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politico – Riot on Capitol Hill fueled by a deep network of GOP state support

“I wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of the FBI’s mouth at this point,” said Mark Finchem, a Republican state representative from Arizona, when asked about an FBI briefing from the Republican House leader. , Kevin McCarthy, who suggested no reason to believe antifa was involved.

Like many other Republican state lawmakers elected by pro-Trump Republicans who remain suspicious of the election, Finchem, who attended the rally but did not storm the building, has said his job was to represent his constituents, and “ if that means I have to fight out of the establishment types, I’m good with that.

A week after the deadly insurgency and the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, institutionalist Republicans are desperate to push the party past the events of last week. But in state houses across the country, the prospect of a clean break has never seemed more distant.

In Nevada, newly-elected MP Annie Black, facing calls to step down after attending the pre-riot rally, told supporters, “I’m not going anywhere,” defending her participation in an event she says , was “marred by marginal elements. In Florida, State Representative Anthony Sabatini on Tuesday tweeted lists of Republicans ‘WITH courage’ and those without, the latter group including Republican Representatives Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, who criticized Trump He called Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican from Wyoming who plans to support Trump’s impeachment, a “threat to national security.

Pat Garofalo, a representative for the Republican state of Minnesota, said that during the riot last week “there was a political revelation to most Republicans that it’s over, it’s ridiculous … it” is a banana republic – we don’t do that. “

But even though “no one stands up and says it was justified,” as Garofalo put it, the idea that Trump had been denied the election was not far from home. Several of his colleagues had participated in a peaceful “Storm the Capitol” rally in Minnesota the same day the National Capitol was desecrated.

For Republicans involved in promoting Trump’s election fraud claims, the recriminations were swift. Major corporate donors have said they will withhold contributions from Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of Electoral College votes last week. Facebook and Instagram have definitely banned a top organizer of the “Stop the Steal” event on Capitol Hill. A Republican group has pledged to raise $ 50 million to help Republican lawmakers fend off key potential challenges if they vote to impeach Trump, and up to 10 members of the Republican House are reportedly considering doing so.

But Trumpism has never been primarily a feature of Washington, as state lawmakers who listen to their GOP constituents know. A large majority of Republicans said after the election they didn’t think it was free or fair, and less than one in five Republicans said after last week’s riot that Trump should step down.

Physical violence was a marginal element of the party. But the reason that Republicans were in Washington – loyalty to Trump, frustration with the election – is a fairly common GOP position in many places. And so is the disbelief of the party’s guilt.

“I don’t know whether widespread means it’s a majority opinion or a dominant opinion, but there are certainly a significant number of Republicans who have fallen into the myth that it was a
antifa event, which was not the case, ”said Ron Nehring, a former president of the California Republican Party who served as spokesperson for Senator Ted Cruz during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Nehring compared the Republicans’ moment to that which faced the GOP in the 1960s, when William F. Buckley helped drive the party away from racists and “kooks.” “Today we have to do the same thing again with the members of QAnon and the Proud Boys and similar groups,” said Nehring.

Lamenting that “not enough Republican leaders have made it clear that ‘no, the election was not actually stolen’,” he said, “I spent 32 years in the Republican Party, and I didn’t not going to allow it to be defined by a bunch of racists and lunatics just because they wear a MAGA hat.

Sanctions were imposed on elected officials present at the Capitol when the crowd had entered the building. Of the. Derrick Evans, the West Virginia lawmaker who entered the Capitol, faces criminal charges and has resigned. Maryland Del. Daniel L. Cox, who helped organize buses for the rally and called Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor,” was berated by Republican state governor Larry Hogan. And Democrats in states across the country also called on Republicans who attended any part of the rally to step down.

But Republicans are far more accommodating in their ranks. In Arizona, Finchem said he was receiving encouraging emails from across the country. He and other lawmakers who attended the rally are also finding support in their own caucuses.

In Alaska, where a Republican state lawmaker, David Eastman, came under scrutiny for attending the rally and promoting antifa statements, longtime Sen. John Coghill regretted that the rhetoric of American politics has reached a point where “people accuse each other of inciting a riot.”

Like other Republicans, Coghill blames Democrats and Republicans for what he called an “invigorated” political climate. Although the courts have found no evidence of widespread fraud, he said that without more rigorous scrutiny of the vote, “conspiracy theories, accusations, they can spread.”

Coghill, whose father was a signatory to the state Constitution and who will step down from the Senate next week after 22 years in office, said: “I think there is enough blame to go both ways.

In the base of the Republican Party in the United States, this point of view seems to have more value than any interest in uprooting itself.

In Maryland, Del. Neil Parrott called it “very unfortunate” that his colleague, Cox, was criticized for attending the rally.

“The vast majority of people were just there to support a fair election,” said Parrott, who traveled to Pennsylvania to observe the post-election count. “They had no idea that some people were going to try to take over and make it violent.”

Parrott said that “party infighting isn’t going to help us now” and instead, “it’s time for Republicans to get back to basics, like why do we care less about government? , reduce taxes, restore power to the people. “

Comparing the political options available to Republicans in sports, he said, “Sometimes your games get too complicated, you have to get back to basics.”

Matt Dixon contributed to this report.

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