." "I'm going to wear it like a badge of honor, raise a boatload of money, and I'm going to take out any Democratic candidate who wins the nomination, and I'm going to be Virginia's next governor."
"In a blog post, Annie Black, an elected Nevada state assemblywoman who gathered on Jan. 6 on Capitol grounds but claims she never entered the building or went beyond the barricades, called "Crazy! "I won't go anywhere," she said.
Among their fellow elected officials and like-minded constituents, some have found support.
A selfie was shared by Susan Soloway, a Hunterdon County, N.J., Commissioner, smiling in front of the Capitol on Jan. 6. "A stream of constituents called to complain about her involvement at a recent commission meeting, but she also attracted some sympathizers, including her fellow commissioners, one of whom called the criticism "cancel culture.
"We all have to come together as Americans, united in the idea that we can have differences of opinion, but still be friends and neighbors at the end of the day," said Ms. Soloway, who is the board's treasurer, during the meeting. "Let's tone down the hate and division, and try to find ways of getting along instead."